EXCERPT: JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE
By Margo Talbot
We all go outside to clear our heads, but some of us have more clearing out to do than others. Margo Talbot delves into the destructive forces of post-traumatic stress and how nature’s healing power can bring us back into balance.
I CAN STILL REMEMBER the first time joy swept over me. I was twenty-eight years old and living in Jasper. My boyfriend had convinced me to buy climbing gear so that we could spend the winter scaling frozen waterfalls along the Icefields Parkway.
Sometimes life bends effortlessly to our will. No sooner had I begun to look for equipment than it sprang up everywhere around me. Within days I had the requisite helmet, harness, crampons and ice tools. The following morning, we took the parkway south to climb Melt Out, a 100-metre strip of ice that is perfect for a beginner. As it turns out, it was the first of hundreds of frozen sculptures I would scale in the years that followed.
UP UNTIL THAT DAY in February of 1992, I didn’t know that happiness or inner peace were possible for me because I had never felt them. Having grown up in a stressful and chaotic atmosphere, I re-created these conditions everywhere I went and, at the same time, sought to escape the pain through self-medication. By the time I tried ice climbing, I had been on street drugs for sixteen years, a habit I outpaced only by my use of its legal counterpart, alcohol.
The rope was up and it was my turn to climb. Years of construction work had given me a strong upper body and an impeccable swing. The rhythmic quality of the movements felt soothing, and the inherent aggression of swinging sharp objects into ice provided a safe way to exhibit my turbulent and socially unacceptable emotions.
Psychological theory suggests that repressed anger is the root of depression and studies show that depressed people have low levels of neurotransmitters in their brains. It is also said that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Regardless, what brewed on that mid-winter day was a drug-free cocktail so potent and effective, it was magic – a combination of physical activity, mental focus and chemical balance. […]
An author, speaker and climber based in Canmore, Alberta, Margo Talbot works with youth-at-risk, addictions programs and organizations looking to enhance their wellbeing through a focus on vitality in the workplace. She is the author of All That Glitters: A Climber’s Journey Through Addiction and Depression.