Walking With Tolkien: A Journey From Desolation to Life, Part 1 of 3

A quick foreword. Due to it’s length I’ve split this post into three segments. The first two will detail portions of my recovery from a severe injury; while the third, using reference to my story, will draw parallels with and comment upon Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings. Without further delay…

My life was in dire risk and to find my way to safety required a journey of epic proportions.

Tolkien’s novels were a sympathetic view to my own impossibly difficult adventure that was forced upon me, not totally unlike our dear Bilbo. My great adventure nearly drained me to complete emptiness, it breathed fire and death down my throat and gave no mercy. It took no survivors and annihilation was the price for failure. To even remember this great trial is burdensome, but I must.

There is something of every great tale, no matter how tragic, that cries, begs, to be told. It is essential that our tales be told because stories told by humans are human, are coloured, are subjective, and thus, alive. My story began over three years ago. I decided, against the warnings of many, to walk across Canada. I carried no food, no tent, no money. I had no support, only a tarp, basic clothing and belief in something greater than myself.

My trek was short sighted. Lack of physical preparation left my body ravaged by the unending toil. Yet my will prevailed, unintentionally spiting my body in the process. I walked to what I believe was the outer edge of my human capacity. Severe cramps nearly stopped my pilgrimage on more than one occasion; I couldn’t sleep without my legs jolting in spasms in the darkness. I won out over my difficulties, but at a great cost.

I was plagued by constant pain.

Even after resting and doing light labour for six weeks the pain only got worse. I returned home and began the real pilgrimage: a journey through unimaginable hopelessness, suffering, and solitude. Once home, I was confronted with complete separation from my friends, from any activity, from any source of life, other than the divine. Not only was my body in disrepair, but also my spirit and emotions took a heavy toll from the pain and isolation. Only God, and His angels, could see me through this time of agony.

My mother and father had a close perception of my struggle, but they could only help with my daily needs. Headaches I struggled with from before the walk became worse. My leg pain increased. Slowly, I lost the ability to do anything. I lay prostrate on my couch, motionless, hoping and waiting for healing. As my headaches overcame all forms of entertainment I had left, I inevitably covered my eyes and lay in darkness. No TV, no music, no audio, no visual stimuli. Even looking at the ceiling caused me pain, glancing through the window induced greater pain. I was trapped and could see no way out.

Something akin to death touches you in a situation like this.

A dark, dark night overcomes everything you once understood. A vast gap was created between myself and all forms of relaxation, of escape. I remained hopeful of a miracle. I reasoned, “This is so horrendous that God must be planning a miracle cure, so I’ll wait.” I was not idle, however. I saw doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, a rheumatologist, and many other professionals; yet, I found no relief. Only pain. Unending pain.

My salvation came at first through Megan, my physiotherapist.

By indicating that I was incapable of lifting my foot a short distance onto a stepping stool, she crushed all the remaining hope I had left in believing that things weren’t that bad yet. Sure, I was only bed ridden twenty three hours a day for nine months, using my arms to go up stairs (which caused many shoulder problems), unable to sit for more then fifteen minutes to eat, and only capable of living headache free in utter darkness and silence. It wasn’t that bad.

I nearly cried, but couldn’t in front of this relative stranger. So I stomached the pain of my realisation: I was horribly lost and only getting worse. She made a “gentle” suggestion: either start working at increasing your boundaries or you will continue to spiral downwards and live the rest of your life in constant pain. This wasn’t the first time “expanding my boundaries” had been suggested to me. I tried many times, but every effort resulted in my condition worsening. So, I didn’t take her words to well. More of the same I thought.

I started at a good pace. At that time I had twenty three hours per day couch time, and even that one hour was a bit of an exaggeration of time spent walking from the couch to the fridge or bathroom and back. Megan began my therapy by getting me to get off the couch for short timed intervals. Every 20 minutes I would get up and walk for 1 minute. So I did, and I hated every second of it. I despised this time like a fish hates the desert. Turned out, I could only do that for five hours a day, but I now had 15 minutes of walking in one day! Have you ever celebrated 15 minutes of walking as though it were 100km’s? Unfortunately, I have. That was the quickest my recovery ever went.

Next step: Get up every 20 minutes during 7 hours of the day, then 9 hours/day, 12 hours/day, etc.

Finally, after three weeks, I had just over a half hour of walking a day in intervals no longer than one minute. Unforeseen obstacles arose everywhere. The floor hurt my feet, I had severe pain from bending to get up and down from the couch (my flexibility had become nil due to complete inactivity), the extra exposure to light increased my headaches, weirdly I was incapable of standing still, and on and on. Not to mention, a general sense of hopelessness, increased overall pain, and complete despondency would overcome me at most times during this process.

Urged on by my victories, it was time to push the boundaries further.

Every time I rose from the couch I remained walking for an extra five seconds longer than normal. The increase was unbearable, too much, too far from my comfort zone. Megan’s only job at this point was to convince me that I wasn’t going to crumble into oblivion and be sucked into an abyss. I had never really known fear and anxiety until then.

The second vital source of my path to recovery was a friend named Joe.

Joe gave unimaginable support. He was a friend who was dear and close, who could carry seemingly any burden for any length of time. Imagine a crazed and nearly depressed youth with more pain than youthful insensibility calling you for seven hours a week, on a good week. He was always there, always ready to affirm and set me back on my good path.

The impossible was being accomplished; I was getting better, but believe me it did not feel like it. It was like trying to encourage one’s hair to grow and checking the mirror every half hour to see if any progress had been made. The more I looked, the more I convinced myself that nothing was happening.

Thus ends Part One, please stay tuned for Part Two!


  1. Thank you for sharing! I’m looking forward to reading the rest. I haven’t got quite that bad but I am starting very slowly with my recovery. I can only walk in 3 minute intervals without increasing all my symptoms. and I can only do that 3 x a day at most if I want to be able to do it again the next day.


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