This blog was originally dedicated to updating my friends and family of my recovery, and was created only days after my spinal cord injury on December 30, 2013, hence the domain "prayforcarsontueller". Shortly after my injury, I began writing not only about my physical recovery but my emotional and spiritual recovery as well, and have become the main author of this blog. Any further questions regarding my recovery may be asked through I'm immensely grateful for the outreach since my injury, and humbly ask for your continued prayers on behalf of me and my family.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Please, Call Me The Stairmaster

I believe it was August 8 that I found myself alone in my house, which is not so common for me. I decided that I would grab myself something to eat while I caught up on some emails. I sat down to eat, and as I try to get into my mailbox, I realized that my Wi-Fi wasn't working. Since all the computer stuff is upstairs where I can't get to, I started to think of some other things I could do which included reading a book, or writing in my journal. Then, the thought came to me ,"I bet I can get upstairs somehow and reset the Wi-Fi..." I had actually wanted to find a way to get upstairs by myself for a long time, but knew that if anyone were home I would not be allowed to (because of safety reasons or something). 

So realizing that this was a prime opportunity and a rare one, I zipped over to the staircase and transferred on to the first stair and began the process! I have to admit, I was pretty excited about the whole thing. I tried to stay close to the banister so that I could hold on if something slipped to make sure I didn't fall. I also had to take special care of my legs to make sure that they didn't flop all over the place, which is actually always a challenge because they're so long. I quickly developed a nice, safe pattern for slowly transferring up one stair at a time. Over the course of about 15 minutes I made it to the top! I checked myself for skin issues to make sure I wasn't too red anywhere, and continued my journey across the upper floor landing, up a few more stairs, and to the office chair at the computer where all of the equipment is. I did some nice big scoots (I don't go to physical therapy for nothing), a few more transfers and got up into the chair. SUCCESS! I was quite pleased with myself seeing as this was another first. It was a pretty enabling feeling. 

I'm not sure why, but I often imagine myself in strenuous circumstances and ask myself if I could realistically survive. So I will be sitting in the van or something and suddenly think, "What if I didn't have my wheelchair, and had to survive alone in my house for three days? Could I do it?" Then I mentally go through the steps. "Well, I would have to transfer out of the car and onto the cement. Not a problem… I would just have to worry about skin problems, but I could just throw this here blanket down first. Perfect. After that, I would have to scoot my way over to the stairs, up to my front door and get in that way. Cake." After that I have to consider what I would do to get food, water, etc. "Once I get inside, I would easily tie a pillow to my bottom so I wouldn't have to worry about my skin, and then I would be free to scoot wherever I needed, even on hard surfaces. I could probably get food out of the fridge, but only veggies and condiments would be within my reach. That being said, if I didn't want to live off of celery and mustard, I would have to find a way onto my counters or something."

That's how I go about thinking. Now that I've conquered the stairs, I can realistically add another dimension to my level of accessibility. I'm sure all of this thinking is motivated by some underlying fear that survival would be a little more difficult than before… but oh well.

Unfortunately, my mission was only partly successful because when I got up to reset the Wi-Fi, I found that it was broken and unfixable at the moment. I decided I would take advantage of the journey and listen to some music (a Vivaldi concerto) and type away at a new blog until someone came home. Eventually my parents did come home and I proudly told them that I had mastered the stairs. I began my descent, and as I started down the very top step I realized that this process was going to be much more difficult than the ascent. I was about six steps from the bottom when my left leg flopped over and began to pull me down the stairs with it... Remember, no core. I tried to sound casual and called my mom to see if she could come over and fix my stuck leg and luckily she was close by to help.

I was a little bummed that I needed help at the end, but it was better than getting injured, I suppose. I had her take this photo, celebrating my upstair dominance.

I also wanted to use this post as a way of giving an update of how things are coming along recovery wise. I always wish I had some new amazing function I could announce, but such is not the case. I keep remembering what they told us in the hospital. They told me, "The recovery of this injury will be like a marathon, not like a sprint." That has been exactly the case, and I continue to struggle with that reality day to day. I have never worked at something harder then I have my recovery, and I have never had something return so slowly. I am used to making progress much more quickly than this. Needless to say, this is trying my patience. I've learned that just because I have to wait (because I'm forced to) doesn't make me a patient person. Patience is waiting well, which is something I am only recently realizing that I truly need to develop. So I'm working on that along with the rest of it.

In terms of physical recovery, my hands are recovering more quickly than anything else. I feel very grateful that I have the strength and dexterity that I do. It's far from perfect, and many times not functional, but I believe that I will have most of it back at some point. I enjoy playing the flute more than I ever have since my injury, and I am able to play longer and more fluidly. There are still times when someone in my family will be playing the piano, or when I will be listening to some beautiful music and feel a huge desire to play like I used to. It hurts to know that I'm literally incapable of doing that right now, but I hang onto the hope that one day I will play in the way that's pleasing to me.

I go to physical therapy as often as I can, and still enjoy it. There are times when I get frustrated because of the slow pace like I mentioned before, but I love the environment at Neuroworx and have fallen in love with the staff there. It's a place I like to be. It also feels good to get my heart rate up as much as I can. I still work a lot on my core muscles and try to build general strength throughout my upper body. I continue to have sensation return through the right side of my torso as well as in some scattered parts of my legs. It is very faint tingling, but it is feeling nonetheless.

I am recognizing the continued need for independence and I strive for that goal every day. I have become far more independent in my daily needs and personal care, including bowel care, which is a huge deal for me (and probably my parents ;)) I am also feeling the need to incorporate more of the things I used to do back into my daily life again. This is all happening just a step at a time. 

I continue to seek happiness, which honestly often alludes me, but I continue to seek all the same. I get down, I get angry, I get depressed and anxious, and I definitely get hopeless, but I don't give up. Ever. I'm not sure if it's my pride (ok, I'm sure it's part of it), my intense competitive side, or simply denial but I refuse to surrender. Not because I want to feel heroic, but because I want to prove to myself that I'm in control. I want to prove that I, not the stormy sea, am still captain of this ship, On an especially hard PT day when I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything, I envision myself pointing a finger in the face of my injury and saying, "You just wait. This isn't over. This game isn't over yet." 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Didn't Land In Paradise. Did You?

Life is like a trip you prepare your whole life to go on. You pack your bags and prepare yourself for all of the exciting experiences you are going to have. You learn the language of the people you are going to be with and get all the gear suitable for the weather. You have maps of the area and know all those you'll visit with and meet. This trip is going to go just as you planned... and it's going to be amazing, because you are going to something of an exotic paradise. The weather is perfect and the people are likable and kind. Just like every other trip, there might be bumps along the path and you understand that, but nothing too big can get in the way because you're the captain of this ship... right?

As you prepare to leave, you get ready for your flight and remember the deal of the trip. You have a one-way ticket to wherever you are trying to get to. There's no going back once you've arrived to your predetermined destination. Understanding that this is the deal and what you are signing up for, you choose to board the plane and take your first-class seat. You are comfortable and enjoy the ride, dreaming the whole way of what you're life is going to be like. You slowly doze off until you fall asleep to the drone of the engines...

You wake up hours later and realize that you have not yet arrived at your destination, and that you should have been there hours ago. Nervous, you check your ticket to make sure that you've made no mistake, and sure enough it shows that you are on the right flight. The plane begins to descend as it prepares for landing and you catch little glimpses of the earth through the cloud cover. As the plane descends, you feel anxious. What if there was a mistake? There's no going back at this point... what if you're on the wrong plane? That would be a living nightmare, to be stuck somewhere you never wanted or prepared to be. No, there couldn't possibly be a mistake, you've truly done everything to ensure your safe arrival at your desired destination.

The plane hits ground and slowly comes to a stop. It's hard to tell at the airport whether or not you're at the right place, so you get off the plane, grab your bags as quickly as possible and head outside where you're hit in the face with a blast of icy cold wind. The sky is dark and gray, and your stomach drops as you realize...

You are in the wrong place.

You feel sick and go through every possible way you could have made a mistake. There was none, you double and triple checked everything before you left and yet here you are, in a place you never intended to be. Panic sets in and you run to the nearest person to ask where you are, but you quickly realize that they don't speak your language or the language you prepared to speak. Within moments, despair begins to set in. You can't go back to what you had and you can't go to where you want to be. This is your reality now, and it's here to stay. This is your life, and it's been turned upside down in only a matter of hours.

Now what? You don't speak the language, you don't know the people, the culture is completely foreign to you and you are completely unprepared for what you are going through. Utter hopelessness sets in and you hear your own voice saying, "No, no, no. This can't be real, this just can't be happening to me." You are used to being able to solve problems and find solutions to those difficulties, but there's no way out on this one. In comparison to how you've always planned on living, this is Hell. "How could this happen to me.... how could this happen to me?"

At this point, you've got what you've got, and the only thing that remains within your power to change is you. You are faced with some questions. Is adaptation to these strenuous circumstances feasible? What can you do to change yourself in order to be more compatible with this unappealing life? Are you going to rise to the challenge, or are you going to submit to your circumstances? Can you be happy living a life that is so far from what you ever wanted? Is happiness even within your grasp anymore? How will you cope with your great loss? What will you do now?

Note: Regardless of how you choose to adjust to this tragedy or how you answer the above questions, if you open your eyes and look around you, you'll notice something important.The people in this "Land of Loss" are not native. Everyone is different. If you observe those around you, you'll see that they are also adapting. They may even seem to you as though they, much like you, have also arrived in a land they never intended to be in. They didn't land in paradise either. You have come from different places and from different lives, but you share something in common. You're all here together. Others have done what you are doing, or are currently doing it along with you, and there is strength in that.

The story ends here. How it finishes is unique to you and how you choose to live with your challenges and disappointments. I have thought about this analogy for some time now. Two parts of the story were especially important for me. One is that I can't change what has happened to me, and that the only thing within my power to change is myself. The second is that I'm surrounded by others whose lives have also progressed differently than they have planned. In other words, they didn't land in paradise either.

I made the latter realization over the last six or seven months, as I have been incredibly blessed with outreach. Outreach from people I know, and outreach from people that I've never met in my life. These people often tell me stories from their own lives and seek to show empathy and understanding. I've spoken with women who have lost their children to illness, couples who battle infertility, and individuals who struggle with mental and emotional disorders. Others speak of divorce, wayward children, or abuse within the home. The list of struggles is endless, and I've been taught important lessons by those who have confided in me. I inevitably leave feeling like I am not alone in my pain and grief.

Before my accident, even when I was going through extraordinarily difficult times, I thought that a normal life was a perfect life. I believed that the majority of people truly ended up in their planned paradise and that I was some anomaly. I thought that because some of my life dreams had been crushed, that I was one of the few unlucky ones. Then I broke my neck and received an outpouring of love and support. It was at this time and since that, through the blog letters, I have realized this very perspective-changing truth. A normal life is not a perfect life, a normal life is a hard life.

I have been astounded by the number of people around me who have been struggling without me having any idea. I believe that this is almost always the case! I believe that we often go unaware of the trials others are going through. I sometime imagine how it would be if we could easily see the worries and anxieties that those around us experience. I imagine that we would realize how similar we are, and how we much we could help each other.

Early in my recovery process, I had the decision to either keep my experiences to very close friends and family members, or to share them openly. I (obviously) decided to take the vulnerable route, and knew that I may consequently be perceived as weak, emotional, needy, or hungry for attention. I have been surprised by the positive reaction that has occurred as a consequence of my decision to be real.

When speaking of this with a dear friend, she said, "It takes a strong person to be able to share the rawness and depth of true emotion.  We all feel it, but we don't often share it and by our not sharing it we create a facade of perfectionism that does't really exist and in the end hurts us." How can we receive help if we never have the courage to make our concerns and worries known to another? And it does take courage among other things, including trust. I have realized that there is always a risk in vulnerability. I can't say that I've had strictly positive experiences in opening up, but I have found that for me personally, it's nearly always been worth the risk.  I have been humbled and genuinely surprised by the kind response that I receive from others, and always find that they are grateful for being a trusted source. More often than not, these trusted individuals also confide in me in return.

I just heard my own voice ask, "Why are you writing about this??". I'll answer my own question. I'm writing about this because life is hard, and for the longest time I thought that I was the only one who was living with pieces of a ruined life. I'm writing this because I realize that we are linked together not just by our humanity, but through our suffering as well, and because I see that there is great potential strength available to us if we have the courage to discard the "facade of perfectionism". I'm grateful for those who have helped me to survive my own hardships in life, and mean it when I say they have been lifesavers. I didn't land in paradise, but it seems the more I realize what is still within my power, and how many loving people are around me, just trying to get through like I am, the more my cold winds give to warmth, and the more my dark skies give to the sunshine.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Dream Carson

As you all know, I hit my six-month mark of injury on June 30. I cannot believe it's been six months, and it seems like so much shorter… Like only yesterday that I was injured. Being at the half-year mark has caused me to reflect upon what I have or haven't accomplished in that amount of time, or how I have or haven't recovered.

In terms of physical recovery, I have much more feeling all over the right side of my torso and left foot. I have back muscles all along my spine and down to my pelvis that are working or firing, some obliques and abs, and some upper glutes. The back muscles are definitely stronger than before, while the others I mentioned are just coming on, or are barely twitching as I struggle to accomplish an exercise. Unfortunately, most of those muscles are not even close to being strong enough yet for functionality. Yet.

Emotionally speaking, I have to admit that I thought that things would have settled much more than they already have. I would have believed that over the course of six months some things would normalize, and that the emotional trauma of such a significant and negative life change would have faded some. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened the way I have wanted it to.

I had a text conversation with a friend about it just last night actually.

Me: "I wonder how many times I can feel it all over again just like it's brand new… My whole life? Well at least I don't have to think too much while I'm asleep. It's my only break."

Friend: "Yeah, what a way to live, right? Looking forward to sleep as an escape."

Me: "Yeah..."

Friend: "Sorry, I'm not helping. I hope you dream about something wonderful."

Dreams actually happen to be some of the only moments when I feel like I did before… let me explain. A few weeks ago I had a terribly difficult day, and went to bed pretty depressed. When I have feelings that are overwhelming, it helps me to write them down and so that's what I did that night. I debated for a while as to whether or not I would share it, but it adequately describes how I feel in some aspects, and especially how I have felt over these past months. I have been tempted to edit some of the things I wrote, but I have decided to share it as it is in my journal, with very few alterations. I'm constantly tempted to sugar-coat things in writing, but I want to stay as real and genuine as possible. 

Dream Carson:

"Despite reality, there still exists a Carson who is strong, tall, happy, and faith-filled. He lives on as he did before, just as passionate, hopeful, and loving as ever... he's happy. He's happy. But you will not find him at the home where he used to live because he no longer lives there. He's not at school and he's not at work... There's really only one place he can be found. This Carson only lives, only runs and dances through the temporary mists of sleep. He lives in dreams alone. The sight of him is glorious, as he is exactly as he should be. He is kind and funny. He cares about you and the light of life shines in his eyes. He is, of course, standing, but rarely standing still. He loves to run and leap and tumble through the meadows. This is the Carson of dreams. The true Carson, but one of the past. 

As quickly as he is to be found, he is to be lost, disappearing with rise of every sun. A sun which ushers in the morning, when wakefulness presents, yet again, the true nightmare of reality. The fading of the Dream Carson invites the existing Carson. Only, the existing one hardly seems Carson at all. He is none of the things the Carson of dreams is made of. In fact, it is as though they are opposites in so many ways.

This Carson is not happy. He has no hope. Not in life, not in himself, and not in God. He is a hostage to a broken life, haunted forever by the Carson of his dreams.  His life seems quite a tragedy. The tragedy is that he was once the Dream Carson . Born with gifts and passion to give, but crushed by the cruelty of life, injured in a brutal way. 

Opportunity and potential were his future, blessed with the tools to succeed... But success never came and he was thwarted in his life's mission. The simple mission to find peace and happiness. Unfulfilled dreams became his reality. As if given the desire to sing, but never the voice to do so; given the desire to soar, but never the wings to fly. The individual once filled with vitality and happiness slowly, and over time, faded away... The once ever present smile on his face is now marred by the permanent stains of despair. A voice once filled with laughter and joy is now replaced by wails, and pathetic sputtering sobs. Once grinning eyes are now lifeless, dark-circled and bloodshot. An immobile body lays in the place of a mobile one, crippled and atrified.

Hope is now hopelessness. Faith is now faithlessness. From trust to distrust, and from desire to apathy. Imploring to live replaced by the pleading to die. This is Carson of Life. He wanders aimlessly, miserably. He seeks in vain that which he cannot have, but so desperately wants. He goes day to day, hoping against hope to find Carson of dreams while the sun still shines. Could ever a human desire something so badly? He exhausts his strength and all resources in his search, but no matter the day or outcome, he is always left with a familiar sense of loss as the day slips into night... For Dream Carson only dances through the quiet of sleep, and is not found while the sun shines. Only when reality succumbs to dreamland, does he run through the grass again. He laughs until he cries. He plays the everlasting day away. He stands and he is happy... He is finally happy again, and the relief of finding him again in such a joyful state goes beyond expression.

But Dream Carson fades quickly alongside the mist of slumber, always evaporating with the impending arrival of the sun. A sun that brings pain. A sun that brings the execution of hope... A sun that brings Hell. For the sun brings with it dawn... and another day of the reality that murdered the Carson of my dreams."

Now, because I wondered if this were too much to share, I sent it to a few people for feedback before posting, and there are a couple of things that I wanted to explain. What I was really trying to express was that the Carson I used to know was happy, and the loss at feeling like that very Carson has been destroyed. These feeling stem in most part from my injury and the difficulty I have had in finding things that bring me happiness. I wasn't trying to say that I don't feel like I have worth, but that I long to feel inside like I used to. I still feel passionate about many things and I still care about and love people.  Admittedly, I was a bit worried that by posting this some would feel like I was fishing for certain comments or feedback. Not the case. 

These feelings have been the common theme of these first six months. I suppose that the reason I get up every morning is because I am determined to find that Carson again. It's similar to what I wrote about in my "Shattered Pearls" entry. I wake up every day hoping to find pieces to my shattered pearl. Sometimes I feel deeply that I seek an impossibility, but I still seek. I recognize that with time comes experience, recovery, and possibility. I also recognize that my happiness must come separately from my recovery. If my happiness relies on my physical recovery, then it is dependent upon something that is out of my control, and that simply cannot be. I must be the one in control of my happiness.

I hope that the next six months are more fruitful in recovery and purpose than the first, and you better believe that I'll do everything within my power to make that a reality. So, here's to the next chapter!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Million Thanks Would Never Be Enough (parents)

Steve:  Six months have passed since Carson's injury, and through this time the outpouring of support has been nothing short of incredible. Now that we are settling into a new and difficult long-term family rhythm, we have struggled to know how to thank everyone who has been involved in support since the accident, and have concluded that we simply can't thank everyone at the level we would like.  How does one thank people who have donated their time and money who wish to remain anonymous, and other unsung people who have been working in the shadows many hours to make events happen such as "Anything for a Friend"? The task would be overwhelming and we collectively feel inadequate in our effort to recognize everyone who has had a hand in helping our son. But we are grateful. We know the effort that goes into these events with all the organizing, coordination, and hours upon hours of preparation, taking away personal and family time from those involved. It makes us feel guilty in many regards. All the demands that have transpired over the past six months have been crushing. The myriad of things to worry about and coordinate have been nearly a full time job. At times we questioned our ability to get everything done that was needed and it has only been through the help of others that has kept our heads above the rising water. We do wish to call attention to the highlights of the support for our family.


Before discharge from the hospital, certain modifications to the house were required. Occupational Therapists made several visits to the house with recommended changes. This was difficult because we really could not test or try out what was going to work because we didn't know what changes were going to happen with Carson's functioning. Shortly after the accident, representatives for "Anything for a Friend" presented Carson's case for consideration to Home Depot for possible assistance with home renovations. Home Depot has a program that partners with the United Way of Northern Utah to locate recipients for their efforts and resources.  In our specific case, not only did they respond to the needs of Carson, but also recognized we are a veteran military family. Very quickly, the two managers of the Riverdale and Layton Home Depot's (Andy Olsen and Derek Carver respectively) came to the home and began to make plans to renovate the basement bathroom and change the flooring in Carson's room and hallways. The amount of effort that took place in a incredibly short time was staggering. We had a small army of Home Depot personnel come to the house on a rainy day to get the major portions of the renovations completed.  They installed flooring and continued to work on bathroom/basement modifications.  Later, both store managers and the regional manager came in and finished off the cabinetry (see second photo below).  Of course, Ken Taylor (second from left in first picture below) may just as well have slept at our house he was putting in so many hours.

Before Renovation

After Renovation...... wheelchair accessible!

From L-R: Andy Olsen (Riverdale Home Depot), Derek Carver (Layton Home Depot), Joe Alvarez (Regional Manager), the ultimate workhorse, Ken Taylor (Riverdale), and Carson

Steve: In the midst of all of this I had to travel for business trips. When I left before this renovation project, my basement looked the same---like a storage room with sick green carpet that had been there a million years, old paint that came with the house, poor lighting etc. Five days later I hardly recognized the same basement. Carpet gone, new paint, and cabinets installed. I was dumfounded. Little did I know that half the neighborhood had been in the basement helping to paint, alter Carson's room to accommodate his wheel chair and a host of other things. In the ensuing nights, I would go down to the basement and find someone in there on their hands and knees painting baseboard or putting a second coating of paint on the wall etc. Many times people would let themselves in through the north entrance to the basement and I didn't even know they were down there. I still shudder to think what verbal family transactions they heard among the chaos. It was truly an "all hands on deck" effort.  We know that it took personal and family time away from these people and we felt truly blessed.

L-R: Linda Romney, Kathy Smith, Becky Taylor and Diane Austin
L-R: Frank Romney, Brent Florek and Judd Taylor

Camille: During the week that  Home Depot was working feverishly on the bathroom trying to finish in time for Carson's return home, we had neighbors come in who expressed a desire to help make the basement user-friendly for Carson. I listened to their ideas and then shared our thoughts of what we hoped to do to the basement. Unbeknownst to me, Ken Taylor (Riverdale Home Depot) had heard the conversation from the next room and came in and said, "I think we can make that happen." I couldn't believe it since we didn't really have the time and ability to take on a larger project on our own.  Ken talked with his manager the next day, they worked some numbers and he came back and said they could provide supplies for our neighbors to complete the work. I had several concerns and worries about pulling a makeover off that fast (one of them being my husband was gone), but they all pressed forward knowing it was now or never since Carson would soon come home. I was told "This neighborhood knows how to mobilize!" and they were right. They took it into their own hands and in about a week's period of time the majority of our basement had been renovated. I was so humbled watching these proactive, positive people that I posted a Chinese Proverb on the front door for all those who were coming and going. It read, "THOSE WHO SAY IT CAN'T BE DONE SHOULD GET OUT OF THE WAY OF THOSE WHO ARE DOING IT."   I didn't really need to have my faith restored in our community (especially after the wind storm of December 2011)  but I was impressed beyond words.  I had someone ask me if the additional chaos that comes with a major construction project was adding additional stress to our already upside down life. No.... it did just the opposite for me. I felt an amazing spirit of charity in our home that buoyed me up. When I would come home from the hospital at the end of a long day, I would see more progress in the basement and longed to know who had been there. Our home was blessed in more ways than one by these people! When Carson came home he was greeted to a neighborhood full of blue ribbons, "Welcome Home" signs and a newly remodeled  basement living arrangement. Knowing Carson would have difficulty coming home (which he did), the changes in his environment have made this transition easier.


Steve: Even though "Anything for a Friend" is the name of the formal fund raising organization, the name also encapsulates for us the remarkable generosity shown by people donating their time, money, individual talents and sacrifices for another person. These include the leaders of organizations, individuals, anonymous donors, friends who know Carson, and also incredibly, those who don't know him!   

Spinal Cord injuries are cruel. They leave the person intact intellectually and personality/character remains just as it has, but now without bodily functioning below the injury level. I knew from the outset of Carson's injury what the long term ramifications would be. This is not a terminal illness and the battle will rage for the next 50+? years. If statistics are any indication, the future is full of emotional and physical challenges, some of which can be life threatening. The cost of adaptive equipment has already been astounding without even entertaining the future of complicated medical issues that Carson has already written about. 

That being said, we would like to highlight the fundraising that has taken place, because quite frankly, it is the means to take care of the necessary demands of the injury. Those who have donated have anticipated this, and given generously of your hard earned money. Thank you! We know it is a sacrifice to give in tough economic times. It underscores the goodness of people, exemplifies charity, and represents everything that is good about human beings who have the capacity to love. Within days of the injury a neighbor set up a way to contribute to Carson through the blog site, herself having a disabled son and anticipating the costs involved. This, along with the movie event and amazing fundraiser efforts through "Anything for a Friend" that included many sponsors and donations of businesses and goods, filled us with amazement at people's generosity.

Ashley and Patricia Barson made 2,400 bracelets for Carson's Event....over 400 hours!
Talk about doing  anything for a friend  :) 
Weeks prior to the event  Teena Stucki and Lori Florek  organized  a very hard working
"Team Carson."
The race begins!
The food was generously catered by the Cottam Family/Bella's Fresh Mexican Grill
The Kid's Corner
Dinner and Auction Pavilion
Final balloon launch!
Becky Anderson (director of Anything For A Friend) w/ Carson @ Lorraine's Event

Camille:  Carson's event was amazing... a day we will never forget. In some ways it was hard to take it all in and we struggled to comprehend such generosity. We were able to relate to what past recipients of "Anything For a Friend" have expressed when they said they felt embarrassed and  unworthy.  For our family we just wanted to see the event go well for those who had put in so many hard working hours on behalf of Carson and our family. I know the greatest desire of the organizers of this fundraiser was wanting people to come and feel the spirit of the day. We felt it. We saw a community unite in goodwill hoping to make a difference in someone's life. This time it happened to be our son, for which we are eternally grateful. Now that we are 6 months out from Carson's accident we can look back and count literally hundreds of acts of service of every kind. We have felt every positive vibe you have sent our way and we have survived because of your love and support. We know we will continue to struggle to help Carson through his  hard times, but we are not alone in this battle. We have friends.   

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Five Firsts

Over the last month or so, I have experienced a lot of firsts that I've wanted to share. Some are things that have happened for the first time since I've been injured, and others are things that have happened for the first time in my life. There are many other firsts that I haven't placed on this list, many of which are not uplifting, but I decided to include a bit of everything.

The 1st First: Swimming in open water

I know I have showed some videos of swimming before, but I've only recently been able to swim in the open water for the first time and work towards getting faster times without any assistive devices. When we first talked about me getting into the cold water at a normal swimming pool, we were worried as to how my blood pressure and spasticity would be affected… I am happy to say that neither were a concern (for the most part). Every once in a while I will have a muscles spasm throughout my quads and core that throws my stroke off off, but it's something that I can definitely work with.

In Paralympic swimming, there are classifications for every level of disability. This makes it fair for people who have different levels of disability to compete against each other. I haven't been classified officially yet, but the times I am shooting for are probably between 1:03 and 1:07 to qualify for a national meet in the 50 m backstroke. The first time I swam, I swam a 50 m backstroke in 1:44. My second time in the water (one week later) I swam the same distance in 1:21, and the third time in 1:16. I am excited that progression has occurred in so short a period of time and with so little training, so we will see how things continue! Dallas has been an incredible help to me since he's been home, and is especially useful in the pool.

The 2nd First: Hand cycling

The University of Utah has an amazing program that gives people with SCIs the ability to participate in recreational sports. So, I decided to go down on a Thursday and try it out! It was both fun and difficult, and I have to admit that my shoulders were burning the entire time. I was able to take the hand cycle home for a week and it's been fun to pedal around the neighborhood with my family on their bikes.

The 3rd First: Overheating because I can't sweat
Warning: The photo below may be deemed"inappropriate" by some (my mom ;))

I continue to make new discoveries about my injury... Especially dealing with learning about things I can and can't do safely… and I had one of those "blessed" experiences this week. It was Friday in the afternoon, and I was getting home from therapy and thought that I would get a little extra cardio in. I asked Annie if she would run next to me while I was on the hand cycle, and apparently she hadn't exercised for the day yet, so off we went! It was much hotter than either of us expected, and I think we both exercised a bit beyond our comfort zone. We were both exhausted, but the difference was that she was both hot and sweaty, and I was just hot. I CAN'T SWEAT.

Now this is not news to me, but I didn't know what the consequences would be like if I actually overheated. As Annie started cooling off (thanks to her sweat), my breathing continued at a fast pace, and I began to get even more lightheaded than I normally am. Over the course of three short minutes I began to pass out, while my hands and face started to tingle in a not-so-good way. We agreed to that I was overheating, so we took immediate action to get me as cooled off as soon as possible! That being said, we stripped me down and threw me in a freezing cold shower which took care of the overheating pretty quickly. Thanks to Ann, everything turned out fine. Who needs in-home hospice when you have such a quick-thinking little sister to take care of you?

Ann and I thought this was such an exciting event that we had to take a quick snapshot.
(Don't judge my lack of abs (or anything else), I promise I had some before)

The 4th First: Standing in a walker

I just have to make it absolutely clear that this does not mean that I am walking! I'm not stepping, I'm not kicking, and I can't even wiggle a toe! I currently have no movement in my legs or feet. The reason this exercise was exciting for me, was because I was able to sustain an upright position using my core and minimal assistance. In the picture below, my therapist is blocking my knees to make sure my legs don't give out, as well as pulling me forward by a belt behind my rear. The therapist behind me is there just in case I fall backwards, but he almost never had to help me during this exercise. Throughout the exercise I was to let go of the walker as much as possible and lift one arm at a time and stabilize myself only using my core. I have to admit, I was pretty encouraged. A good friend of mine reminded me that the small victories are the victories worth recognizing. We all have our eyes on walking, but what we need to focus on are the small improvements that improve the quality of our lives. My core may not be strong enough to sustain me in most functional things, but if it even allows me to pick up something off the ground easier, or get out of bed easier, than that's something I need to recognize. Admittedly, this is definitely one of my weak points. I have been notorious for trying to eat the elephant in one bite, if you know what I mean.

The 5th First: Questioning my ability to succeed

Like everyone else in this world, I have found barriers along the way of any path to success. Whether it is in the realm of things spiritual, social, or physical, I have found things that get in my way as I try to achieve anything worthwhile. Some of these obstacles in my life's path have been smaller or greater than others, but while I'm not exactly sure why, I have always been absolutely certain that I could overcome any obstacle that threatened my ability to succeed. Even through some monumental difficulties or conflicts, like finding reconciliation of my beliefs and sexual orientation, I was sure that I would come out on top and beat the barrier to my happiness. This is the first time in my life that I have genuinely questioned whether or not I can do something. This is the first time in my life that I seriously question whether or not I will come out on top. There are mornings when I wake up and see little or no purpose to my getting out of bed and facing a new day with all of its brutalities. There are many times and moments when I feel like all of my effort and struggle is in vain, and has no effect on my journey to find happiness… and it scares me. It scares me to think that I might be bitter after all of this is through, or that I'll be angry at all of the cruelties of life. What scares me more than anything, is fearing that the Carson I once knew is no longer. That the Carson who felt so confident about who he was and what he wanted somehow died with the introduction of this new injury.

 I wish so badly that I could believe and feel that a future existed for me that could give me what I now long for. What I am grateful for, is that there are others who have gone before me with spinal cord injuries, and have expressed that happiness exists in life after the injury. I admit that, because of my frequent feelings of hopelessness, it sometimes feels impossible that that could be true. At the end of the day, I still recognize that any efforts put into recovery has a direct return to me. I am the benefactor of any of my hard work... I also recognize that I have been the worst at predicting the future throughout my life! I suppose I should try and learn my lesson and understand that the game isn't over yet, and that I don't know the outcome. There are outcomes and doors that will open for me that are yet unseen. So I wait. And along with waiting, hope that there are better days to come.

A funny moment: The packaging of my catheters is made of some sort of metallic material, and while trying to open one I accidentally cut myself. My little sister, Kate (9 years old), somehow heard of the incident and later in the week said out of the blue, "You know, Carson... you should think about using your catheters as spears." Mmm hmmm... I laughed pretty hard.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Video


This is a video that I have been wanting to post for a long time. It's an overview of everything that has happened over the last five months. I got to see this movie for the first time with tons of other people during the fundraiser. I have to admit that it was difficult to relive many of the events portrayed in the video, but I thought that it was so well done. Not gonna lie though, I cried all the way through! Thanks to the two friends of mine who helped put this all together. Click on the following link and enjoy.

The Video: Carson Tueller

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Event

It finally happened! I've been meaning to give the recap on everything that happened during my Anything For A Friend Event. It was surely a life-changing event for me. One can try to imagine or envision everything will take place in an event like this, but that was just not possible for me. I could never have imagined the amount of love, support, and outreach that I received. For the first time in a few years my whole family was together, including Braun and Bethany (older brother and sister-in-law) who flew in from D.C..

When we first drove up to the venue where this event was held, I was amazed by the set up, but also felt a bit sheepish at seeing my face at every turn. The colors I had chosen, blue and white, were all around the pavilion, and were seen in the balloons, T-shirts, and other decorations. The event started out with the Star-Spangled Banner, sung by the men in my family, which was then followed by the beginning of the 5K race. I was lucky to have some wheelchairs donated to me so that I was not the only one doing the race in a chair. In fact, most members of my family and even some friends were able to do some of the race with their own wheels rolling along my side. With those in the wheelchairs at the front of the crowd, we all started down the road for the route of the 5K, which led us on a path all around Layton park.

The run was such a blast for me, and I was able to do a lot of it by myself. We had tons of runners come, and have some amazing footage thanks to Jackie and Cathy. As you can see in the photo below, they had a pretty sweet setup to get some great pics. One drives, while the other shoots. :)

The 5K finished with Dallas, my younger brother who just returned from his LDS mission, running me through the finish line. Through the 5K I thought, "Alright, this is all good… I think I might leave this place tear free." Boy was I wrong. 

Some very tender feelings and moments were shared, including a reminder of how this organization originated. Many thanks were given to those who had spent so much time and effort organizing. One of my favorite parts was a presentation of a large trifold poster-board covered with dozens of little glittering stars. Each one of the stars represented the kind donations from some individual. The amazing thing about all of this, was that the idea was all thought of and carried out by children, and one young boy in particular. I was amazed and humbled. Now unfortunately, there are many unsung heroes that participated in a monumental way. I wish to express my thanks to all of those that helped in some way, but may not have received the proper thanks. In all sincerity, thank you.

Following the auctions, we had one of my favorite parts of the whole event. The balloon launch. It's a time when what seems like hundreds of balloons are released into the sky, representing hope and rising above our challenges. I had the opportunity to play a little bit of Be Still, My Soul, on the flute. It was the one thing I thought like I could give to say thank you to all those who have helped me and changed my life for the better.

Even in reviewing everything that I've written so far, it feels inadequate and like a foolish attempt at some of my feelings. I was talking with a friend that told be something that demonstrated her understanding of my situation. She said, "This has all been amazing, and I'm sure it has changed the lives of those who have come to it... but at the end of the day we all get up and continue on our way, and you stay here, with your situation remaining the same." She did not by any means imply or mean to say that I am on my own from here on out, but that my battle will continue.

And continue it does... and painfully. I thought I knew what suffering was like before this injury. I thought I knew what it meant to be tested. But I continue to be astounded at the relentless opposition that I face on a daily level. Some of you may have noticed that my writing has slowed down a bit… I realize that I have been hesitant to write because I have been frequently down and feel like I have nothing positive to say. But I guess it doesn't do much if I only talk about the good of my life. I want to be real, and share my journey in the most genuine way. I commit to doing so! Thanks again to all who read this, or send small messages, or say even the most simple prayers on my behalf. I continue to thrive off of the love and friendship of those around me. God bless each of you for your kindness towards me and my family.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Love In Action

I've recently (somewhat recently, at least) participated in several activities put on by anything for a friend, one was for myself, and the other was for recipient Angie Jones, whose event I attended.
April 21st was my first event with Anything For A Friend. The event was held at the Centerville Megaplex theater, where we watched Captain America 2. Like all of the events for Anything For A Friend, each can be preregistered for online. The night before this event, there were relatively few people who had preregistered for the movie, but to everyone's  surprise the theater of 500+ seats was nearly completely filled by the time the movie actually began! I was astounded.

I have to admit, it was a very humbling experience to have so many people there supporting me. I saw people from both high school and college, people from my neighborhood and church, and many people that I had never met before. Before the movie started, I was asked to say a few words, which is always difficult because I have to have something to say on the spot... So, I just said exactly what I felt, which was a lot of gratitude, and a lot of feelings that were difficult to express to 500 people who have been following your progress with so much love and support. Seriously though, what do you say? Thank you? Well I did, and a few more things that I'm sure no one else remembers, but I hope it came across that I was extremely grateful. I do remember saying that just like it takes a village to raise a child (as the saying goes), it takes a community to help someone like me recover and find life again. I expressed that I knew that I would be successful because of the incredible community that supports me.

Did you see this picture of all these beautiful women? They, along with many others, spent incredible time and effort to organize this event. But that's not all. They continue to spend hours and hours organizing in preparation for my main event on May 31. I've been amazed by their love and dedication, and am so thankful for the way they change the community around them through their service. I am ecstatic for my own event that is coming up so quickly. I have been able to see just a few of the things that people are putting together for the event, and I'm stoked! 

It's been almost 5 months since my injury, and the support has been amazing. Especially during the first few months, there was an outpouring of letters, visits, and support and love of every type. I've often been at a loss as to how I could effectively thank everyone who has helped, especially through this blog. I hope that my upcoming event will be an opportunity for me to personally thank everyone who has helped me, or is still helping me through this. It's finally my own chance to say thank you, and I hope you will be there to hear it!

 I got a taste for what an Anything For A Friend for a friend event can be like when I went to Angie Jones event ...and it's beyond what I thought it would be! I was expecting just a fundraiser.

I attended Angie's event and met her for the first time there. This is the picture of our first meeting together. 

We both felt an immediate connection to each other and I our first conversation was somewhat refreshing for me.

Me: "I am Carson, it's great to meet you. How are you doing?"

Angie: "I'm good" (Then with a smile) "Well...You know how it is."

Me: "Yeah... I do know how it is..."

Boom. BFFs on the spot. We were able to talk more, but not too much more. I was, however, able to witness all of the love that surrounds Angie and her family. 

The picture above was immediately after the balloon launch, where what seems like hundreds of balloons are released into the sky by everyone present, as an expression of release and freedom from whatever burden one may be facing. While the feeling at the balloon launch was especially tender, The feeling throughout the entire event was one that came totally unexpected to me. There was so much gratitude, love, camaraderie, and even excitement as we all came together for the benefit of Angie's family. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

What I Didn't Know About Spinal Cord Injuries

I have a lot of people who ask me, "Carson, what does a normal day look like for you?" As I answered this question many times, I realized that my life has become quite task oriented. Most of these tasks exist as a result of many secondary effects of my SCI (spinal cord injury). These are the parts of being paralyzed that I didn't expect, and that are very difficult for me. So, I thought I would walk you through the day in the life of Carson. I've decided to be quite candid and open in my comments, including things like bowel and bladder care. I promise not to be too explicit, but you've been warned! I will list the activities of the day, followed by some explanation of how the secondary effects of SCI affect me.

2:00 AM
I usually start the day very early in the morning with catheterization. Bladder care right off the bat! Some of you may already know that loss of function from an SCI also means loss of bowel and bladder function, but this is something that I didn't know about before my injury. This is a very significant secondary effect of an SCI, and requires a lot of attention. I have heard people say that they would rather have bowel and bladder control back than walk! This obviously means that I have to catheterize several times during the day. Initially, this was very distressing for me, not only because of how much time it consumed, but also because of the risk of urinary tract infections. UTIs are a common enemy of people with SCI, and let me tell you, they are not enjoyable. So why 2 o'clock in the morning? A bladder can hold enough to get through the night, right? Well, because most of my body is sedentary, my tissue absorbs much of the liquid I take in during the day. The liquid is then reabsorbed during the nighttime as I am on my back. This effect is exaggerated since I'm tall, simply because being tall means more tissue to absorb more liquid. So, I usually either have to wake up in the night to catheterize, or risk having an accident. It is also harmful to the bladder to allow so much liquid in because it stretches the muscle out too much.

7:30/8:00 AM
My morning regiment begins! This is without a doubt, the most painful, depressing and difficult part of my day. My mornings are so difficult for several reasons: Incredibly low blood pressure and intense nerve pain (both of which are the worst in the mornings), and the fact that I am not independent in my bowel care (yet). People with SCI in the cervical (neck) region lose a great amount of blood pressure regulation, which contributes to an overall poor feeling. For me, I often feel faint, nauseated, and just ill in general. Low pressure causes me to feel depressed, disabled, and incredibly fatigued, whereas with higher pressure I feel more optimistic, energetic, and ready to go to work. Blood pressure has been one of the most difficult things for me to deal with through all of my injury up to this point. Whether or not I've had a good day or a bad day is sometimes determined simply by my blood pressure. Unfortunately, the majority of my day is spent in the low blood pressure range. In order to fight pressure problems, I wear compression socks, an abdominal binder, and take blood pressure medication throughout the day. Just like some of my bladder problems, my pressure problems are exaggerated because of my height.

So, my mom or dad comes in to help me prepare for the day. The first order of the day is bowel care. I try to get up slowly so as not to upset my blood pressure, and then I transfer into a shower chair. The whole process of bowel care and showering is still impossible to do by myself. My parents help wheel me in my shower chair (which is too heavy for me to maneuver by myself) into the bathroom where it rolls conveniently over a toilet.

As I mentioned above, people with SCI do not have bowel control. In order to compensate for the lack of bowel control, we are put on a predictable cycle in order to avoid accidents. In order to have a bowel movement, the bowel wall itself needs to be manually agitated or stimulated to get things moving (we are talking the bowel/rectal wall itself, and we all know there is only one way to get there…). This is where things get a little personal. This is a pretty invasive process whether you do it yourself or have someone else help you. For someone who doesn't have strong enough fingers to take care of this bowel stimulation, it requires the help of someone else. This just happens to be my predicament, and the predicament of many other quadriplegics. There maybe other methods of inducing a bowel movement as a quadriplegic, but I believe this is the most common. There is really nothing that keeps this from being a downer, to say the least. When this all started, I told myself that I could either hate my life every single morning, or I could get over it and not make it a big deal. I tried to choose the latter, but as a 23-year-old man, I can tell you that it's still a little bit demoralizing to need help with such a personal thing. The whole process of bowel care can easily take up to an hour, which is mostly comprised of waiting. This is then followed by a shower, which I can mostly do by myself now. My mom or dad usually stays near enough to me to hear if I call, just in case I begin to pass out because of low blood pressure (which has happened before).

After showering my mom or dad wheels me back into my room where I transfer back onto the bed and do the rest of my morning regiment. I take my medication, brush my teeth, and get the help I need getting dressed. I can do most of my dressing by myself, but need help with my compression stockings and abdominal binder. I am literally incapable of getting ready for the day without the immediate help of my parents. To get out of bed and upstairs to breakfast takes an average of an hour and a half.

This is my favorite part of the day, and really what I live for now. That is, physical and occupational therapy. I go to physical therapy at Neuroworx, which is in South Jordan. Neuroworx specializes in SCI or other similar disabilities. I spend as much as I can possible in physical therapy to get the best workout that I can. I go to PT four days a week, and OT two times a week, which means that I have to double up on one of the days. At PT I work to get stronger where I already have function, as well as work to maximize the possibility of gaining back more function where I don't have it (yet). I am spending a lot of time on my core muscles, and use two days of PT for swimming. Swimming has proven to be some of the best therapy that I could have asked for. It works my core muscles as well as gives me the opportunity to do something that I love. At OT, I focus on strengthening my hands and learn other functional skills, like driving.

The rest of the day I spend with my family  at home, or try to get out with friends for some kind of activity. Most evenings I stay home because I feel too poor to leave the house by the end of the day, again thanks to blood pressure, but also because of fatigue from therapy. I love simply spending time with my family and friends, and sometimes go on walks around the block with a brother or sister if it's warm enough.

Bedtime is another long process, and still takes about an hour. I do the normal things like brush my teeth, catheterize, fill up a water bottle, and take my meds, but I spend most of that time getting situated in my bed so as to avoid pressure sores and nerve pain. Those without SCI will toss and turn during the night when a certain part of the body is not getting enough blood flow. If there's not enough circulation, that part of the body will go numb, which is a sign that you need to reposition. If the situation remains the same, the tissue will die. Bed sores are a serious thing to consider, so I have to take careful measures to ensure that no one part of my body is susceptible to extra pressure... I usually have to be especially careful with my heels. As I mentioned before, nerve pain is also a major source of concern for me. I experience nerve pain in nearly every part of my body that is paralyzed, so almost everywhere. This is not necessarily the case for everyone with SCI, but it is for me. The nerve pain is especially intense when I am touching anything. That being said, the soles of my feet, my bottom and thighs, and my forearms experience the most pain. My nerve pain ranges between 3 and an 8 on the scale from 1 to 10, and usually stays consistently between a 4 and 6. Unfortunately, all of my nerve pain is intensified when on my back, which can make sleeping very uncomfortable. Using a body pillow to tilt me on to one side can usually alleviate some of the pressure off of my spine. Once I have checked that my alarm is set for my midnight catheterization, and checked the intercom that connects to my parents room, I am ready to sleep! Mission complete.

So that's a day for me! I recognize that I am still only four months out from my initial injury, which is a very short time for someone who has had an SCI. Some of these secondary problems may resolve themselves, like my blood pressure, neck pain, or needing to catheterize in the middle of the night. Others most likely never will, like bladder and bowel issues. Everyone who has an SCI may experience something different when it comes to secondary side effects, but none of them are usually too enjoyable.

I have heard others say it, and I echo their sentiments when I say that being paralyzed is the easiest part of being paralyzed. If I only had to worry about mobility and not walking, my life would be so much easier. It's the constant pain, the feeling of always wanting to pass out, and the bowel problems that seriously get me down. It's all of these other side effects that make life so task oriented and somewhat robotic. When I first had my SCI, I was devastated at how much time it took for me to do every single thing. I used to live my life on the go, and would simplify anything that took too long to do. Now life seems to have simplified me. Rather than graduating or working on a career, I work on wiggling a finger. While others progress in relationships or achieve great things, I'm just trying not to have an accident that day.

I continue to work on adjusting my perspective on my situation to feel like there is purpose behind this, but it has proven to be very difficult. I hold on to the belief that good things come to those who wait, to those who work hard, and to those who force purpose into their life. Do I wish I had a "normal" life experience? Yes. Would I go back to December 30th if I could, and stop myself from jumping into that foam pit? In a heartbeat. But what's done is done, and I can only make the best out of the remains. One time I had a friend who made me think of something in a way that gave me some hope. She said something like, "Carson, you don't have a normal life like everyone else, and it's hard. Really hard. But you know, I think because of this, God has something in store for you that is better than normal." The gist of her comment was not that I am better than normal, but that experiences that are especially difficult can teach us especially unique and powerful things. I believe that. And as I wait for those experiences, I will do what is in my power to improve, learn, overcome the obstacles in my path, and defy the odds.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Worth of a Depreciated Soul

As many of you know, the phrase "Defy The Odds" is a motto that I have chosen to help me through my journey with paralysis. It motivates me and gives me vision as to the opposition I face, as well as the courage I'll need to overcome that opposition. I suppose that in the beginning, I was thinking solely about defying the odds in physical recovery. However, as every day passes by, and as I learn more about myself and my physical injury, I realize that I've neglected to address an equally, if not more tragic wound received on the day of my accident. This wound is potentially more life-altering and more threatening to my well being than even my physical paralysis. It's one that deals with my deepest and most personal feelings of being and self-perception... The recovery I long for, and realize I am in most need of, is a recovery from feelings of depreciation and lessened worth as a human being. The odds that need most defying, are the high odds that I don't recover from this ordeal in an emotional way.

I realize that shortly after my injury, I began to perceive myself differently. There were countless circumstances and subsequent feelings that brought me to recognize the changes in the way I viewed myself As I looked in the mirror for the first time at the crippled and diminishing Carson sitting in a power chair, I was embarrassed of the person I saw in the mirror. I was sickened at the sight of myself, and fought the tears welling up in my eyes. During my first few outings into the community with occupational therapy, I saw that people looked at me differently than they did before, or completely avoided eye contact altogether. I realized that to some degree I was viewed as abnormal, and in my mind that meant less than normal, or less than human. Sub-human. 

Before, I used to take time to make sure I felt well groomed and presentable, but after my injury I found myself feeling like that was a waste of time, not because I thought it was unimportant, but because I thought it was a waste of time on someone like me. The thoughts, "It doesn't matter, I'm in a wheelchair anyway" filled my head. In essence, I began to feel like I had less value as a human being, and the respect I had for myself was quickly dwindling. I used to be happy to present myself to others and was pleased with the person others saw in me… And now I fight feelings of embarrassment when people I know see me rolling around in my wheelchair, or sitting reclined on a couch. Always sitting. These feelings are devastating to me, especially because it is so unlike me to feel such negative things about myself.

These feelings of depreciated self-worth began to make me believe that happiness was outside my reach. Like an ever-reoccurring nightmare, I constantly wonder if I will ever feel whole again in my lifetime. I wonder if I will ever feel like the true Carson again. While it is difficult to fathom the possibility, I hope with everything I have that happiness is still within my grasp, and that I can feel complete again, even as a quadriplegic. More than anything, I long to feel whole... But one thing is for sure. Happiness is not guaranteed just through my mobility. Without a doubt, all of us know individuals, perhaps even ourselves, who seem to have everything one could ask for, but are completely unhappy. In understanding this, I have recognized that I must have misunderstood happiness to some degree, and that there is something about it that I must learn. Happiness is not some emotion that waxes and wanes, or simply comes and goes with the luck of the day. It's something deeper.

I am reminded of a passage from Jesus the Christ, by James E Talmage, referring to happiness:

“Happiness is not akin with levity, nor is it one with light-minded mirth. It springs from the deeper fountains of the soul, and is not infrequently accompanied by tears. Have you never been so happy that you have had to weep? I have.”

So, my priorities have shifted slightly. My first quest must be to secure happiness in the now, and in my current circumstances. I do not need, nor should I wait to be happy once I'm walking. This requires a lot of emotional effort for me, since I so desperately yearn for that which I had before. Even the thought of never regaining that wholeness brings a surge of anguish and despair... But I reluctantly acknowledge that the time of adaptation has arrived. I feel intense hesitance and resentment at the prospect of accepting the now, but something inside, something from God, tells me it is the solution to finding peace... to find the happiness that is independent of any other external source, an invincible happiness that radiates from the deepest part of who I am.

Just like necessity is the mother of invention, negative and harmful feelings have always been the mother of the learning of new principles for me. These feelings motivated me to ask some questions. Since much of my unfulfillment and unhappiness comes from a feeling of lessened worth, I have been prompted to ask, What makes Carson valuable? Or for that matter, what makes any human being valuable? Was I more valuable before only because I could run and walk and jump? I doubt it. Was I more valuable because I was independent and self-reliant? Again, doubt it. I decided that that simply couldn't be the case.

There is more to me than my mobility.

Our world defines value in an inaccurate way. The world puts the highest prices on external beauty, physical attraction, popularity, talents, ability, education, money and power, just to name a few. If you have one or any of these in great abundance, you have a good amount of value according to our society. Now, I want to make it clear that I believe that many of these things are beneficial. It's good to take care of yourself, it's good to have an education, it's good to be successful and make money, as well as hone our skills and abilities, but what I'm saying is that this is not where true value lies. If value were to lie in any of those things, then ironically value would be cheap, value would be transient and dependent. I have found that a misunderstanding of where true value exists usually leads to unhappiness. 

I believe that value is independent of any external source or influence. It lies in the things that neither accident nor time or circumstance can never change. The only aspects of our person that can never change are things having to do with the character we have developed. There are things that, for better or for worse, are woven into the material of who we are. Regardless of where life takes us, we carry with us that fabric we have woven throughout our lives. There is peace for me in knowing that neither heaven nor hell can take from me what matters most. A businessman whose life is his career, can lose his business, and therefore his wealth. A world-class athlete may have a tragic accident that terminates his or her career. Movie stars and celebrities can fall victim to cancer or any other number of human illnesses. I guess the point I'm making to myself is that life will take it's toll on each of us, and at the end of the day the only thing that any of us can count on retaining is the character we have developed throughout our lives. Now that's stability. 

I would never undermine the value of the lives of people who have made important contributions to others and society, but I would argue that personal value lies in kindness and integrity, in compassion and sympathy, in service and generosity, and in true, unadulterated love, among other qualities. Love is the greatest of all virtues, and is the greatest defining characteristic of God. In our attempts to become like him or his Son, doing so without focusing on love is an attempt in vain. I think about the individuals that have influenced me most throughout my life. Without a doubt, I knew each of these people had love for me, and a love for all people in general. Couldn't most of us say the same? Love is the diamond of all valuable qualities.

 I suppose I have been forced to think about these lessons because of my accident. I have lost many of those things that the world puts a high price on. I've lost my physical stature, and most of the abilities I worked hard to obtain. I suppose that in the eyes of the world I might have lost the things that matter most, but I strive to reinforce the understanding that what truly matters most is yet within my reach, perhaps even more than ever before. 

Happiness won't bring my legs back... It won't give me what I had before... but thank God that there is more to life and worth, than what simply meets the eye.