I used to love the commercial for Weebles. Remember the saying, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. Pretty good for a guy that doesn’t have any children. I can still hear the song in my head, of course ask me what I had for lunch yesterday and I may struggle to remember. Why do Weebles wooble but don’t fall down? I think it’s an important question. No joke, I’m not actually talking about the mechanism, but the idea. How is it that American toy makers can make a toy that understands the concept of resilience? How is it that a toy that shouts resilience gets lost on grown-ups when we have a health challenge. Why all this talk about Weebles?
The truth is that there really are people who wobble but don’t fall down. I met a young man this weekend who is the Weeble personified. He’s a fifteen year old young man who has a host of illnesses. He’s not battling one disease, he’s battling at least three that I could count plus a host of food allergies. He carries around a fanny pack with an epi-pen because he is prone to anaphylactic shock. He’s had four colonoscopies starting at age 7. When he told me about the colonoscopies he followed up with “you know, you’re not supposed to have one of those until you’re 50”.
Here’s a young man that has license to feel bad about the cards he’s been dealt. Here’s a young man who has a “get out of jail free” card for depression or at least sadness. Here’s a young man who in spite of tremendous challenges walks around with a smile on his face when he has every right to be pissed off at the world.
The truth is that this is his normal. He really doesn’t have a memory of being well and maybe that’s the key. Adults who have been health for 30, 40, even 50+ years and then get sick have a memory of wellness and that anchors us to a reality whose ship has sailed. Trust me I’m not saying that it’s easier to deal with illness, especially long-term illness if diagnosed at a young age, but we have to look at why we’re so anchored to a reality that is now a memory.
I’ve been very involved over my career in the work surrounding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many diagnosed with an illness suffer from PTSD because the diagnosis alters their entire world and coupled with the treatment traumatized to a state of hyper-vigilance, night terrors, a life of dread. Those working with PTSD used to talk about healing PTSD. At one point the conversation shifted from healing to resiliency. The idea that we can bounce back from a terrible, life-altering experience and resume something that resemble our lives prior to the diagnosis.
I say we all take a lesson from this young man. If I could extract the resiliency gene from his DNA I would and then share it with the world. All I can do is be conscious when I’m in the presence of someone like this young man and be mindful of his experience, which he shares freely. It is then my duty to share this with you because he is living proof that life with an illness although at times inconvenient can be joyful and full of love. I am honored to share this story with you because he is the beacon of hope that life really is for the living so sitting around in despair is counter-intuitive to wellness.
Tell me your Weeble story, I know you have one. We need to hear them to continue on our journey to wellness.