Barbie Layton – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


I had a near-death experience with almost always fatal E. coli in 2012 and realized that resilience and gratitude were all that was left.

Resilience is a beautiful concept, an unwavering beacon of hope that speaks to the heart of every human being. It’s the ability to bounce back from life’s most challenging moments, recover from adversity, and emerge stronger and wiser. It’s like a magical elixir flowing through the world’s veins. It’s what keeps us standing when the storms of life threaten to knock us down. Resilience can be a kind of North Star. It’s the guiding light that leads us through the darkest of times.

In 2012, I was at work, and my coworkers told me I was pale as a ghost and hot and cold all day. I had no idea how close to the end I was! I had just changed insurance, and my policy didn’t start until the 1st of October, so I waited. I saw the doctor, and she told me it was nothing; then, the next day, I ended up in the emergency room and was rushed to a CAT scan machine. The radiologist surgically aspirated 55 cc of what they later identified as E. coli out of a pearl-shaped fluid sac that had grown in my abdomen and showed me the toxic green-colored fluid! 

They had to send the sample through the CDC to verify as they’d never seen anything like it! The doctor thought my international travels probably contributed to it over the years. I  was in and out of consciousness for almost three weeks, my hair turned white from severe oxidative stress, and they had to do four more aspiration surgeries that were very painful. I was very scared that I wouldn’t make it, and I was on the highest level of antibiotics that wreaked havoc in my body. It was a brand new hospital, and I was in a suite on the 5th floor with a wide picture window overlooking the freeway and the mountains and sky in Southern California. I spent a lot of time looking out of that window and wondering if life would ever be the same or if I would make it. 

During that time, they kept telling me I had an incurable illness that I didn’t want to face even though the symptoms were there. But, having previously bounced back from multiple near-death experiences that were not related, I made the decision that I would beat this. Resilience is often deciding and overcoming challenges despite the odds, feeling like they’re against you. The power of resilience lies not just in bouncing back but in adapting and evolving. Sometimes, it’s needed to go through a difficult or painful situation, as I see it as a muscle. 

The beautiful emperor butterfly goes through a painful chrysalis, and scientists did an experiment to make it less painful so they cut open a side to let it out more easily. When it came out, it was deformed and couldn’t fly. The chrysalis, while painful and uncertain, is necessary. Those kinds of shortcuts don’t allow us to grow and see the inner strength that we’re made of. When we have the muscle of resilience, it helps us to be beautifully broken open, and it is often the beginning of a journey or a personal quest, kind of like Bilbo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings,” who has to leave the Shire. 

Until you have to adapt and shift your perspective when you are pushed out of your comfort zone, you don’t actually know what you’re capable of. Not all coping mechanisms are healthy, and I definitely knew I couldn’t do a spiritual bypass and pretend everything was fine. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, and I had to honor my pain and healing journey that I’m still on right now. It’s been a marathon, not a sprint. 

A lot of my coping was around fashion therapy and dressing for success to upgrade my mood. That brought some joy into an otherwise dismal experience and helped bring mindfulness into the moment. If I’m feeling low, wearing sweats and no makeup is the worst thing I can do, as it exacerbates it. When I get dressed up, I feel better and bring my best self, even if I’m not feeling well, and the energy of play and childlike wonder comes through, a vibration the universe loves! Nikola Tesla said the world is made up of energy, vibration, and frequency. 

When I am not feeling well, I focus on extreme gratitude for the journey and all the things I have as opposed to what I do not. Coming back into the center of your heartbeat, your breathing, saying thank you for the chair you’re sitting on, the food that is available to you, the electricity you have, the water that is flowing through your pipes, when you get to gratitude stacking over 15 things, you realize that you are supported by so many unseen people who are keeping the structure of your life intact.

As I’ve journeyed through this world, I’ve learned that kindness and resilience go hand in hand. The more we cultivate resilience in our lives, the more kindness we can spread. When we help others bounce back from adversity, we contribute to a more compassionate world. We have the opportunity to leave a legacy for generations to come.

As I’ve discovered on my journey of personal growth and overcoming adversities, there’s no greater gift we can give ourselves and our world than resilience in the form of determination and perseverance. In its embrace, we find the power to heal, transform, and, ultimately, create a more compassionate and united global community. By sharing our personal stories, we can inspire and write new chapters in the story of our lives, and kindness is the song we sing.

When practicing resilience, I went into trusting in my faith, practicing gratitude, and keeping hope alive. 

A final note: I remember in 2021, driving to a media coaching event in Scottsdale, Arizona, on the freeway by the hospital I had stayed in and seeing my room and crying that I was moving into a new stage of my life and thanking my soul,  my body, and the divine for keeping me alive so I could inspire others with my story. 

And for you, I hope you never give up, lean into your inner reserves of strength, and stay focused on your untapped resilience.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.