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GUEST POST: Michele Rosenthal author of Before the World Intruded

Courage Is A Choice
By Michele Rosenthal,

Author of Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future
At the age of thirteen, I was too young to imagine that such intense pain exists you can lose yourself in it, or that once lost, you can find yourself again. It was my mother who knew all of that and had the presence of mind to teach it to me in the moment I most needed to learn.
In 1981 I was thirteen and hospitalized with a rare, life-threatening allergic reaction to a medication. Almost overnight I turned into the equivalent of a full-body burn victim. My doctors had never seen a case of what we later learned was Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis Syndrome. They were unsure what was going to happen (I would lose 100% of my epidermis) and how to prevent it (there was no way).
By the tenth day, my room turned into a burn unit, doctors suggested inserting a feeding tube. High doses of Morphine and Demerol couldnt quell the pain. Three times a day a team of nurses visited. They rolled me from back to side and onto my back again after thoroughly cleansing the wounds and bed. When my skin adhered to the plastic sheet, syringes of water were squirted along the base of the connection to loosen the bond between skin and plastic. Sometimes the body reclaimed the flesh; other times, the bed refused to relinquish its hold.
When we first began these procedures, I was stoically brave. I gnashed my teeth. I cried. I felt the pain, refuted it, refused it. I accepted the challenge without any idea pain could be victorious. And then, one day, it was.
The procedure began normally enough. My entire back and right leg adhered to the bed. It was slow going with the water, and it wasnt working. Each spot pried from the bed ripped off the skin. In a torrent of shrieks, tears and screams, pain pushed me toward frenzied insanity. The procedure continued, the pain increased, and then the thought suddenly occurred to me that I didnt have to endure. I had a choice.
The connection between my body and me severed.
The procedure continued, but I no longer cared about the bodys limbs or bones, its tearing flesh, its bleeding sores. The pain continued but it was no longer mine, which lead me to realize I had an even bigger choice: I was not required to survive. I could free myself by choosing not to fight for my life. I could choose to surrender. I could let myself die. This, I decided, was the answer.
In preparation for my impending death I announced to my parents,
I love you.
Thank you.
Im dying.
In the sudden silent stillness of the room, as the nurses froze, as my father stood stock-still, my mother didnt miss a beat. In a soft Southern drawl that surfaces only when shes very tired, she said, "Michele, nobody dying makes this amount of noise."
My mother leaned in close. "Look here, you will not die. You will live through this."
"I dont have the strength."
"You do. You just have to find it. Right this minute, you go down further into yourself than youve ever been, and you find the strength to pull yourself through."
"I cant do it."
"Courage is a choice, Michele. Make it."
My mothers eyes were big and black and unrelenting. There was no way to disobey her.
I closed my eyes. I sank into my body. I went in search of my strength and found it in the place I least expected it: Right where my mother said it would be, further inside myself than I had ever been.
This essay is adapted from Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future, A Memoir, by Michele Rosenthal, due out in April 2012.
Author Bio
Michele Rosenthal, 
author of Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future, is a trauma survivor who struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for over 25 years. Today, Michele joyfully lives 100% free of PTSD symptoms.
The host of "Your Life After Trauma" on Seaview Radio, Michele is a mental health advocate, public speaker, award-winning blogger, writer, workshop/seminar leader and Post-Trauma Identity Coach.
For more information please visit, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

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