My book of poetry, "Stripping- My fight to find Me" is a story of the triumph of the human spirit. It is a story of our deep need for connection and the infinite power of love to heal.

Hello,
It’s Sunita here.

I am a poet, an author, a wife, a mother, a clinician and a childhood trauma survivor. I healed when I understood that I was broken,
not a victim. I learnt that everything I needed was within me. And that my mental health and my inner life was the essence and driving force of my existence.

I now want to challenge and inspire you to move beyond your old stories so you can embrace possibility and fulfill your potential. So, if that is where you are in your life, I invite you to come visit with me every Friday.

The conversation is honest, the topics are varied, the perspectives are from many angles, but the bottom line is always
Self Love Self Care First. I hope you will join me in a journey of discovery, wonder, growth and a celebration of our truth.

And love

Because what else is there to talk about?

Be well, Do well, Live well,
Warmly,
Sunita

Friday, June 21, 2019

Be Fearless in The Pursuit of What Sets Your Soul on Fire- Not Reckless


Hi,
It's Sunita here.

A friend of mine had been talking about opening his own business for some time. We would periodically discuss his desire to make a difference in the world.  His current corporate employment, while enjoyable had become limiting in what he could offer his clients. He felt that he had a mission and in order to 'live it', he needed to have the autonomy to set up things in a manner that would allow him and support him to function according to his values, not someone else's.

I personally know him to be very capable and knowledgeable about his field so have never had any reservations about encouraging him to 'go for it'. Of course, that comes with a caveat.

There are hundreds of quotes, blogs, memes, posters, cards, speeches and books written about being Fearless in the pursuit of what sets our soul on fire. This message is not only critical but is essential if we desire to live our best life and fulfill our potential to the maximum possibility.

But, it must be received as such.

Be Fearless in the Pursuit of What Sets your Soul on Fire
But
Don't be Reckless.

Let me explain this with the help of my friend's example.

Last week I was thrilled with the news that he had taken the first step in his journey to establish his own business by registering it as a legal entity. I could see how excited and proud he was. I was delighted for him. As he was sharing how it was a 'sudden' decision on his part, I couldn't help but disagree. We had spent months talking about his vision. What would make him say that I wondered...

He told me that he had gone to his lawyers office for some other matter and once there decided that "I might as well take the leap and be fearless and do the paperwork for my business idea". But in reality, he had done the due diligence required before taking such a step. He had researched his business idea from many practical dimensions and had a very good understanding of the local market from the point of view of opportunity and competition. So in other words, he was prepared. Not reckless...

When I reminded him of this, he realized that he had actually made his decision to register his business not hastily, as he initially felt, but in reality as a sound move after doing his homework. It was certainly a leap of faith. But not an impulsive, risky move.

Our souls work is still work. We must come to it from a place of preparedness. Even if we are dead certain of where our purpose is leading us, it behooves us to look at all the practical considerations that must be accounted for before leaping onto the path of our calling.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author says it beautifully when she encourages people to be their creative selves, but not at the cost of a day job in her book Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Being reckless and blindly following your soul is not an act of 
Self Love Self Care First. 

It can bring tremendous stress and hardship to you instead of taking you to a place of personal joy, meaningful success and transformation.

So stop and listen to your soul in stillness. Hear what it has to say to you. Then get to work and plan to create a life of meaning for yourself. Prepare to do the most meaningful work of your life that will not only bring you joy, make the world a better place but will also live on as your legacy.

And as for my friend, I have no doubts that if he continues on his path of prepared fearlessness, he will be successful beyond his wildest dreams!

Wishing you a week of fearlessness,
Until next time,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst#fearlessness#living beyond fear#lizgilbert#soul#purpose#meaning

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Dr. Edward Tronick, The Still Face Experiment and Stripping : My Fight to Find Me- It's Personal.


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

In this picture of a baby, I see beauty, innocence, curiosity, openness, trust, love, playfulness, confidence, eagerness...

What do you see?

How does one go from this state of purity and security to a place of darkness and endless despair? Look around and the mental anguish our society finds itself in is hard to miss.

Early childhood trauma is a major player in the etiology of depression and anxiety, inability to form healthy social relationships, poor or absent emotional regulation and a constant fight or flight state, even in the absence of an actual threat. And this list most certainly does not cover all the consequences of such trauma. Advances in scientific findings now connects childhood trauma as a common factor in the history of those who suffer from addictions.

Brain research has shown that child abuse and neglect not only changes the way a child's developing brain functions but it also causes it to suffer actual structural damage. Such trauma is called Developmental Trauma and its  effect on the brain is different than that on an adult brain.

 The Still Face Experiment is very hard to watch but it demonstrates a critical point in our current understanding of how early in our development we are socially receptive. This video shows the work of Dr. Edward Tronick, one of the pioneers of research on attachment and mother-infant bonding and the originator of the “still-face paradigm,” He is Distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the Director of its Child Development Unit. 

Dr. Tronick explains it like this, "It's a little like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The good is that normal stuff that goes on, which we all do with our kids. The bad is when something bad happens, but the infant can overcome it. After all, when you stop the ‘Still Face,’ the mother and the baby start to play again. The ugly is when you don't give the child any chance to get back to the good; there's no reparation and they're stuck in that really ugly situation."

One of the prominent risk factors for child abuse and neglect is a history of transgenerational trauma. That is, if a parent or primary childcare provider was abused or neglected themselves, there is an increased risk of them doing the same to their children.

That is why there needs to be more awareness of Childhood Trauma, it's risk factors, it's effects on the abused and neglected child and the perpetual suffering that it causes not only to that child in their lifetime but also to the generations that follow. 

With education and awareness, this cycle can be broken. 


There is treatment for childhood trauma that works. I know that first hand. Because I suffered deeply and for most of my life due to childhood trauma.
The process of Davanloo’s ISTDP  (Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy) transformed my experience of myself and of the world. It also re- connected me to the creative process of writing and expressing myself. My poetry in Stripping : My Fight to Find Me came about as my unconscious was activated and many poems came into existence way before I had accessed those experiences and parts of my life’s narrative in my therapy sessions.

My poems give a raw and honest account of how dark and lonely the world of attachment and transgenerational trauma is. And how resistant depression, anxiety and our defenses can be to our desire to get better. 
My poetry takes you through the fight that I had to fight to be free and whole . 

But there is success at the end. And that is why I share my poems. So, others can find hope in my story. And seek treatment.

By being open about my struggles, it is my goal to encourage others who maybe suffering in silence due to the shame and stigma attached to mental illness to come forward and seek the care they desperately need, deserve and are entitled to. 

And lastly, it is my hope that those who do not suffer from mental illness will read my book and get a better understanding of the pain and suffering of those who do. In that understanding lies compassion. 

Join me in breaking the cycle. Please share this blog with anyone that you know may be suffering from the effects of childhood trauma. They may be adults and may even be in their advanced years of life. This trauma does not leave you unless treated. And living whole, unfrightened and consciously is a reward that is worth everything it takes to break free.

With education and awareness, this cycle can be broken. 

I end with this poem from my book, Stripping : My Fight to Find Me.


AROUSAL

My slumber went unnoticed
No reason for detection
No cause for concern
No need to wake up from this deep sleep

I opened the door
To a gentle tremor
Innocently
Unsuspecting
Of this avalanche that I was hiding

#17 in the collection

Until next time,
May you have a week of love and connection,
Be well, Do well, Live well.
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst
#edtronick#stillfaceexperiment#childhoodtrauma#depression#anxiety#ISTDP
photo on top thanks to generosity of Regina Zulauf.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Being a Butter Biscuit, listening to Celeste Headlee's advice and putting Self Love Self Care First!


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I believe everyone who walks in and out of our life does so for a reason.

I met Jada Rice last week when she came to my practice to work with us for the day. We never know who will show up at times when we request a temp from a service on days that we need extra help. Some days it's a relief to have an extra pair of hands to do tasks and other days it's like a burst of sunshine comes into the office. It all depends on the energy of the person who shows up.

Well, last week, it was sunny the day Jada showed up. There was a natural ease about her and a spunkiness that was evident from the get go. It was fun hanging out with her.

Jada and I were chatting about life and relationships as I worked on a patient .We do that often in my practice. When it came to her personal life she shared that at the moment she was working on herself, while still open to love and a 'forever relationship'.

I told Jada , " That's what our journey is about and why we are in this world. To discover ourselves and become the best version of ourselves possible. Everything else is gravy". To which she replied, "I'd rather be a Butter Biscuit on my own and just wait for my gravy rather than be with someone not deserving of my solitude, my peace and my presence."

WOW!
A Butter Biscuit on my own. 
How appetizing! How delicious! How filling!
A butter biscuit is satisfying all by itself. 
A Butter Biscuit is not wanting of flavor and can actually be easily ruined with a gravy that is lumpy and flavorless.
A Butter Biscuit has its own richness so does not rely on gravy to give it any oomph.
But the right gravy can add to a Butter Biscuit. 

Until we are happy being with ourselves and until we make our happiness and growth our priority, it is unrealistic to expect someone else to 'make us' happy.

Many a times, in our desperation to find happiness outside of us, we will seek, accept and even tolerate relationships that are wrong for us. Even damaging or abusive. It's like putting a band aid on a hole in our heart. It just covers up that wound in a way that is deceiving us. A band aid doesn't a fill the hole in ways that would heal us.

So I ask you- 
Are you a Butter Biscuit ?
Are you with someone deserving of your solitude, your peace and your presence?
Are you practicing Self Love Self Care First with joy and dedication to yourself?

I hope so.

Because that is the well that must be constantly refilled. Only then do we attract great love, give freely and honestly of ourselves and still have more left to give.

Celeste Headlee says it beautifully in her TED talk,

"Be prepared to talk to people, Be prepared to Listen to people but most importantly, Be prepared to be Amazed!"

So Cheers to Jada who amazed me and taught me about Butter Biscuits!

Wishing you a week of amazing conversations,
Be well Do well Live well!
With my best,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst #CelesteHeadlee#conversations#listening#selfdevelopment#love#relationships





Friday, May 24, 2019

You have to Bloom Where You are Planted


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

The past few weeks have been full of celebration of my daughter Nina's college graduation. My visit with you today is to talk about the commencement speech that Dr. Mary C. Daly gave to the students, faculty and families at Syracuse University on May 9, 2019.

Dr. Daly has an impressive resume. At just 54 years old, she has achieved more than most people will in their lifetime. She has broken many glass ceilings and blazed a trail that will allow many people opportunities that they may not have had without her success. I had read up on her before we headed up to Syracuse that weekend so I could have an idea of what she may talk about at commencement.

Everything that I could have imagined Mary touching upon in her speech did not materialize. Instead of a highly successful bureaucrat, a human being showed up. Instead of advice on how to become successful in a cut throat world she talked about what it took to become a person who felt comfortable inhabiting the life she had built. Instead of proclaiming how important she was, Mary shared how others recognized how important she was before she even had an inkling of her worth.

The Mary that showed up that morning in Syracuse brought her humanity with her. Not her resume...

Mary shared with us that at age 15, she had dropped out of school due to the turmoil that had invaded her home and family, she had nowhere to go, no future to look forward to and had pretty much given up on herself. A school counsellor suggested she meet a woman named Betsy who might be able to guide her.

Mary describes how she went to meet Betsy at a local McDonalds in her hometown of Ballwin, Missouri. Looking back, Mary remembers the advice Betsy gave her as the turning point of her life.

YOU HAVE TO BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.

Betsy compassionately acknowledged that Mary had a tough situation but she reminded her that life was not fair. 

Good people do not always get a good start. There maybe many people that have advantages that they did not earn or work for. Or even deserve. But that's life. And as long as we fight our circumstances, we will never rise above them. So much time is wasted on lamenting about the challenges we are facing. Some of us may have more than our fair share of unfortunate and tragic events occur in our life. Poverty, death, mental illness, abuse, incarceration, racial and social discrimination, violence and neglect only cover some of the more common road blocks that we face as human beings. 

The point is that our reality will not change with compassion on the part of another human being. Compassion with sage advice that leads us to understand and accept our current situation is the only way for us to make changes.

Betsy that day went above being a compassionate friend to Mary. She acknowledged her hardships but empowered Mary by telling her that she could bloom even under the harsh circumstances she faced. She didn't sugar coat her reality. She also didn't allow her to believe she was a victim though. She was honest with her when she said that to get unstuck, it would take a lot of effort on Mary's part. But she gave her hope by saying it was possible with a good plan and perseverance.

But first Mary would have to come to terms with her current lot in life and accept that she would have to build her life from that starting point. That takes immense effort and strength because then one cannot blame others, feel sorry for oneself, be angry at the world, find escape routes to numb the pain of one's difficult situation (drinking, drugs, promiscuity, etc, etc,). 

Basically, it means saying, "This is what I have to work with. Now I must get to work"

Dr. Daly put in the work, and continues to. That morning at Syracuse she credited Betsy and the many other mentors, friends and supporters who have guided her throughout her career and life with creating a life that at age 15 was  "completely improbable and wildly unrealistic" 


Here are my favorite pieces of advice from Dr. Daly's speech that morning. I hope you find them as inspiring and useful as I did.

  1. You have to bloom where you are planted- courtesy Betsy
  2. Books show you a way out that you could never have imagined.
  3. True confidence comes when we accept ourselves, our experiences and our stories
  4. Be vulnerable and ask for help. It will make your life richer.
  5. Be brave enough to accept help.
  6. Be open to opportunities that you have not yet conceived.
  7. Don't worry if your journey wanders. It will help you figure out what's next for you.
I end our visit today by sharing this poem of mine as it is essence what we have talked about.

PERMISSION

To love myself,
I must know who I am.
To know who I am, 
I must go back in time.
To find my own voice,
I must silence what you said.
To find my own truth,
I must leave the lies behind.
To live in my light,
I must make peace 
With the darkness.


PERMISSION is #38 in the collection of poems in my book 'Stripping : My Fight to Find Me".

Wishing you a 'Betsy" in your life,
Be well Do well Live well
Warmly,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst

Friday, May 10, 2019

Mother's Day- A celebration of Transgenerational Health and Strength


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Happy Mother's Day!

I am grateful each and every day to have been chosen to be my daughters, Nina and Simrin's mother.

I believe my biggest job as their mother is to live my life in a manner that inspires them to be the best human beings possible.

It is my hope

- that my courage to be honest and open about my struggles will free them to live lives that are authentic and true to who they are, not to the unrealistic expectations of others.

- that my fight to overcome childhood trauma will encourage them to disallow  challenges to bully them into making a choice of leading a 'small life'.

- that my decision to publish Stripping : My Fight to Find Me , a collection of poems that journals my pain and suffering due to trauma, demonstrates to them how being open to being vulnerable led me to being  brave.

It is my deepest wish

- that their existence be not only free of suffering, but one of joy.

- to see them live lives of curiosity, their choice and in alignment with their truth

- that they not only live happy lives, but more importantly, of meaning and purpose.

- that they make a difference in this world.

The commitment that I have made to being compassionate and kind to myself,  Self Love Self Care First , is the legacy that I want to leave for them. 

Above all, I want them to experience and cherish the greatest gift of life- Love!

Because what else is there to talk about?

Wishing you all a very blessed Mother's Day!

With my love,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst




Friday, May 3, 2019

Dumbing it down will limit your impact



Hello,
It's Sunita here.

We have become accustomed to receiving information in the way of bullet points on a list. Usually a short list. Condensed, simplified and designed to keep our attention focussed just long enough for us to be able to process bite-size information.

You can find a 'Top 3 list' for just about anything you can imagine. You want to find your purpose? There's a list for you. Do you want to learn how to become successful in 28 days? Just look up the list on how to do that. And yes, there's probably a list on how to lose 100 pounds in 3 months. Did I hear you say you needed a list on how to triple your income in 2 weeks? Well, you're in luck because there's a list for that too.

Does it sound too good to be true?

It is.

There's a problem with the 'dumbing down of life'. It oversimplifies the process of creating a meaningful life. It contains a false promise that it will be simple and pain free if you just follow these rules.


We as human beings are inherently complex, complicated and unique. There is no shortcut to achieving success that is meaningful. There is no formula to living well.

We were born to do great things. For that, we must be a student of life.

There are so many factors that come into play in our life that we have no control over. So to think that we can just follow the bullet points of a list and predictably find nirvana is simply delusional.

But maybe you want to be fooled into thinking you can...

What I know is that it takes a lifetime to build a good life that is full of meaning, impact and purpose.

So don't cheat yourself by living through bullet points. Take the long way home. Take the scenic route. Your destination is guaranteed to be worth your journey.

Wishing you a wonderful week of leisurely musings,
Warmly,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst


Friday, April 26, 2019

Seneca on 'Groundless Fears' - Can he Shed Light On Our Silent Epidemic?



Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Last weekend, I was watching my younger daughter play volleyball at the NorthEast Qualifier Tournament in Philadelphia. It is one of the major tournaments in our area and the Philadelphia Convention Center was set up with scores of volleyball courts. The noise level was enthusiastically high and the energy level was incredible. It was exciting to watch these 15-18 year old young girls compete. The convention center was brimming with a special kind of vitality that is associated with youth.

During a break, I noticed an email in my Inbox from the Superintendent of our School District. Normally, I would skip such communication on a weekend but it's subject was marked : IMPORTANT. So I opened the email and scrolled down the body of the message.
The Edison Township Public School District has experienced a terrible tragedy. Last evening, we were informed that a 17 year old student at Edison High School has died.  The cause of death was suicide. Our thoughts and support go out to her family and friends at this time. 
All of a sudden, a silence hit me amongst the noise that surrounded me. For a few seconds, I couldn't move. The volleyballs on all the courts continued to sail through the seemingly silent air, but time stopped for me. I quietly showed the email to my husband who also withdrew in a private mental space of horror and sadness.

The email had information about the Crisis Response Team that would be onsite the next day at the High School and provided links to support groups and information for both parents and children.

After the initial shock of this information wore off, I sadly realized that my response had no element of disbelief attached to it. 

How and when did we become a society in which the death of a child/teenager by suicide is no longer SHOCKING NEWS? It's almost like we have begun to expect to hear about such tragic events on a regular basis. 

What 'reality' do these young people see in their mind that prompts them to decide that their life is not worth living? What is driving this hopelessness and inability to see beyond the minute, hour or day of seemingly unending desperation that leads them to attempt to end their suffering by suicide? 
How is the concept of self love and self care so foreign to them?


Our mind is the driver of our life and the mystery of its workings has been the topic of thought and discussion for centuries.

In his 13th letter to Lucillius, in the series titled the Epistulae Morales ad Lucillium , Seneca the Younger writes about  "groundless fears",

"There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality."

The horrific Silent Epidemic of Youth Suicide marks our times. What I would give to have Seneca (c. 4BC-AD 65) ponder on why our children are so severely separated from reality in their imagination ...

Seneca is not here to give us an immediate and concise answer to that question today but the series of his 124 letters has many of the answers that we seek. I will discuss his work in more depth in future conversations, tying in his wisdom to serve as possible solutions to the challenges our minds face in these trying times, but in the meantime, there are many resources that can help parents and community members  learn more about youth suicide. 

The most important thing to remember is that SUICIDE IS PREVENTABLE.

Every child that dies by suicide is our child. To think that we are helpless to prevent this from continuing to be a 'regular occurance' in our communities is unacceptable. We can all do our part by learning more about this silent epidemic as a starting point of changing the tide of this rising statistic in our society.

I end by sharing this letter with you.

Jason's Story


A Letter from Jason’s Father

Dear Friend,
Jason was my youngest son. He was an average 16-year old. He got mostly B’s on his report card, and he loved sports. Especially football. He was active in his youth group and he had a lot of friends. Jason was the one who was always up for going places and trying new things. From all appearances…my son loved life.
But on July 16th in 1997, everything changed. My son, Jason became a statistic of the “Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide. In trying to come to terms with what happened, I began researching youth suicide. The statistics are very alarming. Did you know that on average, over 100 young people this week will become victims of youth suicide?
Youth suicide can be prevented, and that is what The Jason Foundation is all about. I urge you to get involved. Together we can help stop this epidemic. Ask for our material. Read it. Then share it with your friends, family and others. Please help us reach out to hurting teens with another choice.
I will never hug my son again. But I can and will work alongside you…perhaps to save your friend, your neighbor’s child, a relative or even your own son or daughter.
Thank you for your support of any kind,
Clark Flatt
President
The Jason Foundation Inc.
                      Youth Suicide Statistics- Parent Resource Program

Let's remember that every moment we have with our children is an opportunity to express our love for them, celebrate them and connect with them. I did last week and after sending out a silent prayer for the family that suffered such a tragic loss in our town, decided to cheer as loud as I would could for my daughter, her team and the hundreds of young girls that came to Philadelphia to compete at the NEQ Qualifier.
Be well, Do well, Live well,
Until next time!
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst




Friday, April 19, 2019

Tiger Woods 2019 Masters Win- A spring miracle ?


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I was transfixed this Sunday, along with millions of others, as I watched Tiger Woods win the Masters at Augusta National. It was a experience to watch this 43 year old athlete compete at a level that no one believed he could, after a series of personal and professional failures of huge magnitudes, and physical setbacks.

It was April 13, 1997 when the world heard of a 21 year old Tiger Woods. The game of golf was changed forever.

November 25, 2009 however brought Tigers career and life to a screeching halt in many ways. That was the day The National Enquirer published a story of Tiger's indiscretions with a cocktail waitress. What followed was the unfolding of a  cascade of embarrassing disclosures of his transgressions with many women outside of his marriage. It was years of scandal, the break up of his marriage and many untold stories of pain and suffering of all parties involved.

No one plans to light their world on fire like that. Least of all an athlete of the caliber of Tiger Woods, someone who had endorsements worth millions of dollars with major international brands and a wholesome family man image.

The complexity of human nature is not easily decoded by someone who is not privy to inside details so I will not even begin to offer any understanding to what Tiger's mind frame was to have behaved the way that he did. But what I do want to say is that what followed the scandal was years of emotional, physical and professional breakdown.

Things were so wrong that on May 29, 2017 Tiger was arrested for driving under the influence.


How does one go from that to this?


April 14, 2019 was the sight of Spring miracle of redemption. But was it?

I suspect that Tiger's win last Sunday was no such thing. It was most likely years of hard work, deep introspection and reflection and a spirit that was unwilling to call it a day. I have no doubt that many a times it must have seemed impossible to achieve this feat to even Tiger himself.  But the result last week shows a belief deep down in him that said otherwise.

The question begs to be asked Which win is more significant? Tiger in 1997, winning the Masters as a supremely talented 21 year old, bi-racial young man or Tiger, the older, hopefully wiser and healthier 43 year old? Now a father of 2 young kids and still a supremely talented golfer.

You make your own decision on that.

What I leave you with are these questions. 

Do you think you have it in you to fight your way back from absolute rock bottom? 
Do you think you are worth it?
Do you believe that you deserve a second chance?
Do you love yourself enough and have the self compassion to forgive yourself for your failings?
And most importantly, are you going to let your life's harshest injury define you or are you going to get up and fight to not only get back in the game, but WIN THE GAME?

I do.

I hope you do as well.

Because we are human.

Wishing you a Happy Spring, Baisakhi, Easter, Passover and anything else you may celebrate at this time of opportunity for renewal and redemption!
Warmly,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst

Photo credits News organizations, Palm Beach Sheriff's office and Kevin C. Fox




Friday, April 12, 2019

William Styron Paints One of the Most Vivid Pictures of the Dark World of Depression.


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

William Styron is well known for his body of work, many literary awards, and commercial success with his books. Notable amongst them are Lie Down in Darkness, The Confessions Of Nat Turner, (which won a Pulitzer Prize) and Sophie's Choice, (which was made into a superb movie starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol.) However, it is in Darkness Invisible that he gives us a special gift of incredible value.

William Styron describes his descent into 'madness' by vividly painting a picture of how depression wrestles with a human being and pins him down. There is no getting up from under this million pound gorilla. Styron is effective in conveying the helplessness one experiences when depression engulfs one. There is no 'thinking out' of this illness. It is a disease just like any other physical illness that has visible symptoms and signs. Imagine telling an automobile accident victim to put back their severed leg on their body by thinking 'hard enough and positively enough'.

Such rubbish!

Styron laments towards the end of the book that he should have been hospitalized for his depression long before he actively started to consider suicide as his only way out. As he quietly prepares to kill himself, it is only after hearing a soaring passage from the Johannes Brahms Alto Rhapsody  that he feels a connection to his world. The music gives him pleasure which reminds him of the deep love that he has for his family. This momentary withdrawal from the numbness of depression allows him to discover that he could never inflict on them the pain that his suicide would. He immediately wakes his wife Rose up and makes arrangements to be hospitalized for depression. He remains in the hospital from December 1985 through February 1986. Darkness Visible : A Memoir of Madness' was first presented as a lecture by Styron. The best selling book was released in 1990.

Before I accepted that I had off and on for years suffered from depression, I was not willing to even entertain that possibility. It wasn't that I was in denial. It was just that I believed that everyone went through 'bad patches' and it was part and parcel of the landscape of being human. A lack of awareness of the importance of mental health and a total buy in of the stigma associated with any kind of mental illness was a hallmark of my family culture. In all fairness, this was not very unusual in the times that I grew up in, nor in the cultural context of my upbringing.

So when I finally hit a wall that I could not find a way through, I sought help. And I learnt that in my case, depression was only the calling card of all the trauma and invisible damage that lay hidden behind it. But that's another story for another day...

Even while in treatment, I would beat myself up for not being able to 'think my way' out of the darkness. I thought that it was my fault that I was not getting better because I was not 'trying hard enough'. I would repeatedly tell myself that I needed to be more 'positive' to get better.

With this, now what I recognize as deeply flawed thinking, based on society's uneducated and ignorant projections about depression, anxiety and mental illness, I tortured myself endlessly. I manufactured feelings of shame, failure, hopelessness and worthlessness. And this misery was on top of what depression, toxic stress and ACE's were doing to me.

I now understand what trauma does to a brain. Especially a young infant or child's brain. It is complex and very complicated but this damage is now well understood by researchers and clinicians. So the success rate of treatment of such trauma is steadily increasing. Depression has many forms and causes but a very big component of etiological factors resulting in depression is childhood trauma.

Depression is a real disease. It must be recognized by healthcare professionals. It must be respected as a tenacious and clever invader of our minds and bodies. Even though it usually has a complex origin, it's source must be determined and diagnosed as best possible. And finally, it must be treated. Once the severe phase is over, depression requires us to be vigilant about it's return and recurrence. It demands a lifestyle change to stay ahead of it and not be ambushed by it when it returns.

A life entirely free of depression may not be possible for everyone who suffers from this illness, but a diagnosis does not mean a life sentence of misery, a joyless existence or thoughts or the actual step of committing suicide as the only means to find relief.

Depression is a treatable disease. In many cases, permanently. In some cases, it can be well managed with medications and talk therapy.

But the first step is recognizing that you are depressed and then seeking help.

I share with you my poem 'Arousal' from my book Stripping : My Fight to Find Me It is #17 in the collection of poems.

AROUSAL

My slumber went unnoticed:
No reason for detection,
No cause for concern,
No need to wake up from this deep sleep.

I opened the door 
To a gentle tremor
Innocently,
Unsuspecting 
Of this avalanche that I was hiding.

Incidentally, William Stynor lost his mother at the young age of 12 and considering those times, most likely did not get the emotional support and assistance a young child needs to grieve and heal in a healthy way. He hit the wall at age 60 before suffering from Major Depression. In hindsight, he picked up on his predisposition to mood swings and depression earlier in life and also realized that his family's emotional history was marked by this predisposition as well.

I challenge you to be honest with yourself. Are you just surviving or thriving? Do you need to look at your family's emotional history and your life thus far. You deserve to THRIVE! Not just survive.

Wishing you a week of honest discovery!
Until next time,
Warmly,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst

Friday, April 5, 2019

Busy or Fully Engaged?


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

How was your week? Does it feel like you got a lot done to move ahead in your life or was it a mad dash from one thing to another that has left you exhausted and saying TGIF?

What was the pace of your week? Did you have time to do any of these activities- exercise, relax, reflect, rejuvenate, talk to your loved ones, reach out to some friends, accomplish some long term and short term goals you had set for yourself, look towards your future and identify what you would like to do next, practice Self love Self Care First and experience your Heart Bliss?

If not, did your week look more like the picture above? Did you feel like you lived in a task driven world where the pressure of getting to the next item of a 'to do list' was suffocating you? Or did you end your work week feeling like you advanced in your life plan and were now ready to enjoy what the weekend had in store?

Friday evening does not have to be a celebration equivalent to what it feels like of get out of jail. The weekend can be a continuation of the excitement and rejuvenation of a well lived week. But for that to happen, we must ask ourselves these key questions.

During the week,
What all and to whom did I say yes to?
Did that yes have any meaning to my life and it's mission? If no,
Then WHY did I say yes ?

When we focus and allocate our time to our identified priorities and people, it becomes very easy to be energized during the day. Of course, this doesn't mean that there will be no challenges or hurdles to get over, and there will probably be a fair amount of stress involved as well, but the end result is what gives meaning to our lives. Living this way is a natural high and propels us to do more of what drives us to be the best of who we are.

Being 'busy' is a way to be distracted and get out of asking ourselves these important questions. Honest self reflection, introspection and assessment brings up parts of ourselves and our life that we don't like and wish were different. These hard truths can hurt. But without going to these dark places, we are unable to get to the light and design a life that is full of meaning and reflects our true selves.

When that happens, we become Fully Engaged, not busy.

Busy is a four letter word that I prefer not to use anymore. 'Busy' does not take me where I want to go.

'Fully Engaged' is where I want to be. It is a state of mind and being where there is ample time for me to 'do' and 'think'. It is a way of life which is designed on the basis of my priorities, goals, interests and purpose. With built in time for me to practice Self Love Self Care First. With abundant time for my Heart Bliss. With always time for me to love. It is a place where I create a meaningful life that matters to me.

Wishing you a weekend of being fully engaged,
Warmly,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst

Friday, March 29, 2019

Are you 'Shoulding' your life away?


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I am often, as a recovering 'Shoudaholic' amazed at how common the use of the word should is.

How many times a day do you use it to remind yourself of things you need to do?
What emotion comes up when you conjure up the word should ?
How do you feel about the task you just reminded yourself to do when you use the word?
What kind of energy is attached to your motivation to do what you 'should' ?

I believe that it was the same group of people who invented medieval torture devices who went on to create the word should. Because, what other purpose does this word serve, other than to send us in a tizzy, down a path lined with guilt, shame and ample feelings of failure. 

Every time I would think, I should  ______ I would be transported to a world of resentment. I never understood why. I do now. That's because I am now honest with myself and realize that I did not want to do _____. It didn't serve my purpose, it wasn't my priority and it had nothing to do with my motivations. It was something that was a result of my absorption of an external message or/and someone else's expectation of me.

We have only 24 hours in a day. And a finite time in our life to accomplish our goals, fulfil our potential and realize our dreams. We determine what our priorities are. Once we do that, we must bring our full energy and commitment to our life. That means we must allot every second of our time to live life fully and with focus. There is no place for should in a life of love, passion and deliberate choices.

The only words I want to use when I think of my day now are;

I want to
I'm so lucky to
I will make time to
I'm excited to
I'm challenged to
I'm blessed to 
I'm thrilled to
I can't wait to
I must (yes, we all have duties and obligations that we are not thrilled about but must attend to)

The only way we can get to a place of conscious and joyful living is by accepting the realities of our life, reconciling with all the things we will never get to do and realizing that we will never please everyone.

That's when we start to design a life that is true to who we are and what our purpose is. This fidelity to ourselves is the key to doing our best work in this Universe. The work that matters to our soul. The work that brings out our talents, gifts and inner beauty. This is the work that needs the support of people who will never remind us to do something because we should.

So here's my challenge for you today,

-Pay attention to when you say should.
-Stop when you hear yourself or someone else say it to you.
-Examine the context in which you/they said it and determine if you need to   rephrase the scenario or drop the task.

Then take action accordingly.

This will create a paradigm shift for you which will support your decision to live truthfully and free.

An example of a scenario worth rephrasing for me is,

I should finish making dinner. It's getting late.
Rephrase To
I can't wait to finish making this pasta dish and tasting it with my family. It's taken a bit longer than I wanted but it will be worth it. I am so excited to hear about everyone's day.

An example that is not worth rephrasing for me is,

I should read the book ____________ gave me for my birthday. I don't know why he did?? He knows I don't have any interest in alligator hunting....
Drop the task
There's no way I will spend my time reading this book just because he gave it to me as a gift. I'll send a nice thank you note and donate it to my local library. Or re-gift it.

You are the only one who gets to choose what is important to you. In doing so, you can eliminate all the shoulds in your life, one by one. Until you are left with only your genuine wants. And that's when the magic begins!

Wishing you a fun week of discovering those wants,
Warmly,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst




Friday, March 22, 2019

Wistar Institute Photo Exhibit and Emotions- What could be the Connection?

From a Wistar Institute photo exhibit
Hello,
It's Sunita here.

This picture came across my desk this week. I was immediately drawn to its symmetry and intricate patterns, thinking it was a piece of art, most likely a pencil drawing. I was wrong.

It's a photograph from an exhibit at the Wistar Institute. This exhibit is of digital pictures taken through a microscope. The pictures displayed in this exhibit are images that are used for medical research. Imagine what a 3-D image looks like. Well, these are 6-D.

The exquisite picture above is of a human tear drop. It gives me an entirely new perspective of the act of shedding tears. To think that such magnificent beauty is associated with our eyes tearing up makes me want to weep.

Here's what the photograph's description was in this exhibit CBS Philadelphia local news



It is a blessing to be able to have access to the emotions that cause us to tear up. That is an indication that we are healthy and can experience the emotions that are part of our story.

We do feel better once we've had a cry. It could be in response to any situation- for example when we listen to a piece of music that touches us, or the times when we think of someone we love, or when we grieve for a loss that feels unbearable, or when we are hysterically cracking up because we found something funny. As soon as we cry, we feel like we have processed something and are lighter. Well, that 'something' is our emotion that triggered our eyes to moisten. And to think that tears have actual painkillers in them as well is an absolute added benefit.

Trauma can have a notable impact on how we process emotions. Repression of emotions is common amongst those who suffer from the effects of trauma. Being able to access appropriate and instinctive emotions in response to situations that would normally trigger emotional reactions may be impossible due to instant suppression of those emotions. It's a deeply embedded, complex and unconscious process that comes into play that results in this suppression.

This bypass of emotions causes great personal suffering and relational damage.

When is the last time you cried?
Which emotion triggered you to cry?
How did it make you feel after you cried?

Grief ?
Anger?
Love?
Laughter?

If any one of these 4 emotions triggered you to cry then you are alive and well. It is a blessing to be able to 'feel' life.

If you have difficulty accessing your emotions, you may not even be aware of it. Many times it's your spouse or loved ones who are constantly complaining about being emotionally starved in their relationship with you. Take heed and consider seeking professional help. It can open up a whole new way of living life. Fully and completely with a richer experience of love and connection. Not only with others, but even more importantly, with yourself as well.

Why would you want it any other way?

Wishing you a week full of emotional connection,
Be well Do well Live well,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst






Friday, March 15, 2019

Operation Varsity Blue- A Statement of Our Society's Facination with Appearances


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

It was hard not to be glued to the news feed about the college admissions scandal this week. Wealthy and privileged people accused of buying their way into highly regarded educational institutions. What an unimaginable plot...

Really?

Let's look at how our society has become more and more outwardly focused in the age of 'celebrity'. Influencers are now people with no obvious qualifications but with huge social media clout. Young teenagers are caught up in becoming You Tube stars. Photo shopped nirvana is what gets likes and hence ranking and popularity in the social media world.

It's a feeding frenzy to achieve a conspicuous, status driven and name brand identity.

Is it shocking that some people allegedly would go to the lengths that have been reported in the news this week to get their kids into prestigious universities? If we were honest we would say no.

The process of college applications and admission is full of stress, uncertainty and chance. Many high schools report a high level of depression and anxiety amongst their student populations. Sleep is a big trade off for these already mentally and emotionally taxed students. The results are disastrous at worse and difficult at best.

Until we encourage our children to do their best and be happy with that, there will always be a sense of failure if their 'goals' are not met. But these goals are not what their life is about. It's about their resilience when what they dream about and plan for does not happen. That is when they will rise above who they are at that moment and redefine themselves. And create something of value in their life. There is no elite school pedigree or unearned glory that can give them that.

This scandal has given us a great opportunity to talk to our children about many important issues in our society that it has uncovered. It is also an opportunity to reassure them that they are enough as unique human beings. Their intrinsic value is what makes them special and will lead them to do great things of distinction in their lives. Just because millions of people may not hear about their greatness does not mean that they are not amazing!

Building a meaningful life takes a lifetime of commitment to both our inner and outer worlds. Not just a fancy college degree. We need to remember that at all times if we want to reach our full potential.

Wishing you a thoughtful week,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst  #jointhemovement

Friday, March 8, 2019

Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukeherjee Team up to Bring it Out of the Attic


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

This week, I tuned in to PBS to watch Cancer- The Emperor of all Maladies . It premiered in 2015 but is just as fresh and relevant today.  Ken Burns presents this 3 part film based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Emperor of All Maladies by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee

In the first part, one of the people featured in a storyline vaguely remembers his relative suffering from cancer. That was because she was living in the attic, away from anyone who could find out that she was suffering from the disease. Out of the way and hidden. She died and no one was the wiser.

In this day and age, it's hard for us to imagine that a diagnosis of cancer carried such secretiveness and shame. We now recognize that we are all affected by cancer in some way or the other and have developed an understanding of it's brutality and impact on the patient and their loved ones. Resulting from this understanding is our compassion and empathy for them. And our desire to help in the process of treatment in any way we can.

Cancer : The Emperor of All Melodies matches the epic scale of the disease, reshaping the way the public sees cancer and stripping away some of the fear and misunderstanding that has long surrounded it. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance but also of hubris, paternalism and misconception. Source, Official website of  Cancer- The Emperor of all Maladies.


Ken Burns film Cancer- The Emperor of all Maladies gives us a history lesson on how we got to the point of social acceptance and a relentless determination and efforts to find a treatment for all cancers. It was not overnight and certainly not easy. Many people devoted their life to making this change. From clinicians, to researchers to philanthropists. And governments and society at large. It was decades of work and fund raising that brought us to the point where cancer in most cases is not an automatic death sentence.

Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee has honestly and candidly described his family's relationship with mental illness in another book of his The Gene. "I went with my father to visit my cousin in a Calcutta mental institution, a grim place where I saw a man disintegrated from schizophrenia and from institutionalized life."

I would like to think, or perhaps hope that Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee will pair up once again to illuminate the plight of those who suffer from mental illness and bring them out of the attic.

It is much needed.

Mental illness affects us all, directly or indirectly. But it is still a taboo subject in our everyday conversation. We applaud those who come forward to share their stories of mental suffering as if they are doing something very brave. Well, we are, but it shouldn't require 'courage' to talk about our inner world. It should be accepted as an ordinary conversation. Our mental and psychological health should be considered just like our physical well being. Actually it should take precedence since it controls a large part of our physical health as well. The mind -body connection is no longer only a philosophical concept as researchers like Allan Abbass, MD and his team are showing empirical evidence of the effect of undiagnosed and untreated psychic pain on our bodies.

I end today with a statement attributed to Sharon Percy Rockefeller in connection with the film, Cancer - The Emperor of All Maladies. 

I would however request that you replace 'Cancer" with 'Mental Illness' when you read it. The statement stands just as true to this suffering as it does to cancer.

"Cancer touches nearly everyone in this country, and public media can play a vital role in educating Americans about this disease," Rockefeller said. "We will illuminate cancer as never before, exploring in depth its history, sharing the experiences of those battling it, and offering new hope by spotlighting some of the most extraordinary research being done today"

Mental Health- The Monarch of All Well Being  
Ken and Siddhartha, in case you are looking for your next project...

I am hopeful that our mind and our inner life will continue to get the spotlight it deserves so we may live a life free of stigma, shame and unnecessary suffering. And so research and treatment for mental illness will continue to find ways to effectively and predictably help patients and their families live with dignity, purpose and meaning.

Wishing you a week of creative wonder,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst  #jointhemovement


Friday, March 1, 2019

Sloths teach us a valuable lesson about Attachment

Mother and baby sloth in Costa Rica

Hello,
It's Sunita here.

On a recent visit to the south western part of Costa Rica, I was delighted to see a fair number of sloths over the time I was there. Sloths are slow moving mammals that live in tree tops. They come down from their sky-high perches only once a week to relieve themselves. Like many animals that live in nature alongside their predators, sloths blend in with their enviornment due to the good camouflage provided by their bodies.  As elusive as they are, once you spot a sloth in a tree, the risk of them moving out of your sight before you can take photographs is non existent. They just don't move much and if they do, it's so slow that there is no risk of them moving out of your frame.

So my husband Tim, who is photography enthusisist, was in sloth heaven as he went about The Sloth Institute at Telemar with his camera. Both two and three-toed sloths inhabit the preserved area where the Institute exists and he was able to get many great shots of different sloths. This photograph however caught my attention in a special way.

The mama sloth is hanging on a branch in the tree canopy on which she had chosen to stay put at for a while. She is hanging upside down with her baby laying across her belly. Sloths have a gestation period of six months and give birth to one baby sloth at a time. The baby 'sticks' with the mother for the first six months of their life during which time it bonds with her and learns from her.

This photograph immediately and unconsciously depicted to me all the characteristics of a good 'Attachment'.

It shows a parental figure (here we could safely assume it is the mother) who is physically close to her child. There's not much closer the baby sloth could be sticking to it's mama.

It's hanging upside down while the baby is unconcerned and unaffected by it's mother's position. It is securely attached to the mama sloth's belly.

The baby sloth looks like it is fully trusting of it's mother and is sprawled on her body with no concerns of having to 'fit' into any given space. There is an openness and abandon to any spacial restrictions that I perceive in the expansiveness and comfort level in the body language of the baby sloth.

There are no predators around the Sloth and her baby as she hangs high in the canopy, well camoflaged from predators like eagles and jaguars.

All the markings of a secure attachment are evident in this photograph.

Security
Comfort 
Protection

And that is what got my attention when I saw it. I just hadn't worked it all out as I have here.

I leave you today with these questions.

How does your attachment with your children compare to what is seen in this photograph?

What kind of barriers do you face to being the parent you want to be and what you know your children deserve?

How does your attachment with your intimate partner and close friends compare to what is seen in this photograph?

What kind of barriers do you face to being the intimate partner and close friend  you want to be?

Wishing you a week of reflection and hopefully an opportunity to 'stick' with someone you love :)

Be well Do well Live well
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst

Photograph credit : Timothy J. Carlsen










Friday, February 22, 2019

I just haven't given myself permission to...


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I have a relationship-based practice. It's always been that way, even before I truly understood how important relationships were for our well being and health -  and for our survival.

So when I am treating my patients, it is also a time when I catch up with them and learn about what is going on in their lives. Last week I had Jonathan (This is his real name which he enthusiastically allowed me to use) in my chair and we were shooting the breeze, like we always do. Jonathan is a consultant who works for a management company. He and I have always gotten along really well and have enjoyed many conversations over the years. Topics have included family,  philosophy, culture, music, work, books, movies and pretty much everything in between.

It's no surprise that he and I have talked about my journey as a survivor of Attachment Trauma. I have also shared with him how my creativity as a writer was brought back to life as my brain healed through D-ISTDP (Davanloo's Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy).

I was telling Jonathan about the special space that I am creating to dedicate myself to writing and about my plans to bring attention to and advocate for those who suffer from the effects of trauma and mental illness. He listened appreciatively and said all the right things that a sincere friend would. However, something that was not easy to decipher came over him. Wistfulness, a seriousness, a sadness perhaps. It wasn't clear. But it was easy to see that he had a shift in his thoughts and his mood.

Jonathan shared with me that those at work who know of the documentation that he does for the projects he is assigned to, feel that he is a very good writer. He told me that his wife also thinks that and has encouraged him to write a book. He said he really enjoys writing for pleasure but just hasn't gotten around to doing much of it. This didn't make sense to me. I am sure he would have enough interesting things to write about just knowing the wide variety of topics that our talks have encompassed. And he has a quick wit that often catches me off guard. I would buy a book written by him. And I imagine so would many others.

So I asked him why he doesn't write. He took a few seconds to reply, "I guess I just haven't given myself permission ".

Wow!

Such honesty, such insight, such truthfulness.

And such a shame.

Because Jonathan is a writer and deserves to be able to enjoy the pleasure of following this passion of his.

How many of us deny ourselves a life of living our truth? How many of us waste our talents? How many of us refuse to face the fact that we have gifts that were meant to be used for our pleasure and delight? And to uplift, help, inspire, and entertain others and make a difference in their lives? How many of us turn our back on our light?

I suspect millions.

Are you one of those people? What is holding you back from going for the gold? Why are you not pursuing your interests and passions?

Some of the reasons we give ourself include:

 - I'm too busy with work and family. Well, that's not going to change anytime soon.
- I don't have free time. Have you noticed that those people who are pursuing their passions also have only 24 hours like you do.
- I'll do what I love when I am retired. No one can give you a guarantee of good health, resources or even that you will be alive long enough to retire.

There maybe a little kernel of truth to some of the reasons we give ourselves to postpone or avoid doing something we love, but the main reason is because we are just too afraid to attempt something that means everything to us.

What if we fail at it? What if we are no good at it? What if no one likes what we put out?

Well, I say who cares!

Don't point fingers at others when the person who thinks you are not good enough is YOU.

Have the courage to take the first step and as they say at Nike, "Just do it"
Then do it again. And again, until you are good at what you enjoy doing.

Allow yourself the ecstacy of being in the moment and being one with yourself when you do something you connects you to your highest being. Allow yourself the freedom to fail repeatedly at what you love to do because the journey will be worth it. And, I promise, one day you will wake up and have created a body of work of which you will be proud. And, you will never have to look back with regret that you didn't try.

In her book Figuring, writer Maria Popova asks this question, "Where does it live, that place of permission that let's a person chart a new terrain of possibility, that makes her dare to believe she can do something other than what her culture tells her she is, and then become something she believes she can? How does something emerge from nothing?

It is never too late. Even if you have only one day left to live. Wouldn't you rather die having done your heart's work? Even if it's for a day, rather than never getting around to it?

Aren't you curious to know where that place of permission lies within your soul?

I am. And I am exhilarated and thrilled to be living in the places where I gave myself permission to go.

I end by sharing this poem of mine with you,

PARTITION


Give yourself

Permission 
To walk into
Your life


Stop

Looking at it
Through the glass window
You are hiding behind


Or

The concrete bunker
You have been
Inhabiting


They separate

You
From
You


Wishing you a week of courage to be You,
Be well Do well Live well,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst  #jointhemovement

PS- I will be the first to stand in line to buy Jonathan's book.