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, 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.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Emily Dickinson, Attachment Trauma and Love- It's complicated


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

Emily Dickinson said " I argue that love is life. And Life hath immortality."

I felt our society's fascination with love and relationships reached a crescendo this week due to the occasion of Valentine's Day. You know it has permeated our culture when the check out clerk at your grocery store wishes you a 'Happy Valentine's Day' while handing you your receipt.  I, out of habit, replied, 'you too'.  It was an automatic response.

But my relationship with love has not always been this uncomplicated. I, only now, am beginning to understand the historical mechanics of my brain in the department of love. The impact of attachment trauma affects every level of our being and every aspect of our existence. But nothing compares to it's effect on how we experience and look for love.

LONGING



Running towards you

Didn't bring you
Any closer



It just made me go away.

Longing is # 52 in the collection of poems that I wrote as I battled to heal from trauma. You can read the rest of my poems in my book  Stripping : My Fight to Find Me

Who hasn't felt a longing for someone or something that is unattainable? That's natural and actually has an element of excitement and thrill attached to it. But I am not talking about that kind of innocent and harmless longing. I am referring to the futile and dark longing that renders you invisible. It is a desire that is birthed from the deep emptiness and feelings of being lost resulting from attachment trauma.

One is invaded with the terror of not knowing where one ends and where someone else begins. A loneliness and desperation that is indescribable drives one to tolerate relationships that should not be acceptable under any circumstance. Least of all, under the guise of 'love'. It refers to one's unconcious agreement with another person to become invisible so they will stay and 'love' you. That's the longing that I write about in this poem of mine.

It took alot of hard work to heal my brain and create new networks and pathways in it. That restructuring now allows me to move away from it's primitive parts parts and use the more evolved structures of this amazing organ when experiencing life and responding to it's events.

It is still a constant process to understand my motivations that drive my choices. But it is no longer an unknown drive. This self awareness, gained through dynamic psychotherapy and learning about the damage that attachment trauma caused me has made all the difference in how I love and whom I love. The mad desperation to be loved evaporated when I found love for myself. That was the starting point for me to define how I needed, wanted and deserved to be loved.

It's simple. I must be accepted, respected, honored, cherished and desired for who I am. Not who someone else needs or wants me to be for their selfish reasons.

No exceptions to this. Ever!

Now I make my choices through the lens of Self Love Self Care First. I have not only a mental check list that I go through when deciding something but also rely on an entire committee of emotions and 'gut feels' that I pay close attention to. I respect my instinct and now trust it and actually act on it's advice, instead of negating and dismissing it.

As my brain healed, my heart healed.

I opened up to the right people. I put up shutters for those who were harmful, dangerous and damaging to my well being. In essence, my heart became my protector. It expanded in a way that I never imagined it had the capacity to. It led me to light.

My heart saved my life because it guided me to take the path of Love.

I knew I had healed when I wrote the poem 'The End.' I hope it stands the test of time and is around forever. Just like I will be. And you will be. If we give the experience of love and loving our entire being.




As Emily Dickinson said,

"Unable are the Loved to die
For Love is immortality,
Nay, It is Deity-"


Wishing you a week of love!
Be well Do well Live well,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst  #jointhemovement

PS- I write and post at www.selfloveselfcarefirst every Friday so I may hopefully bring light to the destruction that Attachment Trauma causes in our lives. And to share hope. Because there is treatment for it that is predictable and effective. I know that there are millions of us who have suffered as children and grew up to be tortured adults. This is a hidden but prevalent trauma in our society that takes many devastating shapes and forms of mainifestation. And is tragically is passed on through generations. If we talk about it, we will recognize it. If we recognize it, we can deal with it. And that involves fighting for a life full of peace and love and feeling whole. It can be done! I am proof of that. So please share this blog with someone who you suspect might be suffering from ACE's, Adverse Childhood Experiences. Better still, subscribe them to www.selfloveselfcarefirst.com
Sincerely,
Sunita




Friday, February 8, 2019

Valentine's Day- A Hallmark holiday, a mockery of relationships or a celebration of love?



Hello,
It's Sunita here.

There will be an estimated 145 million Valentine's Day cards purchased this year. (This astounding number does not include the cards exchanged by children in schools ) Women purchase 85% of those cards. That comes out to about 123 million cards...

This is not a case of a close finish where one has to look at the film of the end of a race many times over to determine who the winner is. Women clearly are the champions of buying Valentine's Day cards! That was evident to me years ago when I worked at Paper Chase at the Bay Shore Mall in Ottawa, Canada. It was a store where we sold greeting cards, paper goods and really neat gift items. Valentine's Day was the second busiest season after Christmas. Every year we started seeing people come in a few weeks before February 14 and browse the card racks. They would take their time to select cards. They looked like they were truly enjoying the process and it was obviously something they put thought into.

And then in contrast, there was the predictable mad rush in the store on February 14 that extended late into the evening. The last minute shoppers  rushed in frantically looking for a card. I remember one person offering to pay me $20 just to wrap his hastily purchased gift so he could beat the long line at the register and get out to be on time for his date that night. $ 20 was a lot of money in 1991...

Generalizations are never fair  but they usually convey some accuracy to a situation. So it would be safe for you to assume that most of the shoppers who bought their Valentine's Day cards early were women. And the mad dash was primarily made by men. And the statistics shared above clearly demonstrate the gender tilt of this Hallmark Holiday when it comes to volume as well.

Next Thursday there will be millions of restaurants filled with couples, friends and those who choose to mark this occasion with more than a card. Florists have been planning for this day since it passed last year. And is anyone willing to hazard a guess on the volume of chocolate sales this week?

Have we reduced the day to a rote of card-dinner-chocolate? Have we bought into the marketing messages and the masterful visual images that suggest that only those who are out celebrating in this fashion are the lucky ones that are loved? Are you without a significant partner in your life and feel the loneliness  highlighted by this day of kitschy amplification of romantic love? Are you annoyed by the hoopla of Valentine's Day? Maybe you're offended, hurt and manipulated by this universally granted opportunity for your partner to be able to publicly put on a show of love for you while they neglect, devalue or even abuse you the rest of the days of the year? Or do you look forward to this one evening where you can dedicate time to celebrate your relationship in a special way and pamper the one whom you adore?

Or maybe you have your own unique way of marking the day that is creative and different than what the 'norm' is?

I'm sure that there will be all of the above going on next week.

I don't have an opinion on how Valentine's day 'should' be celebrated or even if one must mark the day. But I do see this day from my perspective of having a deep understanding from both our need for love and our desire to love.We are biologically wired for connection. Our bodies, minds and souls yearn to be touched and loved. We desire to be connected with others on every level of our exisitence. We suffer deeply when we are not loved. We inhabit dark places when our love is not reciprocated and when we are rejected by those whom we love.

Love is everything.

So I say, let's celebrate love at every moment and opportunity that we can.

Valentine's Day is one more day for us to honor love. Celebrate it anyway that makes sense to you. Make it an expression of who you are. In this celebration, include whomever you feel enriches your life. Reach out to your secret crush. Be crazy and take risks. Mend broken relationships by picking up the phone and calling someone to say you love them. Deepen friendships by mailing a Valentine's Day card. Gaze into you lovers eyes and express your innermost thoughts. Go out with you friends. Spoil your kids rotten by baking gooey chocolate cupcakes.

Or just let it pass by uneventfully.

What I urge you to do however, is not let love pass you by.

"Close your eyes, fall in love, stay there" says Rumi.

Celebrate love every day, every moment and every second of your life. Because there is nothing else that exists that is worth living for.

Wishing you much love this Valentine's Day and every day,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst #jointhemovement


Friday, February 1, 2019

Gracie Gold's battle to find herself- Is being successful a hindrance to seeking help for mental health?



Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I recognize the look on Gracie Gold's face in this picture. Gracie details her fall from figure skating champ to near suicide

I remember what it felt like when I realized that the only way out of the hell I inhabitated was to start fighting the demons that resided deep inside me. Intense feelings of shame, embarrassment, self hatred and a sense of failure invaded my entire being. Little did I know then that these emotions were a ploy of depression and the unconscious processes sabotaging my efforts to seek the care that I needed. I look back and thank my lucky stars that I kept fighting through painful feelings and persevered with therapy and self discovery to be where I am now.

Having a successful outside life was not a facade for me. It came about fair and square through hard work, tenacious efforts, dedication and discipline. And with the help and support of a wonderful family and mentors and of course, many lucky breaks. However, it also served as a diversion that aided and abetted me in avoiding the pain that I was feeling.

My success also caused me question the existence of my depression, anxiety and mental suffering. I learnt to negate and downplay my emotions by lying to myself- I'm feeling this way because I have an exam coming up- I'm stressed because I need more new patients in my practice- I have to learn more to be able to practice the way I want to...

It was a never ending list of I need to do more- I need to be more

There were not enough medals for me to win. There were not enough courses for me to take. The pursuit of perfection came easy to me because I am a born learner and am committed to self improvement. But my journey was accompanied by an unconscious thoughtlessness and hidden emptiness. The effects of Attachment Trauma, toxic stress and ACE's would reappear after the initial thrill of an accomplishment died down and would lay seige on my mind, body and soul. This would happen again and again. Predictably and consistently.



The other side of the success coin was massive guilt. How dare I feel down when I have the life I have. Others would kill for what I've accomplished. I'm ungrateful. I don't even really deserve my success. What do I have to complain about. Shame on me.

In the end, I had to battle the trappings of every aspect of my external life to seek help for my broken internal world. I had to leave my fake pride and ego at the door and acknowledge that I needed help. I had to refuse to wear the visible labels of my life to find out who I truly was.

So I had to strip. And ask for help.


HELP ME

It was scarcely a whisper
That escaped the long hush

A plea undiscovered
In a language unknown

It was missed all along
By the light keeper on call

Eclipsed by the storm
Oppressed by the calm

Some part of a delusion
Or a chimera
Perhaps ? 

#27 in the collection
Stripping:My Fight to Find Me



I wish Gracie all the luck in the world as she embarks on fighting her demons. I applaude her courage to stand up and say 'I need help'. I admire her honesty and her refusal to continue to suffer emotionally. I cheer her on as she honors her inside world and gives it the attention and tender loving care it deserves. I respect the seriousness she is giving to seeking professional help for her depression and everything that is connected to it.

I know how hard it is to strip every layer of protection we build against feeling the pain of the reality of our lives. But once we do, we learn of our intrinsic value as a human being. We no longer have to incessantly achieve to be worthy.

I now know that

I am enough

I wish Gracie the feeling of being one with herself at every level and cannot wait to see what she does next in her life. Because she is a true champion.

As am I.

Let's inspire each other by celebrating our true selves and encouraging each other to do so as well. I invite you to make Self Love Self Care First a commited way of life. I promise you, it will change eveything for the better. Not only for you, but also for everyone around you. And that will change the world.

Wishing you a week of honest self reflection,
Be well Do well Live well,
Sunita

#selfloveselfcarefirst  #jointhemovement
SunitaMerriman.com

All photograhs of Gracie Gold are courtesy previously published articles on the internet


Friday, January 25, 2019

Winter Blues- My top 5 Proactive Self Love Self Care Tips to Feel Better


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

We experienced the first severe winter temperature dip in New Jersey this week. Mercury took a dive down to the single digits. I, like most other people took sensible precautions to prevent myself from suffering any serious damage from the extreme cold. I filled my car with gas. I made sure there was a blanket and some emergency supplies in my car. I dressed with warm layers. I had gloves and a hat. I made sure my phone was charged. Basically, I did everything I could to make sure I would not suffer from hypothermia and frost bite in case I were to be exposed to the brutal cold for an extended period of time.

But what about our mental health? You maybe familiar with the term Winter Blues. SAD, Seasonal Affect Disorder, is a recurrent type of depression associated with the change of seasons. It typically starts in fall and persists through the winter months.

There is no equivalent of reports of a weather channel for our mental health. We must be the ones who monitor how we feel.

This week's blog is inspired by a good friend of mine who just recently connected her mood swings, anxiety and depression to the weather. After some candid self reflection as she looked back, she realized that she had probably suffered from SAD for some years. She courageously said No to suffering any more and took proactive measures.

My Top 5 Proactive Self Love Self Care Tips to combat the Winter Blues

#1   Seek professional help if you are having a tough time moderating your mood.  If you already have a therapist working with you, discuss the option of increasing the frequency of your sessions during the winter months. If you are working with a psychiatrist, discuss how your medications are working for you. There maybe need for adjustments.

#2  Exercise. Get up. Move. There is compelling evidence that exercise improves our mood. How Exercise Might Keep Depression at Bay- NY Times

#3 Call a friend. Schedule time with close friends just like you would schedule a doctor's appointment . It is imperative that you stay connected with those that love you and support you. That connection is balm for your brain and soul. We are wired for connection for a good reason. It makes us feel good, safe and secure.

#4 Plan for your Heart Bliss. Focusing on what you love to do is a wonderful way to combat the blues. When we struggle with our mental health, we often times neglect to draw from the things that give us pleasure. That's part and parcel of depression and anxiety. By proactively scheduling time for what gives you happiness, despite feeling like you don't want to, you can fight this urge to withdraw from joyful stimulus.

#5 Eat well A balanced diet with minimal amounts or no processed foods will work best for you. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and added sugar. Increase your fresh fruits and vegetable intake. Consult with a nutritionist to see what would be the best food plan for you.

My friend did all of the above and in a few weeks showed remarkable and noticeable improvements. As a matter of fact, I had to be on my toes to keep up with her energy :) and cheer! It was infectious and contagious. And exciting!

You have to have the will to feel better. And you must be committed to doing the work it takes to get better. But the fact to remember is that you can feel better!

Be proactive! Practice Self Love Self Care First! Join the movement!

Wishing you a week of energetic happiness,
Be well Live well Do well,
Warmly,
Sunita


Friday, January 18, 2019

What is Self Love? A Leading Researcher Explains




My daughter Nina and I- a few hours after she was born
Hello,
It's Sunita here!

As I continue to live, learn and grow through the lens of Self Love Self Care First, I am begining to understand it from the perspective of many dimensions.

Today, I want to talk about the foundation of self love.

What is self love?
Self love is a virtue that entails bonding with yourself.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Well, it's not. There is an intricate complexity to how we see ourselves in our mind's eye. Researchers in the field of Attachment  have shown that the earliest learning ground we have for self love is in the womb, and immediately therafter with our primary caregiver/caregivers. 

Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal developement. John Bowlby first coined the term as a result of his studies involving the developmental psychology of children from various backgrounds.


Since we do what we know, if a primary caregiver did not develope a strong sense of self in their childhood, they will be less than optimal in doing their job as the person imprinting their offspring. So attachment patterns are passed down through generations. I obviously, am oversimplifying a very complex cascade of events that shape us, but you get the drift.

Dr, Jon G. Allen, a leading researcher in the field of Attachment speaks of self love in this way, 

"Self-love is embedded in an attachment relationship, more specifically a secure attachment relationship with yourself."

Dr. Allen explains how self esteem and self worth is not something we possess, but rather something we do to value ourselves. He connects it to our inner dialog with ourselves and explains how the tone of how we speak to ourselves and the content of that conversation was determined long before we even uttered our first word. Our primary caregivers determined that voice.

We can be very harsh in our treatment of ourself. That is active self harm and self hate. He goes on to cite how 'failing to do' also significantly contributes to self neglect and self sabotage.

love/http://saynotostigma.com/2010/11/attachment-is-the-cradle-of-self-love/

We develope self love when someone loves us. When that does not happen, or occurs in a deficient or broken manner, then we suffer greatly. But, the great news is that we can learn to change these deeply embedded, damaging patterns.  I know that personally for a fact. There is hope!

I leave you with this question today.
What is the tone of your conversation with yourself?

Be well Do well Live well,
Sunita

#selfloveseflcarefirst  #jointhemovement

I invite you to read Sovereign as a post script to today's blog. It is the last in the collection of the 65 poems I wrote as I was healing from trauma. My book Stripping : My Fight to Find Me is available at SunitaMerriman.com

Please be sociable and share.



Friday, January 11, 2019

Glenn Close Wins Best Actress, Drama - 2019 Golden Globes- What she has to say about Heart Bliss and my #3 Tips to get there




Hello,
It's Sunita here.

I remember driving into Manhattan with my husband on a crisp Saturday afternoon last November. It was our 'just us time together' and we had plans to see The Wife at the Angelika Film Center. I didn't know anything about the movie. All I knew was that Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce were starring in it. That was a good enough invitation for me.

Once having experienced the story through their incredible performances, I left the theatre with a whole lot of emotions that were complex and thought provoking. It was obvious to me that Glenn Close had given the best that she had to offer to this role and I was delighted to see her recognized at the Golden Globes last week.

However, what has been even more exciting to me is the response she is getting to her acceptance speech. It was from her heart, authentic and deeply moving. It did not seem that she expected to win which gave her words a kind of sponteneity and honesty that comes from being put in the spotlight without any anticipation of having to make a speech.

Glenn Close's tribute to her mother (at 1:22-1:39 of the clip) is touching and poignant.

And sad.

She speaks about what her mother shared with her at age 80. 'I feel I haven't accomplished anything'

Glenn goes on to passionately promote the right to be able to do what we love to do. She says, 'We have to find personal fulfilment. We have to follow our dreams.'

I couldn't agree more with Glenn.

Self Love Self Care First leads us to being able to recognize, understand, and then nurture the gifts and talents we have. I speak of Heart Bliss. To me Heart Bliss is what we feel when we do things that make our heart sing. Being able to pursue what gives us Heart Bliss allows us to create a life of acheivement that is meaningful and honors our uniqueness.

That is a life well lived.

Don't wait another day if you have not yet found your path to your Heart Bliss.

Here are 3 tips to get started on your amazing journey,

STOP! Pay attention to what makes you happy, engaged and excited. Think about what makes time stand still for you.

START! to write down what you were doing at those moments (playing an instrument, writing, helping someone out, writing code, gardening, etc. It could be anything. Don't assign value to the activity based on what others may say. Remember, this is your Heart Bliss. It is your experience of it that matters. That is your truth.

STAY! the course of pursuing your Heart Bliss. In the end, it will be the journey that is your reward and achievement.

STOP!           START!             STAY!

Remember it took Glenn Close 45 years to get the opportunity to be on that stage last week. And it took The Wife 14 years to get made. But she wouldn't change anything because all along she was doing what she loved to do and was meant to do. She was lucky that she knew that acting was her passion at a young age. But whatever your age is today, it doesn't matter.

There is no expiration date on living your truth.

In the end, never pusuing your dream will hurt much more than the effort to get on 'your' track.

Trauma, depression and anxiety robbed me of living my truth, despite the outside world success I had acheived. Now having been healed, my mind, body and soul work differently. They are all integrated, inspired, peaceful and calm. And focussed on guiding me to live my best life and be my best self.

If I can do it, so can you!

Be well Do well Live well,
Sunita
#selfloveselfcarefirst  #jointhemovement




Friday, January 4, 2019

The Secret to Making Lasting Changes


Hello,
It's Sunita here.

It is the start of a new year again...

We are bombarded with headlines and blogs about making New Year Resolutions. Photographs and posts of people sharing their new year resolutions are plentiful on social media. Conversations usually center around the question, “So, any new year resolutions?

I had to cut my workout at my gym short on January 1st because it was too crowded for me to focus. But I know that things will change by February. And then by summer, usually it’s only the ‘regulars’ and new members who are still slogging it out.

The complexity to human behavior patterns is beyond the scope of my expertise and cannot be discussed in a single note, even if it was. However, I know firsthand that the only motivation that drives us to succeed to make healthy lasting changes comes from within us.

No one else can motivate us to make choices that result in us being more, doing more and having more of what we desire. That drive is internal.

But that’s not the secret that I am talking about...

I’m talking about what makes us get up when we fall. Because success is not a straight ride to the top. Ask anybody that has achieved anything meaningful, significant or noteworthy. They will tell you stories of the many failures they suffered through to finally get it ‘right’.
So, what’s the secret?
It is having infinite love for oneself.
That drives the ambition to go beyond where we are today. Self-love is the foundation upon which we can have the courage to say- we deserve more. It is the place from where we say, I am strong enough to do whatever it takes to achieve my goal. But more importantly, if I fail today, it’s okay because I will succeed tomorrow.

Self-love prevents us from taking a punitive direction of thoughts when things don’t go the way we had planned.

So, you couldn’t get to the gym today. You have 2 choices of looking at that. One is, “Boy, what a failure I am. Can’t even keep my New Year resolution for a month. I’m a loser”. The other is, “I’m disappointed that I couldn't work out according to my plan. I don’t feel good about that. Let me see what happened with my time yesterday. What can I do to make sure I stick with my exercise program because it sure feels good when I do, and I deserve that?” Looking at the reasons for not being able to carve the time for exercise does require honesty, but that’s another discussion.
We must be our biggest champions in order to succeed. The reminder to love ourselves must always be a conscious thought . The compassion required to forgive ourselves when we fall short is critical for us to be able to get past failures and forge ahead with optimism.
We must believe that we deserve to be more, do more and have more of whatever it is that we desire.
For that, we must love ourselves unequivocally and unconditionally.
And that is the secret.
So why not start 2019 with a commitment to Self Love Self Care First?
Try it. I promise you that it works!
Be well, Do well, Live well
Sunita