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, 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