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 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