Manage depression short of having octuplets

Nadya Suleman is a 33 year old unemployed single mother who recently gave birth to octuplets, conceived through in vitro fertilization. She grew up as an only child and had always dreamed of having a large family. Reporters, pundits and bloggers have called her irresponsible and selfish, as she already has six children under the age of seven at home. They say it takes more than love to care for eight babies, especially if you don’t have a clear source of income or enough support to help raise them.

The doctor who implanted the fertilized eggs is being investigated by the medical board. The risk of such a pregnancy is not only to the mother but also for the babies. There are potential physical problems that will need to be carefully monitored over the coming years. Likely there will be psychological issues to deal with as well. Even though Suleman loves being a mom, there are 14 children and only one of her. She can’t do it alone. It’s not possible for her to take care of the emotional needs of that many growing children. The potential developmental delays and learning disabilities will require adjunctive therapies. And the long- term costs will be significant. Meanwhile, the hospital bill alone will run well over $2 million.

Suleman called her childhood dysfunctional and said she didn’t feel that she had much control over her environment. Almost everyone has some identity issues or feelings of powerlessness growing up. If you are depressed or need to take better care of your emotional self, begin by following these tips:

1. Notice if you are in denial about your emotional state of mind. What are you doing that may not be in your best interests? And why? For example, if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, it could be a short-term solution to help lift your spirits. And this could leave you with other longstanding problems for yourself and your family.

2. Honor your body by understanding what makes you feel better, both physically and emotionally. Pay attention to your exercise routine, what you eat, your sleeping habits and what gives you pleasure. Reduce the situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel more relaxed or alive.

3. Forgive others who are important to you for some past wrongdoing. Watch their reaction and see how that makes you feel. That doesn’t mean you have to totally forget about it. If you had a dysfunctional upbringing, try to understand the problems it is causing you now. Learn a lesson from the situation and move on, especially for your own good.

4. Practice what you know about resiliency. Recognize how your character strengths support what you do. Integrate your core values and personal ideals into how you view the world. Notice the effect your attitudes and behavior have on other people in your life. Release tension through laughter and watch yourself begin to bounce back.

5. Knowledge is power. Use it to your advantage. Get information about ways to deal with how you’re feeling – explore the Internet or the self-help section of bookstores. Think about the natural and logical consequences of the decisions you are making. Talk about how you are feeling with friends and family whose opinions you respect.

6. Support is a valuable tool – connect often. Accept the changes in your family, whatever they are, even if you feel caught in the crossfire. Find a class or workshop through your local university extension program or mental health center. Join an ongoing group or attend a weekend retreat to share concerns and gain new perspective.

7. You may be confused about what to do next. Don’t be afraid to seek out a parenting coach or a family therapist. Although you may see yourself as a natural, this is a unique situation. Learning skills and techniques from experts can make a big difference and talking with someone outside of the family about your concerns and frustrations can be a lifesaver.

All Suleman ever wanted was to be a mom: “I longed for certain connections and attachments with another person that I really lacked, I believe, growing up.” She thinks that motherhood cured her depression. But childbirth should not be used as a form of self- medication.

If your feelings of depression stem from a hunger inside that needs to be satisfied or a serious emotional problem, take the time to examine your own life. That will give you the chance to focus on greater personal awareness and your own emotional growth without jeopardizing the wellbeing of others.

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