If you're just tuning in piece, be sure to check out the first piece in this two-part post, Kathy's review of Wendy's book, "Nobody Told Me... My Battle with Postpartum Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder."
By Kathy Morelli, LPC
Wendy Isnardi lives in Suffolk County, New York, along with her husband and two young daughters. Since the birth of her first daughter, she has been a staunch supporter and volunteer for the Postpartum Resource Center of New York. This is a non-profit agency dedicated to helping women and their families survive their ordeals with depression during pregnancy and depression following the birth of their children. She has dedicated countless time and energy to assure that the center continues to exist and provide the support that women need in order to beat serious mental diseases. She has put fighting women's depression on the forefront of her life with great personal sacrifice.
Q: First off, I am honored that you agreed to let me interview you! Tell me briefly about your current volunteer work at the Postpartum Resource Center of NY.
I am currently the resource coordinator and phone support. In addition, I speak at "Family Night" for the Circle of Caring Support Groups and I have facilitated support groups as well.
Q: Tell me what motivated you to write your book?
Being a volunteer at the Resource Center doing phone support I saw how important it was for me to get my story out. So many women were afraid and embarrassed to discuss their PPD issue with anyone. They were so afraid that they would be judged and branded a bad mother.
There was nothing wrong with me; I was a great mother that loved my daughter more than anything. I became extremely ill after her birth and I got the help that I needed and got better. There is no shame in that so I figured "why not write a story about my situation" and try to normalize it. I also wanted to show moms that you can go on and have other children and not be affected by the disorder again. If I could help at least one mother then it was all worth it.
Q: Do you find writing to be a healing experience?
Absolutely! I wouldn't change one thing about my experience because it changed me.
I feel that it made me a better, more understanding person. As I wrote the book it took my back to that place and helped me come to terms with what happened. I will never forget that dark time, but I will also never forget the rewards that I got from that experience, especially the undying love I have for my daughters and husband. I did it all for them.
Q: I was especially riveted by your descriptions of harm befalling you and your baby. You were so brave to expose these thoughts. In fact I used these in a presentation, and it was quite powerful for the audience to hear these thoughts.
How do you feel about these scenes in your book? (shark feeding scene, escalator scene, gun fears, etc). Why did you include such detail?
The escalator scene for me is what really changed everything. That's when I decided I wanted to go back into the hospital. The thoughts were so graphic that I got physically ill. I was scared to death. I thought the safest place for me and everyone else was in the hospital.
The shark incident was probably the first time that I ever seriously contemplated suicide. Walking into the aquarium I was already extremely anxious and severely depressed. I hadn't really been out in public too many times and the aquarium was packed. Besides the fact that I really wasn't comprehending the whole OCD concept, so I was really believing in all of the crazy thoughts that were going on in my head.
Once we came upon the huge shark tank I started to panic. As I looked over into this tremendous tank I saw sharks in all different sizes swimming about, looking for food. The image of my babies body falling into the tank flooded my head and it was all I could think about. The more I tried to stop the thoughts the stronger and more graphic they became.
That was where the focus of my thoughts started to surround me and my own mortality. That's when I was afraid that I was going to take my own life. And was when the reality that my husband had loaded guns in a safe right in our bedroom. I never attempted suicide, nor did I have a plan, but the thoughts were there and they sickened me.
Q: Have you gotten negative feedback on this?
So far, I have only gotten positive feed back, but I know that there will be critics that don't truly understand the disease that would think of my story negatively and wonder why I wasn't arrested or committed.
Q: I was interested in your experiences with OCD before your birth. Do you look back on your behaviors before the pregnancy and wonder why this was not previously addressed ?
All the time. I worried about everything, all day every day, since I was a little girl. I remember reacting to certain situations and wondered why other people didn't feel the same way I did.
Everyone around me knew how much of a worrier I was and always accused me of being a hypochondriac. I just thought I worried more than most.
Not until after I gave birth to Madison did the worrying take on a life of its own and literally knocked me off my feet.
Q: Does OCD still rear its unwelcome symptoms?
Yes it does. I think it's always there. Now I know how to handle it.
I'm not nearly as anxious as I was in the past. The thoughts are about everyday nonsense and pass as soon as they come. I do find my OCD peaks a bit when I ovulate and right before my period, but it's no big deal.
Q: Do you have any particular information you'd like to impart to persons suffering from OCD about their healing work to do before pregnancy and OCD postpartum?
Most important is not to buy into the crazy thoughts. A thought is just a thought. A change in mood and becoming depressed and anxious is temporary and will get better when treated properly. You are not alone and you are a good mother. Education is key and taking care of yourself is also extremely important.
Q: Do you feel your confusing relationship with your father contributed to your particular mental health difficulties? Or have you considered it is more genetic? Or a combination?
I guess my relationship with my father made me very insecure and there was a need for me to feel accepted. There is a tremendous connection genetically; my father and his siblings all suffered from mental illness (untreated). I definitely think it is a combination.
Q: What type of self-care do you engage in now to help yourself maintain good mental health?
I eat very healthy and drink lots of water. I try very hard to keep active and exercise whenever I can, which isn't often. I try to avoid stressful situations and when I feel anxious I realize it will pass. Stress and aggravation can bring on mood changes. In my opinion a good sense of humor goes a long way too.
Q: How are you continuing your advocacy work?
I am currently the Resource Coordinator for The Postpartum Resource Center of New York. I also provide phone support there as well, talking to moms and families in need. I speak at seminars regarding PPD and mood disorders, and co-facilitate support groups. I will do media work for the resource center. I will basically do whatever it takes to make a difference.
Q: What are some of your future projects?Being the best advocate for PPD! And helping the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, Inc.'s VISION for (a Perinatal Depression Parent Support Network in every New York State community. I have dedicated myself to the cause. As I said before -- whatever it takes.
Q: What do you do to relax on beautiful Long Island?I spend time with my beautiful family. We love going to Montauk and especially love The East End in the fall. We have four dogs and take them for walks. We just love being together. I am blessed!!!
Kathy Morelli, LPC, has a professional marriage and family counseling practice with a focus on pregnancy, birth, postpartum and trauma in Wayne, NJ. Kathy also offers phone consultations and web-based courses. She has a long-term interest in mindbody therapies and is trained in shiatsu, acupressure and Reiki. She writes and speaks on birth comfort measures and perinatal mental health and has appeared at various universities and conferences across the country. She writes on perinatal mental health for Lamaze's Science & Sensibility, is a board member of Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh) and is one of Postpartum Support International's (PSI) Virtual Volunteers. Visit her at birthtouch.com and kathymorelli.com.