Holding on to Hope

Ingrid Ozols talks about her battle with suicide ideation since childhood and how she now helps others by sharing what she has learned on her journey of recovery.

September 09, 2021 Lifeline
Holding on to Hope
Ingrid Ozols talks about her battle with suicide ideation since childhood and how she now helps others by sharing what she has learned on her journey of recovery.
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to lifelines, holding onto hope. A podcast series in which people who've reached a dark place in their lives share their stories.

As part of the Out of the Shadows program we talk with Ingrid Ozols about how she has battled with suicide ideation since childhood. Now she helps others by sharing what she has learned on her journey of recovery.

Warning:

This podcast series, will share personal moments of connection and deeply felt experiences. If anything you hear has a triggering effect, please reach out to someone who can help keep you safe. Or remember, you can phone lifeline at any time on 13, 11, 14,

Ingrid:

Because I remember at seven feeling alone, feeling totally alone and isolated, and just so scared to tell anyone. I was in so much terror, I was in fear of my life, and yet around me, I did have love, but I didn't feel it. I felt disconnected and pain

Beverley:

Ingrid Ozoles has battled with suicidal ideation since childhood. Today, she helps others by sharing what she learned on her journey of recovery.

Ingrid:

My journey started when I was very little. My cousin and I had been spending time together one afternoon under beautiful willow tree , he was playing his guitar and I was just sitting listening feeling really special. And couldn't wait to see him again so we could do that activity again. But that was the last time I would see him. And we got the news not long after that, that he had passed away that he'd died by suicide. I didn't understand what that meant. All I knew was this, this pain, this sadness, this loss, and all I could think of as why , why , why ? Now, I was only little and I came from a Latvian German background. And one thing that did come across was that he wasn't going to be buried by anyone in Victoria because he had taken his own life. And my family European had had come to Australia through , um , second world war, were just devastated because to be buried by a minister was what , what was the , the usual way of having this sort of a tradition? And so on that occasion, that was something that you didn't talk about. You didn't go there, the shame. What I now know is stigma was horrendous and all I was left was this emptiness and just asking why, why, why? During this time I'd been spending more and more time with my grandparents and my mum and dad were living apart or actually on the verge of living apart. And so things went rather , um , stressful because mum and dad were divorcing and I didn't understand that. All I knew was at the time mum had been in and out of my life for short periods of time, she had what I knew it was bad nerves. What I now know she was in and out of psych hospitals and , um, had been trying to take her life on many occasions. Again, I was left with this. Why, why, why? Um, and then I was about 6 or 7 and I'd been bullied at school. I was terrified to go to school. I was afraid of being in my own skin. I just did not like being, I didn't understand what being alive meant

Beverley:

Ingrid started having suicidal ideations

Ingrid:

Those sorts of thoughts of not being here, not wanting to be here continued and have continued on way into my adulthood . Being young, growing up in a dysfunctional abusive family who had very deep trauma from their experiences being displaced from their wartorn homes in Europe. I suspected that, y ou k now, I grew up in an environment where it was expected that life wasn't going to be easy. And in those early years, pain just felt constant. It was part of me every single day. If I didn't feel scared coming home, I was scared at school, I was just, f ull-time scared. I was always anxious. I was untrusting of any body, least of all myself. I was trying to escape into food. U m, and I just remember never trusting anybody, let alone myself. I couldn't trust myself and thought I was the bad one that I was at fault for all this. What was wrong with me? Life felt like it was crushing around me. I was constantly in and out of depression and I was really good at masking that depression, because I was seen as someone who would always laugh and be bubbly and make others laugh. And I was happy to be laughed at. But I was hiding a lot of enormous pain because I didn't know how to let i t o ut. And I didn't want to share it with anyone because I was so scared and ashamed. The teenage years were real tough, but then becoming at the cusp o f the end of my t eenage y ears to become a young adult was really frightening and so much conflict and really difficult relationships with my m um. My father was not on the picture, I had an alcoholic s tepfather who was very, very abusive. So at 18, 19, I , um , was very self-conscious about being overweight. I had a binge-eating disorder and my mood swings really were impacted by being the last year of high school and being pressured around my self-worth and studying and going to university and expectations from very much a Europe family. All I knew was I was constantly feeling anxiety, fear at such ridiculous levels that I just didn't know how to exist. I felt like I was walking on eggshells all the time. Scared for ever that I might be doing something wrong by someone. I was always second guessing myself. And so part of the whole thing was I don't want to be here. And those sorts of thoughts of not being here, not wanting to be here continued and have continued on way into my adulthood. And , uh , I have tried to take my life on several occasions and I've been blessed because I've had great mental health care, support, love. And also I have gone to lifeline. And in those moments of absolute terror and anguish and pain , um, I've been so blessed to be able to connect with other human beings that have helped me to just sit and be, and then find the right professional health care to get me through.

Announcer:

No one should ever have to face their darkest moments alone. Lifeline is here to help please call 13, 11, 14, or visit lifeline.org.au.

Beverley:

Ingrids journey to wellness began after meeting her husband

Ingrid:

It was a few months after I was married, that my husband encouraged me to get help. And I didn't want to get help. I thought everybody else in the world needed help me, but me. He had been very concerned. He'd known that before our marriage, I tried to take my life on several occasions and he was really scared that I would again. So with a lot of kicking and screaming, I eventually did go and seek some help. And it was over a four year period that I recall hubby and I had been having dinner one night and he , um, was driving us home and he pulled the car over to one side. And he gave me a beautiful kiss and he's sat back in the car and he had tears in his eyes and he said, Ingrid, you know how much it means to me to see you alive. To see you starting to get well, happy within yourself. And I didn't quite at that second understand what he was talking about. And he said, you know, I can see that the therapy and the support you've been getting has made a huge difference. I had been coming home every night and really scared that I was going to find you dead. I should have known better. I should have understood that. I had been living with that with my mum for a lifetime. I just never realized that that's what I had been doing. And now for the last 10 years, I've again been doing it for my child. Living with fear every single day that I'm going to either get a phone call or I'm going to find someone I love in a terrible situation. And how have I kept my sanity and my wellness, I don't know. I think now it's because I'm better aware of my triggers and that I do have to bring in some self care . I'm not very good at that. I'm a work in progress, but I do know that some of my triggers are around dealing and managing conflict , um, change. I'm not very good at change. I need to have that self-care around sleep. Um, having good sleep, having drinking lots of water, doing things that I enjoy. Now at times I do it better than other times. And then I can see the difference in my wellness. If I look after myself I'm in a much space to cope with life challenges that when I don't look after myself.

Beverley:

Ingrid was determined to learn more about suicide. She studied for a master's in suicidology and contributed to a wealth of valuable research,

Ingrid:

Having a challenging time being a carer as an adult and as a child of loved ones who experiencing suicidal ideations, survived suicide attempts, I needed to find someway to face those demons, I needed to find answers to those questions that I've been asking myself since I was a little girl around, why, why, why? I knew this, some of those answers were probably never going to be answered, but I had worked in the mental health, suicide prevention sector for several decades and wanted to go and learn more. The more I knew, the more I realized how much I didn't know, and I get obsessive and I need to know more. So I looked , um, and found a master's at suicidology, which I did at The Australian institute of suicide research and prevention at Griffith university. And started my journey of learning. What that did do for me. It was, it helped me to stand taller, to face some of my demons, to turn, my vulnerability into a strength, and that it is okay to talk about this stuff. And over the years and why it's so devoted to lifeline , um, is because I have recieved so much of that support when I've needed it, they've given to me. When I've dialed the number late at night, or when I've gone online or texted them, that there's always been someone at the other end of the phone, who I could talk to, who would not pass judgment, who would not give me their advice or their opinions, they would listen, they would let me cry. They would let me talk about things that I knew there was no one else in the world I could possibly speak to and not feel like I was a burden.

Beverley:

Ingrid's vulnerabilities are now her strengths. And she shows others, particularly in the workplace, how they can do the same.

Ingrid:

It's taken me a lot of courage over the last several decades of doing advocacy in mental health and suicide prevention. And I felt like over the years when I didn't have a voice, when I couldn't speak about anything because of stigma and particularly my own self stigma or shame, I didn't want to dare let anybody in or talk about , um , any of my vulnerabilities because I was so scared that I would be rejected or laughed at, or that people would tell me I was an attention seeker. Uh, I'd heard all of those things growing up and as an adult. That I was being a drama queen, that I was emotional. I knew other people had been hearing the same sort of things. And so having fallen into a career of advocacy, very unexpectedly. Um, in my previous life just quickly, I had been in HR and in management and marketing roles and seen mental health issues and suicidality not being talked about in the workplace, but yet I knew it was there. Um, and so it was one of those things that was one of the , um, catalysts for me to start doing some toe in into this field. See what I could do, because I had been one of the lucky ones at that time to have had really good mental health support and care. And so I thought I could use my voice even I was shaking and I'd feel sick, sharing my story before and feel sick sharing what story. And then I would actually be sick after sharing my story. Um, but something drove me and I never knew why until now. Why I was and why I am still needing to put my hand up to say, yes, I'm always vulnerable, but my vulnerability is my strengths because I know that what I'm saying, isn't just about me. This is about so many of us. And if we can role model to show each other, that recovery is possible, that connecting with another person is possible. And that by being, you know, I'm not perfect. I'm a human being. This is actually about my humanness. It's about not always having it together. And that this is something that affects a lot more people than we think. That that can only be a strength because then that allows someone else to get help. And if I can use my pain, which means I have to find all the courage in the world to say, well, okay, I might be really, really scared to be vulnerable to say, look, I'm not this happy bubbly person, 24 7, that yes, I may work in senior executive roles, but behind the smile behind the outgoing purple head, a bubbliness, there's a person who's at times very, very fragile, and doesn't always hold it together. And that I'm one of many. That this isn't something that's just given that just a few people experience. It's very complex. We're all human beings that come to life with a whole lot of stuff. History , culture, tradition, religion, you know, personal things, our nature, nurture genetics, we're complex. And we're living in a complex time. And if we can connect more, I know that my connectedness with people in my life has made a difference to me being here. And I'd like to share that difference with other people

Announcer:

Through connecting with others, we can hold onto hope to speak to a crisis supporter. Please call 13, 11, 14, twenty four hours, seven days a week,

Beverley:

As Ingrid says, sharing can be hard, but we're so much healthier if we do.

Ingrid:

I see this i s a very complex arena, f rom a self person perspective to a societal perspective. That we've never been very good at sharing our personal lives with each other, for all the reasons I've stated. Because we don't want to be j udged. It's easier to share, u m, a happy face than it is a negative one to be negative c an be seen to be t oxic, to be something that could be contagious. It says, if you know, you've talked yourself into it, you're a bad influence on other people. This is all so complicated. And I think as a society, we need to start with just good old fashioned compassion and kindness

Beverley:

Ingrid believes we should deal with mental pain in the same way we deal with physical pain.

Ingrid:

Think about a car accident or someone I've loved or know of that's had a heart attack or is unconscious or has fallen. What do we do for them? We keep them safe. We keep them warm. We keep them connected. This is another element of our humanness. Our humanness at times is uncomfortable and let's acknowledge it's uncomfortable. It's frightening at times. What do we do for someone who's unconscious in front of us? What do we do with someone who's got chest pain? We want to help. That's the nature of human beings is we want to help. We don't want to do harm, but sometimes inadvertently from myths that have been passed on from generation to generation. We do. So I would tell someone who's looking after somebody else who's in psychological, emotional distress is to sit and be. And ask them directly. If you've got that sense, that something isn't right and that they are distressed, that they are showing signs and symptoms of disconnect. Ask them directly are you thinking of suicide? It is uncomfortable, but it's time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. It's okay to ask that question. That question will open up opportunities for other questions, and a conversation. It's about asking the person, where are they at? What are they feeling, trying to engage with them, what it is that they need to help them get through this moment of time, to the next moment of time, and then how you can help t hem to get help. It's not about us fixing another person's problems because we can't, that's not our role. Nobody can. But it's about us helping to connect with someone and showing that we care that they're valued. Sitting with them not giving answers is really, really important. Selfishly, in my heart of hearts, I've tried to give other people when they're in crisis, when they're emotionally distressed things that I wish I had been given. Gosh, that feels selfish saying that, but it just feels it's true. I wish someone had reached out and given me a hug and just held me. Just held me not said a word. Put a blanket around me, nurtured me and helped me to just sit and be with that pain. Instead of telling me to get over it and ignoring it. And pretending like it's a bad thing to feel it. To feel uncomfortable, to feel pain is weakness. It's not a weakness. It's a part of being human. Having our pain validated is such a huge component of healing. So I have tried to use with the thousands of people I've spoken to over many decades in workplaces, in the community, in the different arenas. I've walked and talked my family members, even now when I've got a stressed family member and we've had a trauma again this weekend, trying to even just say look, just sit and breathe . Let's just sit and breathe. Or, let's just hold each other. Or, would you like a cup of tea. These are the things I was never ever offered. And so I'd like to think that some of those things help someone else. And I have to say, research now and t alking to more and more and more and more people keeps reconfirming that this is what other voices are asking for. Is to be loved, to be valued, to connect. To connect with ouselves and with each other. And that's the greatest gift we can give another human b eing i s our t ime,

Beverley:

Thank you for listening to holding onto hope. Lifeline Australia is grateful to all our interviewees who share their stories in the hope of inspiring others. We also acknowledge all of you who provide support to people in crisis and those on their journey to recovery. If you found this podcast helpful or inspiring, please share it, rate it, write a review or subscribe wherever you download your favorite podcasts. If this story has affected you and you require crisis support, please contact lifeline on 13, 11, 14. You can do this anytime or visit lifeline.org.au to access web chat every night from 7:00 PM to midnight. If it's inspired you to be a lifeline volunteer or to donate, please visit lifeline.org.au. With thanks to Wahoo Creative for interviews, editing, and production and the voice of lived experience, which is essential in the development of our work .