Ingrid Ozols AM

Under the canopy of a magnificent huge green willow tree, a young man was singing and playing guitar, to a 5-year-old me.

Phillip died by suicide. No one in Victoria would bury him in the early 1970’s because of his “sin”.

As a young child, my late mother spent years in and out of psychiatric clinics with “bad nerves”. She had tried to take her own life.

My first thoughts of suicide visited when I was about 7.  Daily terrors would freeze my voice up, or my throat felt full of broken glass. I was either living in terror of my mind or floating on a rug above everyone.

I get it.

I understand not having the desire or the energy to care for myself, living with an indescribable disconnect and hollowness, from self and life. Of living with the fear that someone close to me will not wake up in the morning.

I am filled with self-stigma, self-shame, self-loathing, profound feelings of dark thick strangling depression, worthlessness, insignificance and voicelessness, that has led to my suicidal thoughts and attempts.

What keeps my “eyes dancing” and me alive? The love of my soul mate of 38 years, my adult child, friendships, connectedness to people & community, my work. Colour, purple, orange, greens. The blue sky and green trees. Laughter, bear hugs (emotional virtual ones during COVID-19).

Is my obsession to comfort others a way to make up for not knowing how to help my own? Myself?

Someone else is falling next to me but further away. The girl under the tree stretches out to catch them, hold them, comfort them so they do not feel the isolating pain. Pain makes pain worse when experienced alone. This comforting another selfishly comforts me. I feel helpful, useful. We land hold on each other and stand up to face the next steps.

Ingrid’s message to others is to lovingly hold and validate a person’s pain and comfort, walk alongside or sit with, connect human to human, in whatever way the blanket feels safest and warmest.

It’s ok to feel what you feel. You are not alone.

Ingrid has over 20 years’ experience working in the suicide prevention sector and is the founder of MH@Work – providing  a full spectrum of mental health services for workplaces and the community in Australia.