This week’s blog is written by Lindsey O’Connor who was recently part of a MATTER virtual packing event hosted by her company. Lindsey is a food and beverage trend researcher by day, diving deep into trends in the food world and discovering connections between humans and the foods they consume. In her free time, she’s passionate about writing, storytelling, and having honest conversations about mental health. She loves finding ways to support various nonprofits, like MATTER, that support communities and individuals dealing with food insecurity.
“YOU MATTER”. The words radiated across a cardboard box in big, bold, orange type. It stood out from among the other mailroom packages. For someone who tends toward optimism and positivity, I felt like I had met my match in mail form.
What is this?
My mind raced trying to recall what shipments I forgot I had on the way or which friends might have surprised me. Especially after the emotional and vulnerable week I just had.
You see, a week or so prior, I posted my first public video on social media sharing my mental health story with the world. It was World Suicide Prevention Day and there seemed to be no time but the present to just rip off the band-aid. Exposing parts of myself, the ones no one would have expected I struggle with, to possibly ignite some change in the conversation around mental health. If I could just make one person feel hope or feel seen, it would be worth it.
I shared how three years ago I was in such an incredibly dark place, the only hope I had was feeling like my life would be better if it were over. I had dealt with situational depression and anxiety before and had been through “hard times”. But reaching the point at which you feel a lightness overcome your body when thinking about ending your life, that things would be solved if you didn’t exist, well that is a whole other level of hopelessness. And it rocked me to my core.
So, I finally cracked my heart wide open to my network of friends and family in a public video. A mix of trying to not turn into a waterfall, while also reassuring them I was now on the other side of it. For anyone who has been through devastating seasons, you know it feels like an accomplishment when you finally can tell a part of your story without crying.
My story is an example of how even the optimistic, energetic extroverts in your life deal with mental health ebbs and flows, or even have daily battles with depression, anxiety, and beyond. How every stranger you pass, no matter their expression in life, could be dealing with some really freaking tough things.
Using my elbow, I flung open my apartment door and hoisted the box on a stool. I still couldn’t figure out what it was for.
And then I opened it.
Joyful and heartfelt tears welled in my eyes.
The contents of the box were a mix of food and various supplies to make snack packs for those in need. A kit shipped from MATTER to our homes, as part of a virtual volunteer event my company put on.
The contents of this box weren’t for me. Not in the final sense at least. But it was for me, in every other way.
You see, over the years of slowly climbing out of the depths of my depression and anxiety, I learned how giving back was how I got my life back. I learned how turning the momentary feeling of deep hopelessness into helping others gave me a sense of purpose. How it helped me to slowly re-light my flame that was dangerously low. The flame slowly burning brighter and bigger every time I extended myself to help others. Every time I helped, the gas tank got a little more full.
Somewhere out there, perhaps, these MATTER snack packs might just be the one thing keeping someone else’s fire from extinguishing. Getting not only some nourishment, but seeing a handwritten note of encouragement offered up by another human heart. With isolation, health uncertainty, job loss, and food insecurity at a staggeringly high rate, so comes the rise of people who feel like they don’t have any hope.
As I filled each of the snack packs, I thought back to what one of the MATTER representatives told us: Just write an encouraging note like you would perhaps do for yourself on the bathroom mirror. (Cue the second moment of tears welling in my eyes.) So this is what I did.
I walked to my room after hearing that and stared at my mirror. Phrases, verses, and thoughts dotted it in a myriad of neon sticky notes—my own sticky notes that have saved me.
Reminding me of why I matter.
Why life matters.
You, dear human, reading this.
You, dear human, who hold the bag of food and read the handwritten words on the “You Matter” note.
You, dear human, with whatever tough things you are struggling with.
You matter here.
If you would like to experience the joy of giving back and helping others, please go here to learn about MATTER’s Volunteer Kit or contact Joy@matter.ngo to learn how your company can host a virtual packing event.