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Memoir: "Little Things" by Sandra Meunier

T/W - Anxiety, mental distress and suicidal thoughts

It is the little things, the ones that matter.

You forget about them, because they are so little, those little things. You do not see them anymore, because they are so little. You actually forget about those little things, and even start to think they might actually not matter.

For the last 6 weeks, I was waking up in a bed that was strange to me and not my 'home'. It was a strange home, not mine. And at night, I was also going to bed in a place that was not 'home'. I think it was my furniture- but was it really? Or was it a mirage? Because that furniture, if it was mine, was in the wrong home. A strange home, not mine. So how could it be? This was not my home. It might not even have been my furniture.

Only my cat in that strange and unknown flat was letting me know it was supposed to be my home. A cat found online. A flat found online.

Home is where the cat is. A cat that saved me. Me who saved the cat. He doesn't know it. Or maybe he does. Cats are wiser than humans.

Before waking up in that strange home, I had lived in boxes, for two months. My whole life had been in boxes. I had to step over boxes to eat, to watch tv, to sleep. My life was hidden away. My life was missing pieces. They might have been in those boxes. But what if they weren’t?

If I was missing pieces, of me, was I still me? Who would I be? A strange me?

‘Oh why, ridiculous is that ?’, will you say.

It is such a little thing.

I came here to this strange home, with the same boxes, I had lived with. I think. Maybe I lost some of them, I lost some pieces of me: I had no TV, no internet. No communication.

But I had a cat. My cat.

Oh, how ridiculous, will you say. ‘What a little thing that is!’

The internet was my lifeline. A life the Three Fates had spun before cutting it off.

It is the little things, the ones you forget about.

I lost my home; I lost my neighbourhood and local services; I lost walking to the GP and them knowing I required assistance without saying a word; I lost my job which I had to leave as it had become un-affordable; I lost the ease of access to friends.

I gained having to start from scratch in a new neighbourhood, new services (where is that hospital entrance? ), going back to uni and doing the PGCE, starting in a new school, having to socialise with new people, the pain reappearing and the little dirty faces showing up again ... Maelstrom.

Too much. Please stop swirling, life.

It is the little things, the ones that keep you alive.

I didn't have a 'home', a place where I can hide and feel comfortable and yet virtually socialize. For 4 months. It was either boxes or that eerily strange feeling of ‘not my home’.

It is the little things, the ones that keep you alive.

It is the little things, the ones that kill you slowly.

It is the little things, the ones that hold you back.

I felt myself slowly spiralling again, huge panic attacks and paralyzing anxiety. TOCs. Distress. Howling again. Inability to carry out tasks. Basic tasks, even washing: not able to. People not understanding. Every so often, me, seriously incapacitated. No energy, no will. Why? Me- 5 languages spoken, 4 degrees, IQ on paper well above average. On paper. Overachiever, on paper. Success, on paper. Always on paper. The letter ATOS wrote me about their ‘almost dead’ fear was on paper too. Paper is not my friend, it seems. It lies. It tears you down. Before wrapping you in and then crushing you down.

Not able to do anything. Again. About to give up, again. Slowly tortured by those shadows. Those shadows calling in. All of them chose that time to show back up, showing their ugly faces. They were not invited. Showing up. From times to times. Installing themselves bits by bits. Like a computer programme slowly corrupted by viruses: I too needed a Norton update online. Where was it? Where was that lifeline? What was going to be left of me?

It is the little things, the ones that keep you alive.

I remembered the Hard Times, lurking in the corner. Ready to pounce. Deemed by infamous ATOS to not being able to work due to mental distress - I must be one of the very few ones to have been granted full benefits on ground of mental health. First visit assessment, no need for appeal- that bad, that much of a struggle. Yes. 18 months with the Maudsley. I sometimes think about how bad I must have been for ATOS to deem me unable to work. ‘Too easily distressed to work, might kill herself'. I had misread it first: I called, in tears, stating I didn't feel able to work and was worried for my safety. They said: ‘we do not think it would be a good idea either, Miss, please, stay safe’. ATOS. Was. Worried. They sent physically dying people to work. I was deemed unable to even try. Maybe because I was already dead inside. There was no use. There was no hope.

It is the little things, the ones that spin you on a road.

Terrible times, with of course some bright times in between, some lucky and real friendships (which I will treasure forever- I hope you know you are loved and appreciated). Often online. Sometimes on stage - opportunities found online. It gave me an extra lifeline that online. I was performing again. When able to. I was alive on stage. Half dead in life. But still alive on stage.

It is the little things, the ones that make you laugh or cry.

My cat- the love of my life, the jewel of my happiness- found online on Gumtree while I was having a moment of manic-ness. God knows why, I had become convinced I had to have a cat or I would die. I found him. I went to bed. It was 3am. It had been... maybe two days of not sleeping to find ‘Him’. He now watches over me, every day. It is funny. As it turned out I probably would have killed myself a few days later had I not found him. I found out that horrible news about my so-called friend. Arrested. Charged. Guilty. As I was listening to that truth that had been hiding behind a facade all the time, my heart slowly slid down my body, and I thought ‘once it reach my heel and slides to my toes, I will die. Because my heart will just slip out. And leave me dead.’ So I left the pub with a smile and a good word, behind a great heavy mask to hide despair. Half dead, close to death. Carrying a heavy mask. My heart was in my toes, hanging there, about to go. I felt it slipping away, ever so slightly, almost. I thought my cat needs feeding- I can't throw myself under a train or let myself die because accidentally my heart slipped away, it left through my big toe. ‘Because my cat needs feeding! If I am dead, who will feed him?’ did I think. I thought it all the way. I needed to stay alive for my cat. Because he needed feeding. And care. And love. And my heart went up a bit. Just back up to my heel. I stayed alive the whole trip .I fed my cat. A cat fund on Gumtree at 3am on the net.

I woke up a day (or two) later. I was alive. I had fed my cat. He was alive too. My cat was there next to me. I sent a picture to his previous owner. She was happy. She hadn't needed to kill him. It had saved her money. Thank you internet, you saved my life. Thank you internet, you saved his life.

It is the little things, the ones that save your life.

I feared now I would go back to those times, because I had lost all my habits. I had maybe lost myself. It was all in boxes, in a strange home in a strange place with a strange jobs and strange people. I. Did. Not. Know. Who was I and where was I?

It is the little things, the ones that keep you alive.

Luckily my cat was with me. ‘I can't leave my job, he needs a house and food’ is my self-pep talk. I need to sort myself, for my cat, found, yes, online.

And obviously my family and friends supporting me- I knew you were there, somewhere, in my phone. I saw you and heard you - you were there virtually, sometimes, in my hand. When I had data.

You were hidden in my phone. Somewhere. Prisoners. In my hand. Released, when I had data. But I knew you were there if needed. If I had enough credit. If my phone worked. A very thin lifeline.

The Three Fates kept spinning.

It is the little things, the ones that are lurking.

I called my mum from the supermarket and the library to be able to speak to her. Her voice, seeing her: a virtual embrace and support, impossible from ‘that’ home. I was acceding FB to be able to keep the social life I had. In some limited, perverted form of an Iphone. A thin lifeline. A very little lifeline. Little. Little. But big as well. But god knows how I would have fared without that little, little access. Big. Issues. Little. Things. That. Matter.

It is the little things the ones that spin you around.

When the internet engineer failed me on 11 November, I howled for two hours. My new neighbours had to come down to check I was ok, wondering what had happened. What an introduction. I howled. Like I had howled for my cat when he disappeared on that day of the move (he was just hiding). Like I howled when they told me of previous internet engineer mishaps. I howled as I got lost in ‘my’ new neighbourhood because it is not mine. And I needed a GP because I was unwell and I could not find one. As I howled when I thought my cat had swallowed poison. Although, in fact, he had not- going away for the day to give him a break was the best, cheapest treatment he could have. I was howling. Again. ‘Too easily distressed, might kill herself’ had they said on that Atos paper.

Because it is the little things, the ones that stop you from falling.

And yet, I had really good days. Because those dreadful demons hide under the cape of Super-wellness. Once that cape is hidden away, they appear. They sneak on you. So how can you be sick? How can you not be normal? Did they say.

It is the little things the ones that kill you slowly.

I was horribly sick this week- stomach bug and horrid cold. My body had enough. It too was giving up. Had to go do some tests, they thought I had a stroke (luckily the 'lady doth protest too much' helped them see it probably was not the case) because, once again I became distressed. I was given a contact for mental support. To avoid me falling. They said it might be useful. A little too late. They had feared. Again.

It is the little things the ones that spin you around.

Saturday morning I had a huge migraine. Internet is such a little thing. Did they say. It is so little you might not see it. It is so little you might forget about it. It is so little you might think it does not matter.

It is the little things the ones that spin and spin.

HE (the Engineer) came and sorted my internet. My migraine disappeared. Just like that. My anxiety just left - like a ghostly layer torn away, like a dreadful plaster you pulled off in one go.

‘Little things’. Just a little thing, did they say.

Obviously, there will always be struggles. There will always be relapses. They will always be lurking in the corner, those shadows.

But it is the little things, the ones that make a huge difference to someone.

Even if you don't know. Even if you didn't know. Even if you will never know.

It is the little things, the ones you can’t see, because they are so little, and you forget them. Because they are so little. You almost start thinking they do not matter. Or even exist.

But friends held me back. But cat held me back. My lifeline. My online life. The small things.

The little things, the ones that matter a lot.

You do not know what will save somebody’s life, somebody’s mind.

It is the little things: a smile, a word, a gift, the internet, a cat, a glass, a like or a nudge, a message, a smile ... again.

Because it is the little things.

The little things that allow you to feel normal, invited into society again. The likes and the pokes, and the messages. The invites. The meet-ups in real and in virtual life. The acceptance. The virtual hugs and chats. The midnight check. The being able to sit down on my couch and being virtually transported to Belgium into my mother' arms. The virtual cuddles. Those things. That might be little.

Because it is the little things.

You do not see them anymore, these little things that matter, because they are so little. You forget about them, because ‘do they even really matter? They are so little.’

But those little things matter.

And you, my friends, gave me some of those little things.

Whether you knew it or you didn't. Whether you meant it, or you didn't.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

It is only a little thing. But I hope it matters.

Sandra Meunier studied writing with Birkbeck (Writing Diploma) - and did acting and modelling, as well as other jobs. She is autistic (one of those adults who eventually why they were so 'odd' amongst people after so many years) and am trying to write about this experience. Spotlight profile - Personal Website

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