THE FIRST night I spent at Bill Wyman's country home, when I was 13, he told me the story of the house ghost. A young girl had married the much older lord of the manor who destroyed her, body and soul. She finally starved herself to death there.
I'm about 90 per cent recovered from the allergies and depression that sent my weight plummeting to 5 1/2 stone at the end of my marriage to Bill. I'm stronger both mentally and physically, but I'm still not free of the past. It does come back to haunt me, especially at night.
I sometimes dream about Bill, that we're together or at a party with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood and I'm back in that time. I wake up with a rush of panic and nausea before I realise, praise the Lord, that I'm out of it. Then I start to feel angry because of him. He was 47 when we met - surely old enough to know right from wrong and not to take advantage of a teenager's naive love.
What makes me most angry is that, because I felt abused and demeaned by Bill, I am still edgy about sex. He used it to manipulate me and he also used it as a weapon. When I was really ill the last thing I wanted was to make love. Memories like that still come back to me when I'm in bed with Pat.
I've only ever slept with four men in my life, but my opinion is that men are a lot more sexual than women. I like cuddling and kissing, but I freeze, even with Pat, when physical affection is misinterpreted as an overture. I think, 'If you love me why are you just sexual towards me?' and I don't like it.
I can enjoy making love, but I still feel the confusion - that this is wrong but right - that I did when I was under-age with Bill. I wear my bra and knickers in bed, which I suppose is a kind of security thing.
For a long time after my illness I really hated going to bed because it reminded me of the months I spent too weak to get up, weighed down with sickness and depression.
I've always been scared of the dark and when I was really bad my mum used to sleep in the bed with me. It didn't make any difference to the frightening symptoms I developed, though: I could hear talking and voices repeating themselves. When I closed my eyes I felt I was going so deep and distant that I would die.
I started to pray a lot during those months in bed. I had nothing to guide me except God and I clung on to my faith. I used to pray about which foods I could eat without getting an allergy and the answers would come in dreams.
I believe He took me to the depths of despair and broke me down to build me up better than I was before. I still have my Bible and prayer books by my bed and pray all the time.
Since marrying Pat last year I have developed a sense of luxury about going to bed and often have a little lie-down in the afternoons. My two Yorkshire terriers come with me and we all snuggle up with my fluffy toys.
For the first time in my life I've got curtains in my bedroom - though they are thin enough to let light through from the street lamps - and can sleep with the light off at night. I have no problems drifting off into a peaceful sleep with Pat's arms around me - unless we've had an argument.
Our relationship hasn't been easy - we've both been married before - and my problems with sex do cause distances between us. We try to work things out and spend most evenings together at home - though if I do go out I like to party all night]
A little difficult patch has just ended - which Pat heralded by leaving me a massive love message pinned to the bedroom mirror so it was the first thing I saw when I woke up.
Because I know it could all be taken away at any moment, I enjoy every minute of my new life while it lasts. I'm blessed with the love of my husband, my mother and my sister and with a great deal of happiness. I'm leaving the nightmares behind me and Pat says that recently I've started to wake him up - by laughing in my sleep.
Mandy Smith's book 'It's All Over Now' is available in paperback from 11 July, Blake pounds 4.99.
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