Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'It's 6.50am, I've had a mere half-hour's sleep, and I'm starting to have a panic attack'
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The Independent Online

I spend all night awake. Not exactly insomnia, more like an anxious mind. I hate myself when I do things wrong. My brain climbs on to a treadmill and repeats and repeats and repeats itself – as if repetition of the mistake had any chance of making things better. But of course, after a night of lying in bed watching back-to-back episodes of CSI: Criminal Minds, and any Top Gear I could lay my hands on, I feel absolutely exhausted. My mind is all over the place, from vengeful mechanics to human hunting and the new Aston Martin.

It's 4am and I'm finding it very hard to get a grip on things, and I'm not writing any of this, I'm just thinking about it. The dawn light is starting to appear. For some insane reason, I have decided to check and delete all the emails and messages on my BlackBerry – including the ones that I've written.

An hour later, it's 5am and the sun has started to do something quite beautiful. My bedroom has both north- and south-facing windows. There's a slight crack in the curtain in front of me. An amazing jet of eastern light has shot through the room, marking out a very beautiful, strange grid. The reason why it's so unusual is because it can only happen for so many minutes early in the morning, before the sun moves over the roof.

But this envelope of beauty and my poetic notions towards it are not going to help with the deletion of all the insane messages and emails I send all over the world. Some I don't even remember writing. It's as though Beelzebub has taken my hand and unconsciously I have been drawn into strange secret language codes that only exist for the extremely drunk, the sleepwalking and the conscious dead. The weird thing is, on one level I really hate myself for it, and on another level I'm well impressed that I can do anything when I'm so out of it.

The BBC World Service is full of news today. The last king of Afghanistan was buried this week. A slow, strange, mournful procession, world dignitaries making their way through the mud-sodden streets, a curfew in place to keep every sniper away, a really peculiar brass band that reminded me of something from a performance of Otto Mühl, the music that the band made, haunting and melodic as though from a distant century. It's still only 6am and my brain has got nowhere to go. It's the time of day really when I like to have sex – as the sun is rising, as the day begins. I wonder if we like to have sex the same as we were conceived, or the time when we were born. I was born at 6.50am, but I have no actual idea of what time I was conceived. It's amazing some people know exactly the moment when their child was conceived. My Mum and Dad actually aren't even sure where. One of them says Southend, the other says southern Ireland. Poetically speaking, for a woman like me, there isn't that much in it. One thing I know definitely: after my Mum came out of hospital she was looked after by a friend in Southend and the first place my twin brother slept was in a chest of drawers. It's one of those strange things. I almost have a memory of it, just because mentally the vision is something so incredibly sweet and cute. These two tiny little brown babies with dark hair and blue eyes (so strange the idea of blue eyes when my eyes are now so brown), all snugged up in their little drawer.

The last images of the kind disappear and I turn the TV off. I wake up after one of those really insane, mad, naked dreams that's too complicated to piece together. Unfortunately it isn't hours later, it's 6.50am and I've had a mere half-hour's sleep. And now just lying in bed I start to have a panic attack. I've got about a million appointments and I'm worried that I'm going to be too tired, or at best irritable, or do my usual trick of falling asleep round at someone's house, or in someone's office, or someone's car. I wish for 24 hours a day and then when I get them I can't use them. I wish we could have credit hours. So that would mean sleeping nearly all winter, like some small hibernating vole, and by doing so it would allow me to stay awake all summer.

On the roof of my house there is a nest with really beautiful little birds. They chirp and sing from early morning until when I get up. Not just bird noises, but real singing, like old-fashioned birdsong, like something from a music box. It would be so wonderful if we could understand what they sing, this happy early-bird family tucked up safely on my roof.

This morning I really wished I could be them. Then again, this morning I wished for so many impossible things. But maybe to be a bird was the simplest of all.

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