Tracey Emin: 'There was someone else in the house – or something else...'

My Life In A Column
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The Independent Online

I've been up since six o'clock this morning and my day started reasonably optimistically. Not me – I didn't start off optimistic, but the early components of my day had very nice, comforting qualities. I like the darkness in the mornings, it's a completely different kind of darkness to night, I feel less afraid. Having a fear of the dark is something that I promised myself to resolve. I talked to a doctor about it recently, he gave me the lowdown on melatonin levels, depression, exhaustion and nausea – all effects created by too much light, as well as too little. I'm in the too much light category. My fear of the dark means I have to sleep with the light on, admittedly a low level of light, and strangely enough, glowing primeval through an orange lampshade, orange light being almost tolerable to sleep with, as subconsciously the orange glow emulates the midnight-burning embers of a fire.

I've been afraid of the dark all my life. It seemed that all the bad would arrive in the jet-black darkness of night. As a child, my eyes would dance around looking for what I called the "white light shadows": reflections from mirrors bouncing off on to shiny surfaces. They would scare me as much as the recesses of the darkness. Our bedroom didn't have a door, it had a curtain, and while my mum was at work – she was a waitress in a club called The Gay Nights, all very groovy and Seventies, prawn cocktail and steak Diane – I would lie in bed, almost incapable of breathing with fear, as I watched the curtains slowly move.

A breeze of darkness would enter the room. Curling up into the smallest ball I could, I would pull the bedcovers over my head and mentally try to force the evil apparition to go away. I would feel the coldness recede out of the room and the brushing noise of the curtain as it fell, the creaking of the footsteps on the stairs, strange poltergeist movements understood by the clashing of china and the scraping of chairs.

I would look over at my brother, knowing that I was going to have to wake him up, but there was someone else in the house, or something else in the house and I didn't want it to know that I knew. As long it was unaware of my knowledge of its presence, I would be safe: this evil dark collection of negative ions, a forcefield of something from another place, which almost materialised into a human form.

Other times, I would sit bolt-upright, get the two ends of the wires from the plug on the lamp and jam them into the socket, using the plug of the record player to push them in. The fear of being electrocuted was a lot less than the fear of the ghostly apparition. I would stay awake for hours, a nine-year-old girl crocheting squares at two in the morning. When I'd hear my mum's taxi pull up, I would open up the window, which was above my bed, and scream for her to come into the house.

We weren't supposed to be left alone, but sometimes we were. I don't know whether my real fear was that of being alone, or whether the fear created some kind of psychic attack, but the psychic ghostly apparitions have never seemed to leave. The darker, the quieter the room, the more chance there is of something spiritually entering into it. At the age of 10, I discovered the radio. I would keep it on at night, very, very low, so low that you could hardly hear it, but that frequency going through the air would be enough to break up and blast away any unwanted guest.

I feel sad today, slightly out of control. Well, more like my life has no control. Every moment of today seems to have been filled with unwanted guests. My brain is filled and crammed with a million thoughts that I don't want to think about. My morning started off so beautifully, with so much potential, stretched out on my back in semi-darkness listening to Bach. At six o'clock this morning there seemed to be so much to gain. It seemed like I had a whole day ahead of me. And now, at six o'clock in the evening, my day seems to have been a little sad and solid. Not the kind of day I wanted at all. I've been filled up from a strange glass of melancholy. My heart feels heavy, and Christmas is looming. It's a week away, but a week that will go like the blink of an eye. I'll no doubt spend it on my own again this year, thinking and contemplating, trying to look forward as opposed to the past. But it's difficult when you've got so many ghosts that follow you around.

Happy Christmas everybody.