Last night I had a dream about a person who tried very hard to ruin my life.
In the dream we were friends as we used to be. Quite close, same sense of humour, both had sons the same age, who played together. She was an actress, and a very good one.
She toured, worked on stage, did imitations, her Victoria Wood was excellent, as she could also play the piano. All the time I knew her, she was involved in off stage dramas, also throughout that time, she would always "play away" from home. Sometimes with quite famous people that she used to boast about.
"It means nothing - everybody does it." she'd smile at me. "Michael Crawford does it all the time." Now, I don't know whether that's true or not, because actresses can be very good liars. I found that out later.
Life chuntered on as it does,with me behind the cameras on the studio floor, I actually won a Bafta for my camerawork, but couldn't afford to go to pick it up. It meant an overnight stay in London, an evening dress, the hairdresser, the reduced price seat at dinner (only £130!). Getting someone to look after my son overnight and looking for a plus one. So my lovely producer picked it up for me, it's in a case somewhere in the Beeb.
I was a single mum who wore jeans and jumpers in the winter, and jeans and Hawaiian shirts in the summer. I paid a mortgage, I was paying for my son to go to public school, and all the other bills, it was hard going. I was keeping alive by eating left over sandwiches from conferences, and friends buying me the odd Mars bar at lunchtime.
She was taken out to dinner, had a dull husband with a reasonable job, two boys at state school with "special needs". A rather rich set of parents who always refused to help her out
as although Father supported her treading the boards, Mother refused to acknowledge it was even a job. She would boast of her lover with the motorbike and her gay friend
who was very "lovey", whom her husband refused to let in the house in case he "turned" the boys.
Then it happened, well it happens to all of us. She got older, the offer of leads got less, she tried character parts. Was fairly successful, but hated it. She constantly auditioned for young female leads at the age of 40 something, refusing to believe that once she had the make up on, that she could be taken for a girl of 16, not a middle aged mother.
About that time I got together with my wonderful new hubby, we fitted like two parts of a puzzle that had been missing from the box. I was complete, I was happy, my work load seemed lighter, just because he was there.
We moved about with his job, I gave up camerawork to run my own successful seaside holiday cottage business. Cornwall was marvellous. But I digress.
When his job finished and we moved back to the Midlands, I met my actress friend for lunch a couple of times. She was now doing amdram. One day she called me to ask me to meet up with her at a cafe. She told me she had met a man and fallen in love, he was THE ONE,
she said, he was younger than her, a passionate lover, she had packed her case and was going to go and live with him. She had met him in her latest production.
I tried to talk her out of it, her boys were coming up for GCSEs and her husband dull as
he was, would be devasted. Just leaving - disappearing wasn't right.
"They'll be all right." She grinned at me, "Anyway, they're grown up now they don't need
me. Don't I have a right be happy like you? Don't you want me to be happy?"
"Of course I do," I answered, "but can't you talk to them?"
"No. I'm going." She snarled. "Don't tell them."
"I won't." I sat stunned.
Anyway, the new man's wife found out. He wasn't going anywhere. As a token of his "love"
he gave my friend a cufflink as a keepsake. I wondered how many times he'd done that.
When I saw her next she told me that she thought I'd told her husband. I insisted I hadn't.
He told me later that he found out by going though her phone, her lover's wife had done the same and called to tell her to keep away from her husband, and he answered.
So it was all out in the open. But that day my life changed. It started with nuisance calls
twelve or thirteen a day, with heavy breathing. With her waiting outside my house in her car
when I came home from work, then sneering at me and driving off. She refused to talk to me when I phoned her.
My dear husband phoned hers, trying to sort out the problem man to man. But her husband told mine that I ought to be in a mental institution as I had early onset dementia, and he was
going tell everyone and make sure that happened. I was terrified, so we phoned the police and my lawyer friend.
The Police had heard it all before, told me it would die down just keep out of their way. These people usually find someone else to start on if we'd do that. My Lawyer said get yourself tested, because you can't fight a battle without ammunition. So I did, my Doctor said it was obvious there was nothing wrong with me mentally. I even took a Mensa test and found out I have an IQ of 158 Genius class.
But they did not leave us alone, they phoned my work - who just laughed at them. My
husband's work who told them they didn't listen to randoms talking their staff down.
Even my own family, who were looking for nursing homes for me, and my son who they managed to turn completely against me, as he thought all this was my fault, even now he says I should "Get help".
Friends I had known for years crossed the road to avoid me. I was shouted at and abused.
She had somehow sewn her family back together tighter than ever, while pulling my family apart. I had to move, not give my phone number, keep away from them, even though they still managed to find us, joining my hobby, trying to make me leave. I didn't.
I heard another woman on the radio talking about the same thing that happened to her.
She called it MIND RAPE. That's what is - makes you unsure of yourself, takes your confidence away, you are so aware that something might happen you can't rest. What I will never understand is why anyone believed her. Then a true friend said quite casually,
"She's an actress, that's what she does."
It's been five years now, and I have written seven published books on Amazon and in paperback, have four more in production. Have become a public speaker on Women's Lives in the 17century. Have been on TV talking about the new Poldark. Raised £18K for Shelterbox relief work. Raised over £300 cooking and selling bakes for Movember. I have achieved, achieved, achieved. Despite being seriously ill two years ago, I was determined to carry on. I work for the National Trust as well as everything else.
So why that nightmare last night? Joanne Harris's book. The threads of horror and terror of the character's involved, the decent man, the innocent man Dr Straitley, disbelieved, hounded, threatened, brought it all back in spades.
Well my tormentors did move on, like Spikely in Joanne's book, they got away with it, (sorry for the spoiler).They have had at least three further victims to my knowledge.
It has taken me five years and I am still re-building, the tetris of my life is not complete yet.
People still don't understand the barriers I put up, or how quick I am to defend myself.
I was beseiged. At war, and the peace has been a long time coming.