First, I wrote this piece, which touched on my violent childhood, the fact that I was attacked and suffocated while pregnant, and the threats I received during the atheist bus campaign, leading to my nervous breakdown. I explained that I take an anti-psychotic, an anti-convulsant and an anti-depressant every day, and will probably have to for the rest of my life. Since then, I have briefly mentioned how violent my father was during my childhood, how I was anorexic, and how I self-mutilated during my teens. (I am now estranged from my parents and brother.)
But until its publication today on the Guardian Music blog, I had never written about the most fantastical element of my childhood: the fact that, between the ages of 16 and 21, I was friends with my favourite band, Duran Duran. They let me hang out with them in the studio, laughed and joked with me, listened to songs I wrote, and let me come to all their gigs for free. After my childhood, it felt wonderful to be accepted by the people I most admired in the world. I was suffering suicidal ideation at the time, and the band's acceptance gave me hope that life could get better.
So here is the piece: http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/oct/02/duran-duran-ordinary-world-dream-of-meeting-them-different-life
When I first wrote it, I sent it to my best friend. He replied "Its biggest problem is that it sounds so improbable, like a highly embroidered teenage girl's fantasy. If I didn't know better I might doubt its authenticity. But that's just your life... I've had a lot of time to get used to the hyper-reality you inhabit, but others haven't! There's nothing you can do about that, though."
Though I wasn't overly worried about proving the story's authenticity, because of all the photos and paraphernalia I had kept from that period, I was very cautious about it. First I sent it to Simon Le Bon, to check he was okay with it. In response, he took me out to dinner. I hadn't seen him for five years, and it was lovely to spend an evening with him.
Next, I contacted Riazat Butt, the Guardian's former religious affairs correspondent, to check that she remembered receiving the letter from Simon. (She did.)
And lastly, I spent an afternoon with the girl who stuck the maths compass in my back at school and was one of the worst bullies. She was lovely, and now has a child my daughter's age. We talked about the bullying, and it felt oddly freeing to be able to look back, aged 34, as our children played together, and to think: it's okay. It was all okay in the end.