Musician Sinead O’Connor claimed she is “one of millions” living with mental illness and dealing with suicidal thoughts in a video she posted on Facebook while at a motel in South Hackensack. USA TODAY
Dr. Phil McGraw opened his new season Tuesday with a wide-ranging interview with troubled troubadour Sinéad O’Connor, who discusses such topics as her abuse at the hands of her mother, how a hysterectomy made her come unglued and led her to attempt suicide (most recently in August of this year), and her infamous 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live.
What sent her into an emotional tailspin?
“What kicked all of this off really was, I had a radical hysterectomy in Ireland two years ago and I lost my mind after that,” the 50-year-old singer told McGraw. “And that’s what I think happened with my family, and we have to give my family credit. They’re not here to speak for themselves so I don’t want to disrespect them, but the fact is, they didn’t know who the hell I was.”
O’Connor recalled, “I was told to leave the hospital two days after the surgery with Tylenol and no hormone replacement and no guidance as to what might happen to me. I was flung into surgical menopause. Hormones were everywhere. I became very suicidal. I was a basket case. After the hysterectomy, I was mental.”
What drove her to make a suicide attempt?
The hysterectomy was the underlying problem, but O’Connor said the episode was triggered by the refusal of a former partner, the father of her 10-year-old son, to bring the child to see her even though he was only a few miles away.
She said that while she was in the hospital trying to stabilize her hormonal situation following surgical menopause, his father put the child into foster care and her family left him there for six months.
“I lost the plot,” she admitted, describing her mindset at the time as “raging and angry … “What made me lose my mind was that they kept me from my most vulnerable child.”
How does she feel about her family now?
“I love my family and I don’t blame them,” she began. “It’s not easy for families of mentally ill people. We can be difficult. I don’t want to make out like I’m a victim. I give it as good as I get. Believe me, I was an (expletive) to my family. I thought it might be better if they saw (a video about) how I’m feeling, they’d relate to it. I hoped in my madness that my family would see it and go, ‘Oh my god, we didn’t realize it’s that bad. We’ll go get her.’ “
McGraw also asked what she felt was lacking in her complicated relationship with her abusive mother Marie, who died in 1985. She said her mother tortured her and her siblings physically and mentally. “She had the smell of evil about her,” O’Connor said.
But McGraw also asked her what she loves and misses about her mother.
“The first thing that came to mind, actually, is that she’s dead,” she said, admitting it was a strange thing to say. “I think that it was very kind of her, although I miss her horribly. I really ache for her and I think that’s part of where my suicidal instinct comes from is that I want my mother. But I cannot wait the day that I naturally get to Heaven so I can see my mother again.”
What was the deal with the pope picture?
O’Connor pushed back at McGraw’s theory that when she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in 1992, she was rebelling against someone other than His Holiness.
At the time, that wasn’t true, she said.
“We in Ireland knew about 10 years before you all did about child abuse within the Catholic Church and we had evidence,” she told McGraw. “That photo itself had been on my mother’s bedroom wall all my life. I was genuinely very angry with what the Church was doing. I risked my career and everything.”
But hindsight being 20/20, she told him, “I know what you’re getting at. And yes, this didn’t occur to me until about six months ago: It’s my father.”
Why does she shave her head?
“When we were children, my sister had the most glorious red hair,” the singer recalled, “like that gorgeous woman on that show Mad Men (Christina Hendricks) … But my mother took it into her head that my sister’s hair was ugly and horrible and disgusting. When I had long hair, she would introduce us as her pretty daughter and her ugly daughter. And that’s why I chopped my hair off. I didn’t want to be pretty. And it was dangerous to be pretty, too, because I kept getting raped and molested everywhere I went.”
Later, when she was an up-and-coming artist in the late 1980s and early 1990s, her record label asked her if she’d be willing to grow her hair out and wear short skirts. She said no.
“I didn’t want to be sold on that,” she told McGraw. “If I was going to be successful, I wanted it to be because I was a good musician. Plus, I came from an age of protest singers.”
Could we be seeing new music from her soon?
McGraw surprised O’Connor with an offer from producer David Foster offering to work with her on new material.
She was 100% on board with that idea: “Writing would do me so much good, to start making some bloody music!”