In her new memoir Rememberings, Sinéad O'Connor opens up about coming to peace with her traumatic childhood and her recovery from a breakdown in 2015

By Jeff Nelson
May 27, 2021 08:00 AM
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Sinéad O'Connor
| Credit: Ellius Grace/The New York Times

Sinéad O'Connor is sharing her side of the story.

In her new memoir Rememberings, the enigmatic singer-songwriter, 54, opens up about her abusive mother and how childhood trauma played into the breakdown she suffered in 2015.

After her parents divorced when she was a child, O'Connor lived with her mother Marie, who she has said was "not well" and would beat and kick her daily, often in the abdomen. O'Connor even wound up in the hospital.

"My mother had this obsession with destroying my womb," O'Connor says in the new issue of PEOPLE.

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Sinéad O'Connor as a child

O'Connor went to live with her dad when she was 13, and her mother died when she was 18. But O'Connor's trauma haunted her for years to come.

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as complex post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder, O'Connor says, she hit a low in 2015 after undergoing a radical hysterectomy to treat endometriosis. The procedure — and the surgical menopause that followed — flattened her.

"When I had the surgery, I was terribly triggered," says O'Connor, who has spent the years since in and out of psychiatric facilities.

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Sinéad O'Connor performing in 1990
| Credit: Martyn Goodacre/Getty

After the procedure, O'Connor would sometimes post alarming ing cries for help on social media ("I have taken an overdose," she announced on Facebook in 2015).

"I was mental," she admits, referring to her struggles with mental illness. "But I don't regret those 'embarrassing' videos. I'm quite proud, in a weird way, that I was that open ... The nature of a singer is to be emotionally honest. I've always been pretty open. And I have no regrets."

Today, O'Connor has biweekly check-ins with her medical team.

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Sinéad O'Connor in 2019
| Credit: HGL/GC

"You can never predict what might trigger the [PTSD]. I describe myself as a rescue dog: I'm fine until you put me in a situation that even slightly smells like any of the trauma I went through, then I flip my lid," she says. "I manage very well because I've been taught brilliant skills. There was a lot of therapy. It's about focusing on the things that bring you peace as opposed to what makes you feel unstable."

O'Connor has also made peace with her childhood.

"I was so busy surviving [the abuse] that I didn't have time to feel any of the feelings," she says. "You learn to live with it, but what helped me live with it was to forgive my mother."

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Sinéad O'Connor, Rememberings

Today, O'Connor — who converted from Catholicism to Islam several years ago — has four children from four previous relationships: Jake, 33, a chef; Roisin, 25, a pastry chef; and Shane, 17, and Yeshua, 14. She plans to release new music and go on tour in the next year. But for now, she finds joy in everyday things.

"I'm happiest when I'm in bed, the house is tidy, and I can binge-watch detective shows," O'Connor says, adding that Murder in the First, starring Taye Diggs, is a favorite.

"The last man that touched my body took out my reproductive system. I've not let a man touch my body in any way since," she says, but "if Taye Diggs is available, I'd consider it."

For more on Sinéad O'Connor and her new memoir Rememberings, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.