Sinead O'Connor: I’ve no regrets about my cry for help – why is it a taboo?
I’ve been scoffed at and mocked for years, and it left me feeling humiliated and unhappy, writes Sinead O’Connor
Published 18/09/2011 | 09:21
IN THE last five weeks I've had more fun than I ever had in my life. Made more friends. Enjoyed writing, which I just love. And been very silly and happy. And here is the reason why.
Up until the last five or so weeks, I had been a person full of grief. Don't think I am saying anything every baby in the street doesn't know. There were very ‘good' reasons why I carried such grief. And managed to pile on more grief year after year because of not having processed the original grief, and consequently getting into more grief-making situations.
Now, don't get me wrong, I wrote nine albums’ worth of pretty decent songs with three chords, a capo and a smashed-up heart. And I wouldn't change a thing. I've had the time of my life in the 30 years I've been a writer and singer of songs. Every dream I ever had came effortlessly true. Dreams I would never even have dared contemplate came true. Too many to list here.
All musical. I've had an amazing life as a mother and as an artist. And I love those aspects. Musicians are very privileged people. We get to say the stuff ‘normal' society doesn't say. We don't live by the rules ‘normal' society sets out for people. We are our own bosses. It is accepted generally that we are all half-mad. And indeed we would be a great disappointment were that not the case. In fact my own theory about musicians and madness is that we do your madness for you. If we weren't mad, youse would all be in the nut-house.
Someone has to let it out. It's a great strain fitting in into so-called ‘normal’ society. Keeping your nose clean. Not f *****g with the s**t-stem. Being the rightshaped peg in the rightshaped hole. While being taught sweet fanny Adams at school as to how to actually conduct life. So to me, ‘normal' society is what's at the very bottom of the bottle of great champagne. And art is what happens when God shakes the bottle. Out it spurts in painting or dancing or singing or banging or screaming or shouting or crying or laughing; all the stuff that doesn't get said. Ireland is a particularly difficult version of ‘normal' society. Because we're in a gap now between what was ‘normal' and what will be.
And that gap is a frightening place to be. And the fear creates silence. And silences need to be broken if things are to be moved on from. Things need to be talked about and considered. Even things that shock people. In fact, especially the things that shock people.
What we were under — Catholic theocracy — we haven't quite shed yet. We won't until those of us over 35 are dead. We all are of an Ireland which, thank God, our children do not know. Consequently they love themselves. They have a great sense of how they deserve to be treated. And how valuable they are just as they are. They are able to put aside the opinions of us idiot grown-ups who are still so hung up on the old rules of what was considered ‘normal'.
So, for example, they can openly come out at 12, 13, 14 and say they are gay. And be loved and appreciated by their friends for doing so. They can talk openly about sex and love and relationships. They don't have shame hang-ups about sexual matters such as was driven into us over-35s. I'm writing this because a) writing is how I work through things. And b) it will by today have been all over the place that I was extremely distressed last week after an experience I had wherein it was stated to me that my talking so openly about sex was mentally unsound and bad parenting. Talking so intimately about sex is not the “boundaries by which normal society lives” is what I was told. And in my head I'm thinking “hold on, who dictated what's ‘normal'?”
It was said to me that I should be concerned that “people would laugh at me in a mocking way”. I said “sure I've been dealing with that since I put out my first album! I've no problem with that; and anyway, who do you mean?” “People I've been with who don't know I know you have been mocking you.” I'm like, “so?” Then yes it was said to me that 14 years from now my children would be damaged emotionally because I wrote openly and crudely about sex. I reject that entirely. My children are extremely intelligent, open, unashamed and silly, funny people. And there is no subject at all that they would not or do not discuss openly with me.
This was the same as had happened on the phone with the poor Late Late researcher. Amn't I ‘mad' for being open and crude about sex? I've found the most difficult thing in my life to manage is being the kind of woman I am in the kind of Ireland we still are and will be ’til our grandchildren are lucky enough to get rid of us so they can have fun. Now I'm gonna say something which is another ‘forbidden' . . . I have often and still often struggle with suicidal feelings when I am subjected to this ‘mad' Sinead O'Connor business.
It is wrong. Degrading. Insulting. A breach of my human rights as I see it, and most disrespectful. And also dangerous as it sends a signal to other women that they must fit into old ‘norms'. Which were never actually ‘normal' certainly when it comes to sex. I'm a very strong woman. But I am also over-sensitive by nature of what I do for a living and I, like every other human on Earth, am a kaleidoscope of sometimes glorious, sometimes agonising contradictions.
I wrote on Twitter on my way home from the visit as I was crying my face off that I have been so traumatised over the years by this treatment of me as if I'm a mad woman it has often made me wish there was a way I could die without my children knowing it was on purpose. I would rather not live in Ireland. But I am here because it is what is best for my children. If Ireland wasn't still in the grip of the dregs of theocracy a woman like me could live here happily. Without disrespect or humiliation. So, time to contextualise what this person kept referring to as my ‘behaviour' (as if I'm a child and not a 44-year-old woman). I was very depressed when my marriage broke up. I kept it well together at home, but when I was away working I was crying all the time. I had to stop in the middle of a song in Romania because I started crying. I really was very sad. Mainly at feeling I'm a horrible person who should never curse a poor man again by going out with one. Which is how often people feel when a marriage ends.
I woke up one day about a month ago and decided I had done enough crying and I was sick of being negative about myself and it was time to take that doctor's advice from Nothing Compares 2 U and try to have fun no matter how. So I wrote about sex. In a jocular fashion. Making something funny out of a subject which was painfully on my mind. I had fun. And from the moment the piece was published I had nothing but fun. I laughed and smiled, I forgot all about my woes. I forgot all about what a supposedly horrible person I am. I forgot to bash myself around for being sad or horrible. I became funny. I found things funny. I met funny people over the net and Twitter. I wrote more. I enjoyed writing. It got more and more mischievous the more the ‘normal' people were taking it seriously.
Tweets which were obviously jokes were reported as serious — and that amused me. Anyway. I'm not dead. Nor will I be til God gets me. Neither am I mad, however, and I'm not going to place myself in the company of anyone who is going to try that ‘squinting windows' ‘Magdalene' mentality on me. The reason I am not nor will be dead by my own hand is that I say when I feel suicidal. I get bashed for that too. Which is just stupid. “Oh you shouldn't let people know you feel that way, they'll think you're mad” and this that or the f *****g other . . . “and it's bad for your children”. F**k that! What's with all this sh*te we're not supposed to say? Whether sex or suicide . . . As Yeats, I think, wrote in some poem of his . . . ‘How can we recover from what we can't remember?’ Well how can we recover from what is not talked about openly? There is no shame in feeling suicidal. Nor in anyone knowing that that wave passes over you sometimes.
No one should be judged badly for however it is they choose to make their cry for help. I am not at all sorry that I wrote what I did on Twitter. It was a cry for help and help was received. So it was worth it. I have no shame around the fact that I can be shot into suicidal feelings by certain people's treatment of me. I am no different to any other person, I therefore act as I believe any other person should be free to.
As I said earlier, I've been scoffed and mocked and laughed at and derided and treated like a lunatic for so long it doesn't bother me enough to stop being me. Yes it makes me wish I could either not live in Ireland or die. But it doesn't make me try to be something I'm not to get people to leave me alone. I'm not going to try squeezing into a round hole when I'm a square peg.