Sinead O’Connor on her creativity and dealing with depression

On or about April 24, 2012, an announcement was posted on her site that Sinead O’Connor has had to cancel her tour.

She posted the following note:

“With enormous regret I must announce that I have to cancel all touring for the year as am very unwell due to bi polar disorder.

“As you all know I had a very serious breakdown between December and  March  and I had been advised by my doctor not to go on tour but didn’t  want to ‘fail’ or let anyone down as the tour was already booked to  coincide with album release.

“So very stupidly I ignored his advice to my  great detriment, attempting to be stronger than I actually am. I apologise sincerely for any difficulties this may cause.”


Like many people, she has been dealing with depression for years. This is my 2007 post:

“She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or manic depression. O’Connor describes the illness as like having a gaping hole in the centre of her being… The diagnosis, and then the drugs, gave her back her creativity.”

Excerpted from the article “Sinead O’Connor talks music, mental illness and men,” by Sheryl Garratt [London Times] :

The new album, Theology, is her first to feature new songs for seven years. In 2003.. she announced she was giving up music completely… When I ask why, she comes up with a variety of answers: her manager of 12 years, Steve Fargnoli, had just died and she didn’t want to replace him.

Sinead O’Connor“I got into the pop thing very young… I was 17 when I signed my deal and I came to feel that I hadn’t formed an identity of my own. I was quite disillusioned, and also, I was tired of carrying the weight of the whole “controversial Sinead O’Connor” crap.

“That’s a painful, difficult thing to carry, and I felt I couldn’t work without having to deal with that. So I decided to just come away from it all. I didn’t have a nanny or any help in the house, I just looked after the kids. It was great!”

Everyone but her, it seems, knew she’d come back to music eventually. And she has, but first she needed to find her way through something far darker. Ever since she was 23, she says, she’d had thoughts of suicide.

“I began to have this quiet little voice every now and then – although ‘voice’ is the wrong way to put it. It’s your own thoughts just gone completely skew-whiff: ‘Look at that tree, you might hang yourself on it.’ Until the volume went up so loud that I took myself to hospital.

“There would be nothing wrong in your life, but you’d think about suicide all the time. It was almost funny. But after Shane was born I was really ill, and I was really worried because I was close to actually doing it. So when he was about about five months old, I took myself to hospital.”

She’d been to hospital before, a couple of times, but says they just left her crying in a bed for a week or so before discharging her. She’d also been to various therapists – including one, in London, whom she saw five times a week for well over a year.

But this time she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or manic depression. O’Connor describes the illness as like having a gaping hole in the centre of her being. She took the drugs she’d been prescribed, she smiles, “And within half an hour it was like cement going over the hole.”

When she gave up music, she got rid of all her instruments. “I never even looked at a guitar, there was nothing in the house.”

But straight after leaving the doctor’s office, she bought the piano that now sits in her kitchen. The diagnosis, and then the drugs, gave her back her creativity.

It wasn’t all so immediate, she says. Full recovery has taken time, and there have been setbacks: while pregnant with Yeshua she stopped taking the drugs, and afterwards she didn’t go back on them. “I was hoping that perhaps the thing would disappear and I’d be grand, but I wasn’t. So I’ve been back on them now since he was eight weeks.”

It seems to me that her illness could explain much of the behaviour that has got her into trouble over the years. Subsequent revelations have shown she was right to link some elements of the Catholic Church to child abuse, but ripping up a picture of the Pope on live US television probably wasn’t the most career-savvy way to express those concerns, for instance.

Yet she isn’t interested in wiping the slate clean. “I don’t want anyone looking at things that Sinead O’Connor has done – the Pope thing, or any other f***ing thing – and saying that those are the result of being manic depressive, because I don’t believe that. Those are things that I stand by and am proud of and would do again if I had the time over.”

But the suicidal thoughts were part of her illness, she says, and the drugs have taken them away. I point at the tree outside the window. So when you look at that now? She smiles, and it lights up her whole face. “I think, What a gorgeous tree!”

I wonder if she feels angry that so many professionals failed to notice that she was suffering from a treatable medical condition, and she shrugs and says that when she went into therapy she was young, and stupid – and famous, and rich. “I don’t so much get pissed off, I get sad about it.”

Source: The Times [UK] June 16, 2007.

Photo by Kevin Abosch from beliefnet article: Sinead O’Connor’s Act of Love.

Her new album is “Theology

Depression and Creativity site – more articles and resources for managing depression

Related Talent Development Resources page: Bipolar disorder


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