Inside Sinead O'Connor's Troubling Past

For what has felt like the entirety of her music career, Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor has been a lightening rod for controversy. Whether she's ripping up a photo of the pope or penning open letters to Miley Cyrus, the "Nothing Compares 2 U" singer has become a never-ending source of wacky headlines for the tabloids. What exactly is her deal? Beneath the hype and headlines, O'Connor is grappling with a deeply disturbing personal story.

She was abused as a child

In 1991, O'Connor revealed publicly for the first time that she had been a victim of child abuse. The revelation came during a cover story for SPIN magazine. "My mother was a very unhappy woman, who was very, very violent and found it very difficult to cope with life, because of obviously her own experiences as a child," she said. "I was beaten up very severely with every kind of implement you can imagine yourself being beaten with. And I was starved, I was locked in my room for days at a time without being fed, with no clothes. I was made to sleep in the garden of my house overnight. I lived for a summer in the garden of my house."

O'Connor has continued to discuss her horrific upbringing. Speaking to People magazine in 2012, she detailed her mother's physical violence, saying that it "perpetrated particularly in a sexual manner." "She wasn't trying to have sex with me, but she spent a good time trying to destroy my reproductive system," she said. "It was psychological, too. It was a torture chamber, really. But I forgive my mother; she just wasn't well."

She tore up a photo of the pope

The Irish artist's career in the States effectively came to a halt during a now-infamous performance on Saturday Night Live, in which she ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II at the end of an a capella performance of Bob Marley's song "War." "Fight the real enemy," she said to a stunned audience. The stunt did not sit well with American audiences. On the following week's episode of Saturday Night Live, host Joe Pesci openly mocked the Irish singer in his monologue, and hard copies of her music were crushed by steamrollers at protests, according to The Atlantic.

Why'd she do it? As The Atlantic points out, O'Connor was standing up against child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, which had become a massive issue in her home country of Ireland. Despite the career fallout, O'Connor has continued to fight the Catholic Church in articles for The Washington Post and interviews with Anderson Cooper, among others.

She's struggled with bipolar disorder and PTSD

In a 2007 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, O'Connor opened up about her struggles with bipolar disorder. "It was actually like something broke in my brain..." she said. "Everything became too much. The best way I can describe to you is, you're so sad, you're just terribly sad, that you're like a bucket of water with holes in it. Every pore of you is crying...and you don't even understand why or what [is causing it]." O'Connor, who claimed she attempted suicide on her 33rd birthday, told Winfrey she was starting to see improvements in her mood with the help of medication.

According to People, O'Connor claimed in 2011 that she was actually misdiagnosed as bipolar and newly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from her years of abuse as a child. "Recovery from child abuse is a life's work..." she said. "You're vulnerable, self-esteem-wise. I'm hearing all these things people are saying about me to my husband, and I started to think negatively about myself, and it pushed some dangerous buttons. It's like if you get a puppy from the pound who has had the s*** kicked out of it—you have to be careful with how you deal with it. It was quite the trauma, to be honest."

She got into a bizarre feud with Miley Cyrus

In 2013, O'Connor was embroiled in a high-profile feud with Miley Cyrus, of all people. How the hell did that happen? Supposedly, it all started when Cyrus gave an interview to Rolling Stone, during which she revealed that her "Wrecking Ball" video was inspired by O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U." This prompted O'Connor to write an open letter to Cyrus, in which she warned the young singer about the dangers of exploitation in Hollywood. "Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women," O'Connor said. "The message you keep sending is that it's somehow cool to be's so not cool's dangerous."

Cyrus replied by posting a screenshot of tweets by O'Connor. In the tweets, O'Connor was begging to find a psychiatrist to get her back on meds. Cyrus dug the knife in further by comparing O'Connor to actress Amanda Bynes, who was in the midst of a reported breakdown at the time.

Naturally, O'Connor was ticked off by Cyrus' response. She went on to pen four additional open letters to Cyrus, chastising the "We Can't Stop" singer for making fun of mental illness and demanding an apology. "Who the f*** is advising you? Because taking me on is even more f*****' stupid than behaving like a prostitute and calling it feminism," O'Connor wrote in one of the letters.

Their feud was later parodied on an episode of South Park.

She posted a suicide note to Facebook

In November 2015, O'Connor posted a horrifying suicide note on Facebook directed at her family over their alleged "horrific set of betrayals." "I have taken an overdose," she wrote, according to Rolling Stone. "There is no other way to get respect. I am not at home, I'm at a hotel, somewhere in Ireland, under another name. If I wasn't posting this, my kids and family wouldn't even find out." She was subsequently found "safe and sound" and went on to receive medical treatment, according to TMZ.

The following day, O'Connor wrote another angry Facebook post to her family members, calling them "child stealing murderers." "You're dead to me," she said, according to TMZ. "You killed your mother. You stole my sons. You left me alone for twelve weeks! Why did I have to hear it was your hypocritical asses while I was unconscious?? And now you're Gone and not picking up phone?"

She's being sued by Arsenio Hall

In the wake of Prince's death in 2016, O'Connor wrote yet another wild Facebook post alleging that talk show host Arsenio Hall had been supplying Prince drugs for years. Hall responded in May with a $5 million defamation lawsuit that denied O'Connor's claims and classified her as a "desperate attention-seeker," according to TMZ.

She went missing in May 2016

On May 16, 2016, O'Connor was reported as "missing suicidal" in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago, after the singer failed to return from an afternoon bike ride. The report was similar to O'Connor's alleged suicide attempt in November 2015, according to TMZ, and police successfully located her in an area hotel a few hours after she was reported missing. O'Connor resurfaced on social media one day later with, you guessed it, a rambling Facebook post blaming her ex-husband and son for driving her out of Ireland and threatening to take them all to court.