Sinéad O’Connor made an emotional appearance on the season 16 premiere of Dr. Phil on Tuesday, breaking into tears while detailing the years of horrifying physical, sexual and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her late mother, Marie.
But among the many revelations in the heart-breaking hour was O’Connor’s insistence that she doesn’t hold resentment towards her mother, and has even forgiven the woman for the abuse.
“I hate not being able to love her,” O’Connor said of Marie — who died in a car crash in 1986 when O’Connor was just 19 years old. “I hate not being able to take care of her, maybe give her some love back. And help her, nobody helped her. I hate that I can’t put my arms around her and tell her I love her and tell her she’s all right and mother her. I would have taken care of her because she’s an absolute monster.”
“I miss her horribly and I really ache for her,” O’Connor continued. “I think that’s part of where my suicidal instinct comes from — is that I want my mother. I cannot wait for the day when I actually get to heaven so that I can see my mother again. I’d throw myself on her like a monkey and I’d tell her, ‘I love you, I miss you so bad.'”
They were bold statements to make, especially considering everything Marie had allegedly put O’Connor through in the past. O’Connor was raised with a sister and three other bothers, but said she would not speak about their experiences on Dr. Phil.
Since birth and up until the age of 13, O’Connor said Marie had put her through a seemingly endless cycle of abuse — beating her senseless and often targeting O’Connor’s reproductive organs, which the “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer said her mother hoped to “destroy.”
“My earliest memory was her telling me I shouldn’t be born,” O’Connor recalled. “She didn’t want me — she didn’t want girls, she wanted me to by a boy. She treated me like a boy, she chopped my hair off. Whenever she beat me, which was daily, she made me take my clothes off and lie naked on the floor, my arms and legs open. She would attack my abdomen, wanting to burst my womb and destroy my reproductive system. She wanted me to stop me being a female.”
The abuse didn’t stop there. Once, when O’Connor was 5, she says the family was prepping to go away for the weekend when her mother noticed one of O’Connor’s buttons were missing on her dress. “She beat the s— out of me, took the light bulb out of the room, locked me in there and left [with everyone] for the weekend.”
Another time, after O’Connor’s father had separated from Marie, O’Connor said she made the mistake of lamenting about missing the man. Marie forced the young girl to live in a shed he built in the garden for months — telling her, “If you love him that much you can live in the shed.” She was just 8 at the time.
“[My mother] ran a torture chamber,” O’Connor claimed. “She was a person who took delight and a smile in hurting you. … We used to be terrified. The last day of school in summer was the most unhappy day of our lives. Every other kid in school would be delighted, we’d be hiding the hockey sticks and tennis rackets [she used to beat us with], crying because we were stuck with her for the summer.”
“Daily this went on,” O’Connor said of the abuse. The music star told Dr. Phil McGraw once Marie repeatedly hit her for leaving the lampshade crooked after dusting it. “She would invent reasons to beat you up. … The only thing you’d be sure of every day is you’re going to get the s— out of you. We’d hear the steps of her waking up and me and my brother literally would pee our pants.”
In Kindergarten, O’Connor said she won the prize for curling up in the smallest ball — a skill she learned while protecting herself from her mother’s hand.
The singer said while her mother was beating her, Marie used to make the singer repeat, “I’m nothing,” over and over again. “After awhile, you believe it,” O’Connor said. “She was not well. I would say she was possessed. Either she was just a sadist and a pedophile, or she was possessed by the devil.”
Aside from the physical beatings, there were things about Marie that O’Connor resented.
“She didn’t change her clothes, she wouldn’t wash. Same for us — five years living in the same clothes, no washing,” O’Connor said. “She wouldn’t leave the house or get out of bed or stop taking drugs. She never told me I’m pretty or sweet. She smelled sick — there was a smell about her that was sick. It was the smell of evil.”
During this time, Marie wasn’t the only one that hurt O’Connor. “I think it’s very important to tell you that my mother’s not the only person I’ve been raped by,” she told host McGraw. “I’ve been raped several times by other strangers in Ireland as a child.”
Without social services or her mother to protect her, O’Connor did something bold: she shaved her head in a buzz-cut she keeps to this day. “I didn’t want to pretty. It was dangerous to be pretty because I would be raped and molested everywhere I went,” O’Connor said. “That was the huge part of it. I didn’t want to be raped. I didn’t want to be molested”
Eventually O’Connor found a way to have Marie hospitalised for three months — giving her a chance to get away from her mother’s house. But even after staying with her father and at a group home, O’Connor still found herself going back.
Marie stopped hitting O’Connor once O’Conner grew to be her size, the songstress said. O’Connor said she then found it in her heart to patch things up between the two of them — forging a “very good relationship” for mother and daughter between the time O’Connor was 14 and 16.
Still, to the day of her death, Marie never admitted what she did. “One day I asked her why she did what she did to us. And she said, ‘I never did anything to you what are you talking about?’ ” O’Connor said. “I was furious with her. I didn’t talk to her for about nine months. Next thing I know, she’s dead in a car crash.”
That doesn’t mean that O’Conner still holds Marie’s refusal to admit her sins against her.
“I like to believe that me forgiving her and loving her has helped her in terms of her karma payback after death,” O’Connor said. “She knows what she did but it’s okay because I forgive her.”
Forgiven, yes, but not forgotten. In fact, a hysterectomy O’Connor had to get recently brought all those memorise of abuse up — and sent her into an emotional spiral that culminated in a troubling video O’Connor posted in August from a motel room in New Jersey, where she pled for help and threatened to take her own life.
“I was a basket case,” O’Conner explained. “The surgery was quite triggering. I lost my mind after that. … I was told to leave the hospital 2 days after the surgery with tylenol and no hormone replacement. And no guidance. I was flung into surgical menopause. My hormones were everywhere. I was mental.”
Her family didn’t help, O’Conner said. “My family, they all left. I was angry, angry, angry. Anger was part of the suicidal feeling and also grief and unfairness and I can’t get heard unless I’m dead in front of them. That’s what made me lose my absolute mind.”
“We have to give my family credit, they’re not here to speak for themselves so I don’t want to disrespect them,” she added. “But the fact was, they didn’t know who the hell I was. I love my family and I don’t blame them. It’s not easy for families of mentally ill people, we can be difficult.”
Luckily, the cry for help video put O’Connor on McGraw’s radar. He sent her to the Nashville, Tennessee, to the Milestones at Onsite treatment center — where she’s was for five weeks. Though she’s been critical of it sometimes, she’s also said that she’s experiencing great progress and has now moved to an out-patient facility.
“I’m hoping we can save some lives,” she said on Tuesday’s episode of why she wanted to open up about her past, details that she hopes her struggle with mental illness inspires others for help.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE