A Very Fragile Beauty; the Normally Outspoken and Vivacious Sinead O'Connor Is a Shadow of Her Former Self. the Apparent Stress of Her Recent Marriage Break-Up Reveals

Article excerpt

Byline: by Jenny Friel

SITTING outside a cafe in Bray, Co. Wicklow on Tuesday, Frank Bonadio was dressed for the afternoon sun. In khaki cargo shorts and a navy V-neck with the sleeves rolled up, he sat back in his chair with his legs stretched out to soak up the rays.

Across the table from him, his companion's demeanour was a world away from his relaxed slump. Hands tightly clasped, she was swaddled in a heavy winter cardigan and a skirt that fell to the floor. With collar up and shoulders hunched, the pale and anxious looking woman seemed to want to shrink away from the sun.

From a distance, no one could have guessed that the vulnerable figure was, in fact, the usually vivacious, outspoken and eternally colourful Sinead O'Connor.

Seeing Sinead and Bonadio together was nothing unusual. Following a very public slanging match with the American surgeon's former wife, singer Mary Coughlan, the pair enjoyed a four-year relationship.

When it ended in February last year, they stayed on such good terms that it wasn't until Sinead announced her marriage to another man that many people realised she and Bonadio had split. the pair have a fouryear-old son, Yeshua, together and often meet in Bray where they both live.

But, despite Sinead's distressed appearance, what wasn't immediately obvious this week was that their afternoon coffee was no ordinary catch up. It was only on Thursday -- when Sinead revealed that her third marriage, to musician Steve Cooney, had come to an end after only eight months -- that observers realised her wedding ring had been missing from those anxious hands.

'Steve is lovely so it's not his fault but mine,' she said of the break-up. 'It was an extremely happy marriage. I'm heartbroken about it breaking up.' She also disclosed that her weight gain, caused by medication for her bipolar condition, was one of the reasons behind the split. 'I didn't mind putting on weight -- the problem is strangers telling me I was fat. That was hard on our marriage,' she explained.

It was a searingly honest confession by the 44-year-old mother of four, and one typical of the open nature and raw vulnerability that has made her such a compelling figure over the three decades since she first stepped into the spotlight.

In large part, this vulnerability comes from the singer's on-going battle with bipolar disorder.

Also known as manic depression, bipolar typically involves periods of elevated moods that alternate with periods of depression. Despite suffering from depression since her early 20s and attempting suicide on her 33rd birthday, Sinead was not diagnosed as bipolar until she was 37.

In January of this year, she posted seemingly suicidal thoughts on Twitter. In an subsequent interview she explained that the tweets were her way of releasing the suicidal impulses.

But she went on to reveal that in the past she'd been so overwhelmed by her children that she'd smashed her son's Xbox, and that she'd welcome help from social services.

It was in a 2007 interview with Oprah Winfrey that she first spoke at length about living with the disorder.

She said that at first she was frightened of taking the medications prescribed to her. 'But I said, "I've got nothing to lose", and it was brilliant because I felt this huge hole. And when I took the meds, within half an hour, it was literally like I felt concrete coming in to fill the hole.

'Everything just became too much, and the best way i can describe it to you is you're so sad, 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. i actually kind of died and got born again as a result of taking the meds and having a chance to, you know, build a life. …