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Susan’s Profile

PROFILE April 2001

Susan Ni Rahilly

(on first publication of Daddy’s Girl’s Guilty as Hell)


“Treat a child like a criminal and you’ll reap what you sow – tell someone they’re guilty from the moment they are born and you get people who grow up to have no confidence in themselves. And very low self-esteem. The bottom line is that you have no chance of being a healthy and energetic woman living a life full of potential if you’re bearing the heavy burdens of other people’s guilt.” Says Susan Ni Rahilly, author of Daddy’s Girl’s Guilty as Hell out this month.

“Sometimes I watch my nephew Liam as he comes to my house from school. He’s such a lovely lad, so happy and carefree, throwing his school bag wherever it falls and settling himself down in front of the telly. And I think to myself ‘that’s how it should be for kids – not a worry in the world.’ But not everyone is quite so lucky.

“I was brought up a Catholic. Nothing unusual in that some might say, but my father was a violent manic-depressive. My Catholic upbringing taught me that I must honour my father, so I suffered years of dreadful mental and physical abuse in silence. I know I’m not the only child to have kept such secrets. Guilt is felt so powerfully in Catholic circles and that can mean that children mistakenly think they shouldn’t turn to anyone for help because of the shame of it all.

“My Irish friend Carol Ann was sent to live with an Irish foster family when she was little. The authorities believed she was best placed with a Catholic family for her spiritual well being. Ordinarily that would have been fine, only Carol Ann suffered years of systematic sexual abuse at the hands of her foster mother. Carol Ann never uttered one word of this to anyone because she felt the terrible burden of guilt. She would have felt so awfully ashamed to voice the horror she was experiencing.

“Throughout the dark, frightening nights I spent in my childhood bed, I would pray to God or to the Virgin Mary to help me. I could never understand why they didn’t answer me, was I such a sinful child that they ignored me? I understood that I had been born with sin on my soul through the stain of original sin, but I tried so hard to be a good girl – wouldn’t the Virgin Mary forgive me and send me some help?

“I know it sounds ludicrous now but this guilt thing stayed with me for the next 30 years. If you are repeatedly told as a child that you are a sinner then as a result you are going to suffer from low self-esteem. You’re bad, not good enough, sinful.

“Nina, who I worked with for a couple of years, agreed that the message that she was a sinner was all around her during her childhood. “If I wasn’t actually being told I was a sinner in mass by the priest, it was in everything I learned; from the way my mother was with me, the atmosphere at home, at school, at the Polish social club, church, the messages in the catechism, the commandments, the bible, the epistles. It went on, and on, and on. It was constant. ‘You are bad, there is no hope!’”

“All this affected me in the form of low self-esteem in my adult life.” Says Susan, ” I thought I was overweight and that my body shape was wrong. I dieted drastically and took slimming pills. Sometimes living on pills and black coffee and cigarettes in my 20’s. I thought I was not pretty enough, so I spent god-knows how much money on hairdos and makeup and clothes and accessories sometimes getting into debt. I couldn’t understand anyone loving me enough, I thought so poorly of myself I had problems with understanding what love was about.”

Susan Ni Rahilly’s life eventually fell apart when at the age of 40 she had a nervous breakdown. Her 14 year relationship ended at the same time, and Susan realised she had no alternative but to change her life and to try and deal with the fact that her problems were a result of her early life, her childhood and upbringing.

“I talked to my friends a lot when I was getting better from my breakdown. I remember one conversation with Grainne about sex – her mother had so wanted her daughters to remain virgins until they were married, she used to pray every night and say her rosaries. It worked as well, Grainne was a virgin when she got married! She was also dead guilty about having sex with her husband. Her mother had passed such guilt down it took her six weeks to lose her anxiety about having sex.

Well – that rang some bells with me alright! When I was married to Simon and I went home for my sister’s wedding, I had to ask my mother to put us in a room with twin beds. “Mum, I can’t share a bed with Simon in Dad’s house!” I cried. I would rather have died than have Dad know I was sleeping with a man under his roof – even if he was my husband!

All this got me to thinking. If I feel like this, and lots of other women I have talked to feel like this, then something should be done about it! Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of very happy Catholic women, but I know of many more living in absolute misery. I thought, “I’m not having this any more! It looks like I’ll have to do something about it!” And in typical Susan Ni Rahilly style I decided to write a book collecting lots of ordinary women’s stories about how they have been hurt by THE GUILT. And that is where I’m at now, five years down the line, having struggled through feelings of not being quite good enough, lacking in confidence and self-esteem to a place in my life where I feel fantastic! Free! I’ve shaken off the guilt! And by sharing in lots of stories other women might just do too! “

Susan Ni Rahilly went to Ireland to research Daddy’s Girl’s Guilty As Hell. Brought up in Yorkshire, of Irish/Scottish parents, and in a strict oppressive Catholic environment, Susan got the culture shock of her life. “The 5 years it took to research, write and publish Daddy’s Girl were tough, but I needed reminding about the Catholic way of life – even though I had left it behind at age 18, its effects lingered to damage my life.”

Susan Ni Rahilly’s Daddy’s Girl’s Guilty As Hell reads like a bodice ripper – full of sex, sin and searingly sensitive stories. In a page turner of a book, she takes her readers from raucous fun in the school sixth form common room, her own tragedies and her experiences from working in AIDS and mental health drop-ins – through to anger with the male-dominated Church’s ignorance of women’s true needs to reach their own potentials in their own ways.

Written from the heart and from her own experiences, as well as hundreds of other women’s stories from around the globe, there’s a sense of voyeurism for the reader as Susan writes openly, intimately and animatedly about the dark side of life and deeply sensitive issues.

Kept going through years of struggle by a strong and total vision in reaching her own potential to become a writer, Susan is passionate about encouraging and empowering other women to change their lives for the better. “To get the life I wanted I went through 5 tough years to write this book, after originally setting out to spend only 3 months in Ireland. Homelessness, lack of money, heartbreak, set backs in writing this book and disappointments dogged the project year after year – but I had an adventure as well and it was all worth it to feel so full of energy and ready to firewalk through more experiences. I found myself, and the strength to BE myself.”

“To look at me now, you would never believe I’ve had the life I had. And I never thought I’d be doing half of what I do now.” Last year this vibrant author was asked to act as media spokesperson and lead The Names Walk, on behalf of the Survivors of Spiritual Abuse to the Archbishop of Westminster in London. On August 2000 Bank Holiday Monday Susan achieved blanket news coverage along with the flagship TV news programmes on the day.

At age 45 Susan launched her Anti-Cellulite book, Don’t Howl For The Moon, in Ireland with a Lady Godiva Ride. “I had to show what I believe works and that I have the courage of my convictions as a feminist health writer.” A Summer Solstice event, Susan’s Lady Godiva ride at Bunratty Castle attained an instant media presence for this brave and vivacious writer, making the major national news programmes of that week.

“I’m told that I’m the best advertisement for my work. At 47 years of age, I can quite honestly say that Daddy’s Girl is the best Anti-Ageing book out! Get rid of guilt and watch the years fall away. Get energy, get the life you’re entitled to.”


One Comment leave one →
  1. October 23, 2013 10:00 am

    This is a really nice initiative.All the best. 🙂

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