Mary Lambert is opening up about a “laundry list” of trauma that drove her to try to take her own life as a teen.
The 28-year-old singer and spoken-word artist—famed for her frank lyrical self-portraits on songs like “Secrets,” plus her featured verse on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ LGBTQ anthem “Same Love“—revealed that she turned to music to help her through the abuse she received as a child growing up in Washington state.
“Music is beautiful and cathartic but there is something very healing about saying exactly what happened to you and speaking your truth,” she says in an emotional interview with Cosmopolitan. “I’m still in my own journey of body love and self-love.”
It was a journey fraught with suffering, beginning with a horrific betrayal by a parent. “I was molested by my father at a really young age,” she explains. The ordeal confused Lambert as she struggled to comprehend what had been done to her. “You don’t know what’s happening, especially when you’re raised in that environment and your brain is forming. There’s no sense of what normal is.”
Her transition into adolescence was further complicated as she grappled with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. “I was really living in extremes. I would have the best day ever and then I would come home and I would want to die,” she says.
Tragically, the sexual abuse she received from her father would be repeated by other men. “When I was 16 I snuck into an Army barracks and I was gang-raped,” Lambert says, explaining she endured the pain with a traumatized detachment. “You go into survival mode and go, ‘OK, how do I navigate this situation.'”
The pain would continue for Lambert. The following year she came out as a lesbian to her evangelical Christian church, a process which she found alienating. By age 18, she had attempted to kill herself.
“Everything hurt so much,” she says of the time. “The fact that I was abused by my dad. Was raped. Was gay. Was bipolar. Not to mention always being a big girl in the world. Just existing in those spaces, of like, I don’t feel at home in my body, I don’t feel at home in this world. What options do I have left?”
It was then that music began to play a larger role in her life. “Music, for me, was like survival. It was a form of healing, and almost like self-therapy.” Though it wouldn’t provide all of the answers, it set her on the long road to recovery and healing.
“I’m so glad I didn’t die—I’m so glad that I’m alive, that I didn’t give in—but it wasn’t easy. I feel like there is this canned way we talk about trauma, this canned way we talk about suicide. Like, you just go to Spain and you eat tapas—there’s your healing. Real healing is s—ty. It’s dirty and ugly and not easy.”
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Lambert’s developed a mantra to see her through the tough times. “It all works out in the end, and if it hasn’t worked out then it’s not the end.”