The "Same Love" singer reveals how she turned trauma to triumph

By Christina Dugan
December 20, 2018 10:35 AM
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Credit: Shervin Lainez

By the time she was 18, Mary Lambert had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, was raped by three men in an Army barracks, dealt with the pressures of coming out as “queer,” suffered from body dysmorphia, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had attempted suicide.

However, the singer-songwriter — best known for co-writing the Grammy-nominated hit song “Same Love” with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis — was eager to turn her trauma into triumph.

“I was raised in a pretty abusive household,” Lambert, who recently released her second book of poetry entitled Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I was molested for much of my childhood … ongoing, repeated incest. After a certain point, I, as a coping mechanism, began to black out, and I became very detached from reality.”

After her father left Lambert, now 29, began experiencing body dysmorphia at the age of 9 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was 15.

“I know people have a genetic predisposition to mental illness, but I think a lot of mine was from trauma I experienced,” she says.

At 16, Lambert says she sneaked into an Army barracks for fun, but while there, she was raped by three men.

“I don’t know that I ever got through it,” she says. “I’m still unpacking it. One night can drastically change your life.”

“It was just tragedy after tragedy,” Lambert adds. “Everything just felt so heavy.”

Turning to alcohol and self-harm as a form of survival, Lambert’s pain became too much to bear. She attempted suicide when she was 17.

“When you hate yourself that much, it feels like there’s no way out,” she admits.

Macklemore and Mary Lambert
| Credit: Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock

Luckily for Lambert, her eagerness to persevere outshined all her doubts.

One year after her suicide attempt, Lambert moved to Seattle to study at Cornish College of the Arts, where she found her strength and her voice.

“I’ve rid myself of shame,” she tells PEOPLE. “The life that I live and the freedom that I have and the uninhibited joy that I feel, it’s so drastically different. I wish that gift for everybody.”

For more from Lambert, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.