'I Kind of Wanted to Die'
Just 25, Lanae Hale embodies confidence, poise, and creative prowess. She just released her national debut, Back & Forth, to critical appeal (drawing comparisons to Sixpence None the Richer, The Cranberries, and Nichole Nordeman), and was recently selected as a "Discovery Download" on iTunes. But things haven't always been so good for Hale. Not long ago, she struggled extensively with cutting (self-mutilation), while also dabbling in alcohol and over-the-counter sedatives. Hale spoke candidly with us about her tumultuous teens and early twenties—and why she decided to come forward about this often taboo topic.
You're being billed as a pop star with substance. What's that all about?
Lanae Hale: I've been writing for about ten years. I grew up in a family full of musicians. My dad's a singer/songwriter who's been in bands, my mom's a singer and my brother's a musician. I don't know what it was, but I picked up a guitar, taught myself how to play, and started writing. God just started putting things in my life since I was 15, and I always wanted to write about real things—raw, genuine emotions people go through—and that just built over the years.
You seem so confident and driven, but you struggle with self-esteem. When did that begin?
Hale: The summer before my senior year of high school. What's so weird is I grew up hearing about God's love and I got saved when I was young, but I struggled with self-confidence. For whatever reason, I didn't understand why God loved me, and I felt like I was a failure. I had always heard about God's love and grace, but could never wrap my mind around the concept of how he could love someone like me.
Why did you feel so unloved?
Hale: I didn't feel like I was worth much. I was never good enough at things, never felt pretty enough, and was real hard on myself. I could believe that the Lord died for you and your loved ones, but he could not love someone like me for whatever reason. That's hard when you're a Christian, because working to be loved just gets tiring. In high school, I was dating a guy and at 17, he gave me a diamond ring as a promise to be married some day. I thought I had my life mapped out and that I'd get married out of high school, but it wasn't right deep inside. I was young and naïve, and it wasn't a godly relationship. It ended and was very painful, just solidifying all my insecurities. So there I was walking through my senior year of high school down a dark road of depression. I was just full of guilt and self-condemning voices, which is what led me to cutting.
How did that start?
Hale: I was just tired of life and I knew I could die if I cut my wrist deep enough. So I went for the most visible vein I could find and started digging into my wrist [with] a metal angel figurine I had in my room. I took the wing because it was pointed and it was the first thing I used. From there, I used thumbtacks, glass, then an X-Acto knife, and then straight up serrated kitchen knives.
Little did I know Satan had his foot in the door and it brought this adrenaline rush, so I could compartmentalize my emotions and didn't have to deal with them any more. From then on, anytime there were emotions or feelings I didn't like, I would cut it away.
How did you move from using a pointy figurine to a knife?
Hale: It was disgusting, but the more you hate yourself, the more you want to use what will make the most damage. Like any addiction, it keeps growing. It starts small, then becomes ugly. For me, it would be the start of a three-year addiction. But throughout the whole experience, I loved God and wanted to do right. It started small, but then I had kitchen knives in the car beside me and by my bed.