Yesterday I found out that somebody I knew and admired took her own life, by accident or design. Psalm Isadora was a fierce warrior for healing the world’s sexual shame, and I am only one of the thousands she touched. I hesitated to even write about it, because she wasn’t a close friend, nor am I into grief porn. I do not want to perform grief on social media. I don’t want to be told you are sorry for my loss, not only because it is a trite phrase, but also because the loss is all of ours. Mostly, the loss is that of her grown son, and you and I own none of that.
This woman, if you knew her, embodied the word goddess like almost no one else I’ve met, but unfortunately calling yourself a Goddess is not enough to heal mental illness, addiction, or even despair. Neither does sex fix everything, even if you are really good at it. And boy do I wish I could tell you it did.
What struck me, even when I had long conversations with this unusually charismatic, sharp, and driven woman, so in touch with her own sensuality and so committed to her higher purpose, was that I would come away not knowing her any better than before. Even when we exchanged seemingly very personal details, there was a sense that Psalm would never really let me know her, so I respectfully didn’t try. The trope of the wounded healer is there for a reason–so many that have trauma make it their life’s work to help other people get over theirs. But at what cost?
Still, she shone.
As a sex educator, your origin story is an authentic part of your life, but can also become a dangerous part of your own mythology. Mine is that I was not expressing myself sexually, depressed, sober, on multiple psych meds. I was able to heal many aspects of my “diagnoses” through a sexual awakening, eventually figuring out how to get my needs met and yeah, three years ago I detoxed off my meds and have not taken any since, something I once thought to be an impossible outcome. But nuance is a bitch, not so easily reduced to marketing catchphrases and pop-up subscribe forms.
Much as I’m proud of it, I know I cannot become too attached to this “natural healing” narrative, even though I no longer subscribe to traditional 12-step dogma, or a “disease” model when it comes to sex. I know what has helped me, and continues to, but a lifetime of suicidal ideation does not go so quietly. I’m still vigilant enough to consider any kind of intervention if my current paradigm became untenable, even though I abhor many of them in principal. I cannot allow myself the luxury of rigid thinking or any form of radicalism. It aligns with my philosophy about sex– there is no “correct” sexuality, it does not have to be “sacred,” it can be downright perverted in fact, it is ALL good, without exception [if consensual] ALL of it.
Psalm’s story was unique, although it paralleled that of so many, although it involved more pilgrimages, deep knowledge of Eastern concepts, and a Tantric path. She achieved mastery in so many things physical, but sometimes it is the energetic that is so very hard to tether. The mind may be strong, but the energy body learns to dissociate, this cycle is vicious and hard to break, still I do not presume to understand or speak for her. Her trauma was, by her own account, extremely severe. Also, while she leaves a shaken up Tantra community in Los Angeles and worldwide, most people trained in any form of Eastern thought, subscribe to the reality that she simply changed forms to a spiritual realm. She was done here and I feel her strongly as I write this, so I cannot disagree.
To those who don’t understand what it is to be sensitive, or empathic, or an addict, or “neurologically atypical,” the disparity between public “expert” persona and private pain might seem at the very least a dichotomy. More likely, it would be alarming. I don’t share many of my “peccadillos” publicly these days, mainly because I feel like they interfere with the message. I’m a coach now, and a good one, how will people listen to me when I still struggle with mental stability regularly?
The truth is that they will listen for the same reason that I listen to my favorite advice-givers, because I don’t trust anybody who has not been to the bottom of themselves, and resurfaced the wiser for it. I do not trust those who see only light, seeking to pretend the darkness doesn’t exist. None of us achieve some tidy, perfected state. Sorry. Life is not like that, and neither is sex. Life and sex both encompass dark and light, as long as they are recognizably yours, that is what matters.
There’s a group of women to whom I can safely turn when I start to lose the threads of fabric in my life. They get unpicked, you see, by people I love most, aka “triggers,” as well as my low capacity for what other people might consider “normal” levels of stress. I deal with myself as a person recovering from trauma, so I manage it, like any lifetime condition. I do not argue with the severity of the trauma, or second-guess it; I just make like a good BDSM baby and submit.
I don’t have one “best friend” but my ride-or-die-bitches and I each know that to bear the burden singly would be too much. We rotate our miseries, and make sure to celebrate each other’s joys. We pull each other through, these incredible women and I, with validation and sometimes an empathetic ass kicking. (Many of my bitches don’t even know each other, I’m simply part of their own tribe of bitches.) We hold space for each other, until we can once again do it for ourselves. We do not drain each other of life force; we do not give something we don’t, on that day, have to offer. We put on our own oxygen mask first, because we know what happens when we don’t, that we have people relying on us to continue to take in oxygen.
This badass bitch who journeyed so far to find the deepest alcoves of her soul might have been unable to live with what that soul had been put through in this lifetime. In one moment, she lost the capacity to choose. Or she did choose, and this was her choice. Or she made a mistake. Frankly, I respect a person’s right to take themselves out. It makes it no less shocking and painful when they do, especially when they have done so much spiritual work, and helped so many others. I neither glorify nor vilify it. It’s just life.
Just don’t say “demons.” A demon is a red creature with horns that you can name and draw and Google. True demons are shadowy, unthinkable secrets, because Psalm was an integral part of so many communities, surrounded by gifted healers, love, and women and men who were trying to help her, but she was not able to take that help. This might have been her fatal flaw. Other than how her absence is a blow for beauty in the world, this is what makes me saddest.
She was much, much stronger than I. She was a fucking powerhouse. Because I am not stronger than her, I have nowhere near her level of “production.” Despite my huge ambition, I take the journey at a pace I can manage, because I know that if I don’t, I will quite simply be dead.
It turns out that what I think of as my fatal flaw, which perhaps is not so fatal after all, is being pathetic enough to ask for help when my awareness tells me I am “gone.” Even if it’s a volunteer on a hotline, or a counselor by text. (Also choosing not to drink for the last nine years, though I’m not technically sober so I won’t take that cake, thanks.) That ridiculous humility has kept me alive, even on days when I’m not living for myself, but believing that my people love me like crazy, even when my brain tells me they don’t.
No offer of a TV show is enough to keep you alive in those moments; along with all of her radiant gifts, triumphs, and opportunities, Psalm even had that.
Please remember to fight for your own healing. Do not stop fighting, because now she is fighting with you. Do what is right for yourself- whether it is therapy or meds, yoga or cannabis, sobriety or all/none of the above. Most important, do not forget even for a second, that the unique spark that is you cannot be replaced on this planet, please do not leave us here, without you.
Go in Peace, Psalm.
Please donate to Psalm Isadora’s son, if you feel moved to do so, HERE. Susanna Brisk is a Sexual Intuitive® who coaches clients and couples to get most of their needs met, most of the time. You can email her HERE.