“And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to when the rain set in”
These lines from Elton John’s immortal song “Candle in the Wind” could have aptly described the short, eventful and traumatic life of Psalm Isadora. The 42-year-old Tantric sex guru and yogi apparently killed herself in March 2017, leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions and baffled followers. Isadora had made it her mission to spread the message of female sexual empowerment and sexual healing based on ancient tantric principles. Her initiation into this philosophy was no coincidence – it emanated from the need to heal herself from the traumatic sexual abuse she allegedly suffered as a young girl at the hands of her father.
Isadora grew up in a fundamentalist Christian cult where her father purportedly abused her and other young girls. Although she escaped from the oppressive environment when she was 17, Isadora’s next few years were equally tumultuous. In the quest for freedom from trauma, her 20s became a “blur” of sex, drugs, alcohol and anything else which helped numb her “inner demons”. Sex also became a means of escape: “Sex was like my heroin,” she said, adding that her past sexual abuse made her “hypersexual” instead of suppressing her desire.
For most of her life, Isadora struggled with bipolar disorder. She disregarded the prescribed treatment of lithium, preferring instead to self-medicate with alcohol and Xanax, which she had been using to treat insomnia. At 29, she overdosed on crystal meth and harbored suicidal thoughts. In the months before her death, Isadora had been trying to give up alcohol, caffeine and Xanax. She stopped taking the medication abruptly without realizing two potential side effects of withdrawal – depression and suicidal ideation.
From hitting “rock bottom” to discovering “sacred sexuality”
After hitting “rock bottom,” Isadora risked everything to travel to India in 2007. She met her Tantra teacher in the remote jungles of southeast India, where she learnt about Shakti Tantra Yoga and sacred sexuality. Her experience inspired her to embark on a mission to enable both men and women, especially victims of sexual abuse, overcome the shame and trauma associated with sex and their bodies. She wanted to help “carry other people through their dark places” into the “orgasmic breakthrough on the other end.”
Isadora turned her “greatest wound” into her “greatest power” and became a yoga teacher and sex coach in Hollywood, with even celebrities joining her list of ardent devotees. She went on to establish a multi-million-dollar business which included online courses, speaking engagements at live events and guest spots on television shows. A former boyfriend and yoga teacher described her transformation as “glossed and glammed up, Hollywood to the hilt.” Some detractors accused her of using her childhood sexual abuse to build and promote her business.
Although she achieved stupendous success and helped others overcome their trauma, Isadora never forgot her own “anger, rage and grief” and continued battling depression and anxiety, besides her bipolar disorder. She mistakenly believed that her spiritual awakening had helped her overcome the sexual abuse and trauma. Julian Marc Walker, a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, described Isadora’s persona as “I grew up in a cult, I used to be bipolar, and I threw away my meds because I’ve recovered from my sexual trauma.”
Isadora needed medicines to treat her bipolar disorder, a fact she disregarded. Many said that her rising fame and flourishing business led her to jeopardize her mental health. Despite all the criticism, there was a deluge of messages from grief-stricken followers paying tribute after Isadora’s death. Many refuse to believe she committed suicide, instead saying she was killed because of her outspoken beliefs.
According to Walker, the problem becomes particularly worse for teachers since they are prone to idealization. Conventional medicines cannot be replaced by spiritual solutions. In Isadora’s case, her co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders (SUDs) made it an especially fit case to receive proper treatment. Her death was attributed to “a series of decisions in a compromised state of diminished judgment” which prevented her from clearly comprehending what her circumstances were.
Treating co-existing disorders
Simultaneously suffering from mental health problems and SUDs is called dual diagnosis and it affects millions of Americans. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 44.7 million adults aged 18 years or older had some form of mental illness during the year, whereas 19 million adults had a SUD. Of these, 8.2 million adults, that is 3.4 percent had co-occurring disorders. Due to the complexity of symptoms, dual diagnosis can be difficult to diagnose. Integrated treatment for mental illness and SUDs is considered the most effective intervention for such disorders – it entails lower costs and also leads to better outcomes.
Dual diagnosis treatment requires routine care from qualified health care professionals and customized therapies, including one-on-one and group psychotherapy, or other time-tested therapeutic solutions. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs in addition to a mental illness, call at our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our experts to know more about our state-of-the-art dual diagnosis treatment centers spread across California and other states of the U.S.