In the spirit of Saorise Kennedy Hill
Reading about Saoirse Kennedy Hill and her tragic passing I was instantly drawn in. Something - no - many things reflected back to me like prisms or dusty gold trim mirrors.
I can relate to being sensitive and open about my struggles with anxiety disorder in a tight knit, stoic family with strong Irish roots on the New England Coast. It can be a beautiful thing but also can feel heavy when you feel you need to tell your story. You need to write and connect. I know what it’s like feeling I need to keep certain things to myself. Hiding it and pretending everything is cashmere and colonial houses with white candles.
I spoke of my anxiety disorder many times but what I was terrified of ever admitting to anyone including myself was the dependency I grew to have. I was prescribed Ativan at age 19. It felt like finally the evil spell of the sheer terror, the intrusive obsessive compulsive thoughts had stopped. I felt like me. Then, it stopped becoming this enchanting dream.
By 25 I was running through my prescriptions earlier and earlier. In those gaps I’d drink socially but as the years passed, my drinking was always to calm my nerves. To help me. I even mixed the two to chaotic detriment at one point. I stopped but then my addiction to Ativan was ramping up. If I drank, it was binge drinking.
There’s such a stigma admitting you had or have substance abuse issue. As a woman I felt it more, like people would think I was damaged - like those skinny fiend girls on ferry street hopping into cars. I’m not like that, I can’t tell people my problems, what if that’s what they think of me, I’d worry. I’m not an addict, I told myself. “I get my pills from my doctor.” Those sort of people with their street drugs, those aren’t my people, I told myself.
It’s just a different poison and a different way of obtaining that - whether it’s the package store or doctors like me or like the stories you see on Intervention. I quickly had to humble myself when I admitted I had a problem. I’m another statistic, another person that was addicted to benzos and somewhere along the line abusing them. No better or worse. I had an addiction and with the wrong decisions I could’ve ended up on Intervention. Im grateful for that lesson in humility. I’m grateful for being in hot church halls and finding my people, reminding me to keep going as we fanned ourselves down with books and the sun set.
I’ve gone to outpatient recovery, frustrated with the lack of resources for Benzo recovery. I wanted to learn how to cope with my anxiety without pills and without alcohol. Reading about Saoirse and how open she was inspired me.
Yes these things happened to me but I don’t see or feel myself as damaged or lost. You can still have a softness, a femininity, a childlike wonder about the world. You can love Kate Spade dresses and underground record shops and getting coffee and reading a book in your favorite corner seat at some cozy coffee shop. Your eyes can still light up when you see a string of white lights, sunflowers by the ocean and finding a vintage purse. You can still have joy and love and sweet simplicity but also have a complexity. For me, all I wanted was to not have the attacks of sheer terror. I’d feel like I was on drugs or a bad dream when my panic attacks hit. I felt like I’d never break through. Pills and alcohol only delayed it. It was me, all along that could break through.
I know this is a long but in the spirit of Saoirse I felt ready to share it. I love this piece of her Uncle’s eulogy:
“Everywhere, there is a gentleness here now. A love. A deep and breathtakingly beautiful vulnerability. … We are not afraid to cry anymore. We prize bravery here, but all of a sudden, bravery has become facing our pain, the most brave thing any of us can do.” - Timothy Shriver, part of Saoirse’s eulogy