Mary Kennedy: Camelot Curse or Clinical Comorbidity?

One of the latest American obsessions is not just with the Kennedy family of Camelot fame but diagnosing their multiple psychiatric disorders. From Newsweek to TMZ (neither of which are exactly scholarly publications in the field of Clinical Psychology) there is much speculation about Mary Kennedy’s depression, drinking problem, DUIs, suicide and now her presumed borderline personality disorder or BPD. In my business, having several co-existing psychiatric disorders is called comorbidity, something that often but not always portends a poorer prognosis. Lurid details follow in these high profile print articles and online stories detailing her multiple incidents of Jekyl and Hyde like behavior, domestic violence and even physical abuse of her husband Bobby Jr. He is (according to legal divorce affidavits) allegedly attacked with scissors by Mary while in the bath, punched in the eye and face and subjected to multiple incidents of premeditated manipulation, coercion, and emotional blackmailing which all are said to stem from her underlying diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. When Mary Kennedy isn’t busy attacking her husband or haranguing his children from a prior marriage, she is depicted by everyone else as a lovely, highly intelligent, warm, generous, talented architectural designer and meticulous homemaker. The psychological disconnect between her “crazy” side and her seemingly angelic side is chilling and helps one understand how so many neighbors in news stories about serial killers and murderers always start out by saying, “Gee, I thought they were lovely people and a very tight family…She used to come to the door with fresh cookies and milk”. In this case, however Mary Kennedy was not a murderer or serial killer, at least not of other people. Her self-destructive ways are another thing. If Newsweek’s sources are to be believed the best single metaphor for Mary’s sad life and ultimate demise was the home she transformed into an ecologically advanced model of green building and energy savings, except that by the time they were done with the majestic transformation it cost twice its projected budget, the solar panels were breaking down, and both parties were bleeding profusely financially as well as emotionally. They literally could no longer afford to live there. While such renovation nightmares are common, the symbolism of a woman who looked and acted nearly perfect on the outside but ended up hanging herself with a neat hand-tied noose in the backyard barn seems particularly apt, and perhaps something to learn from for the rest of us with or without personality disorders. Maybe the first time there was water flooding into the basement, the original inspiration for the uber-renovation, they should have recognized this as a sign, not to re-do the house, but to look more deeply at what was broken in the foundation of Mary’s psyche as well as in her marriage. Next Up: If Mary was afflicted with BPD…..then what ails Bobby Kennedy, Jr. besides “Man, its a bitch being married to a crazy person” syndrome. In my opinion Newsweek let him off WAY too easy. Not only does it take “two to tango” but for every Sylvia Plath there tends to be a Ted Hughes, and their philandering hands are often not so clean either. Couples create a different kind of toxic comorbidity and that can be just as deadly especially for the more emotionally sensitive partner as well as for the surviving children.

About captaincliff

Psychologist by day, insomniac Pirate blogger by night, this Child of God likes to share sarcastic social commentary as well as topsy-turvy observations about life, love and the pursuit of zaniness, a functional form of insanity in an increasingly insane world
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