As I suspected, there are a lot of layers to the Mary Kennedy suicide story. Her family got their version out first (“Bobby Kennedy is a serial adulterer who made her life a living hell”) and now we have a much more nuanced verion: Namely, that Mary Kennedy suffered from borderline personality disorder:

Kennedys still have connections like few families in America, and after Hankin diagnosed the disorder, Bobby and Mary arranged a meeting with Dr. John Gunderson, a Harvard psychiatrist who is often called the father of BPD. After talking to Bobby and Mary, Gunderson says, “I was convinced the diagnosis of BPD was correct. At the heart of this disorder is a hypersensitivity to other people, such that they can perceive rejection and anger from others when it isn’t there, and when it is there, they react with even more desperation. It is thought that this hypersensitivity is present even in childhood, during which they will often feel neglected or mistreated. That sets the stage for their search for an idealized caretaker. The caretaker oftentimes gets exhausted by the unrealistic expectations. But the caretaker finds it difficult to leave as the partner threatens to kill him or herself.”

I’ve known people like this. They’re exhausting, and yes, everyone does eventually leave them because no one can ever live up to their expectations. No matter how motivated you are, you can’t fix this because at some point, you just want your own life back. I’ve known a few people who put up with it to maintain an intact home for the kids, but I think children are better off being away from the extreme parent.

I have great sympathy for those with mentally ill family members; I don’t think I could handle it. I don’t get emotional satisfaction from allowing people to cross my boundaries.

3 Responses to BPD

  1. Pragmatic Realist June 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Oddly, it is often the children of the wealthy who feel most neglected and abandoned, raised by Nanny’s in big houses and sent off to boarding school. Some develop desperate methods of acting out to get attention. Others grow up without empathy to become manipulative sociopaths like the masters of Wall Street, leveraged buyout vultures and presidential candidates.

    Who can imagine the horror of growing up in a household ruled by Barbara Bush and her beautiful mind while the old man was always away on long business trips? I almost makes you feel sorry for the Shrub.

  2. Imhotep June 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Mental illness runs in every family. Probably in every individual. Freud said it was rooted in the sexual appetite and improper potting training. Most people learn how to deal with it. Hate is also learned. Of oneself and of others.

  3. someofparts June 11, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    I think my dad did that. Stick with it to keep things together for the kids, I mean. You’re right. No good comes of leaving the kids with the BPD parent. Although, dealing with that parent without the balancing presence of the normal one might have been harder.

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