Providence, R.I. — A memoir by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy has created a rift with family members upset over his portrayal of family secrecy, substance abuse and mental illness, including of his father, late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Kennedy on Tuesday defended his book, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past And Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.” He said he loves his family but that he feels it is important for him to talk openly about the mental illness and addiction he and relatives have suffered.
“My family does not want to be identified with a medical illness. That should tell you something about the shame and stigma that still surrounds these issues,” he said on MSNBC Tuesday.
His mother, Joan, and brother, Ted. Jr., have distanced themselves from the book. His mother released her reaction through a friend, attorney Margo Nash.
“I had no knowledge that Patrick was writing a book, and did not assist him in the project in any way. I was not given a copy of the book and have still not seen it or read it,” Nash quoted Joan Kennedy as telling her.
In the memoir, the former congressman from Rhode Island discusses in detail his diagnoses with bipolar and anxiety disorders, and his own abuse of substances from alcohol to cocaine to prescription drugs. He also details his mother’s alcoholism and his belief that his father was an alcoholic who struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after the assassination of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy.
Ted Jr. said Sunday he was heartbroken that Patrick had written what he called “an inaccurate and unfair portrayal” of their family and said the narrative was “misleading and hurtful.” His father’s second wife, Vicki Kennedy, has not publicly commented on the book. Attempts to reach her for comment through multiple family sources were not successful.
Patrick Kennedy told MSNBC that while his mother had in effect disavowed the book, both he and his co-author had interviewed her for it. He acknowledged that he hadn’t sent her a copy earlier because the release date was Monday, and he didn’t think she would read it right away.
He also said a number of other unnamed members of his family had told him, “I love your message that this is about breaking the silence and the shame.”
“All of us are saddled with that hangover of a shame that comes from growing up where you’re not supposed to tell anything about what happened to you personally. That affects somebody, if they grow up in a family where everyone’s supposed to keep quiet,” he said, adding that he wants to make sure his own children don’t feel ashamed about such issues.
“All I can do is do the next right thing and pray that my brother will understand that what I’m trying to do here is bigger than both of us,” he said.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.