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Kerry Washington talks family 'failure' amid debilitating mental health battle in revealing memoir

The Scandal actress' new book, Thicker Than Water, is out on September 26


Kerry Washington attends the premiere of HBO Films' "Confirmation" on March 31, 2016 in Hollywood, California© Getty
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
August 10, 2023
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Kerry Washington is opening up like never before in her forthcoming memoir, Thicker Than Water, where she revisits in detail her trajectory from her childhood in the Bronx to becoming a household name.

The Scandal actress, 46, has previously said the revealing memoir took her over four years to write, and now fans will finally get to see a different, more personal side to her when it releases on September 26.

With the book's release date approaching, the first-time author shared a glimpse of what readers can expect in an excerpt on Oprah Daily, and it proves she did not hold back.

WATCH: Kerry Washington invites fans to text her

The excerpt goes into the painful details of her parents' tumultuous relationship, and how she took their "failed" marriage as her own failure, and subsequently began to suffer panic attacks.

She first confessed her parents didn't feel "like they were in the marriage they wanted to be in," and: "They both harbored deep disappointment over what their lives had become – my mother was disappointed in my dad, and my dad was disappointed in the marriage."

MORE: Kerry Washington wows in plunging backless swimsuit in jaw-dropping pool photos

Explaining how that manifested in her, Kerry said: "I was supposed to deliver them to happiness, to avoid triggering in them any emotion even close to disappointment. So, when they fought, I took it as my failure, and felt like it was my job to fix it."

Kerry Washington poses with her parents Valerie and Earl Washington during the 2017 The Bronx Children's Museum Gala on May 2, 2017 in New York City© Getty
Kerry has managed to remain close to both of her parents today

She then revealed: "I developed panic attacks at night. They manifested first as a rhythm of anxiety that encircled my brain, then evolved into a rapid pulsing, a whirling frenzy of metallic thumps, like those nauseating old spinning rides at a county fair."

MORE: Kerry Washington makes extremely rare comment about 'secret' wedding

MORE: Inside Kerry Washington's private marriage with famous husband

The panic attacks began when she was seven, and she recalled: "This was not just a feeling. It was a sound, an internal beat, or series of beats, though they didn't equate to music.

Kerry Washington during The 2001 Teen Choice Awards in Universal City, California© Getty
The actress, pictured above in 2001, got into acting ten years after her first panic attack, in 1994

"It was the sound of terror, wholly unnatural and unconnected to the rhythms of my heart. I was dizzied with terror, no ground beneath me; it was crazy-­making, endless."

She added: "And sad. There was something so sad about the rhythm. And I couldn't make it stop. I couldn't sleep. It was as though the alarms within me had been triggered and there was no turning them off."

Dr. Valerie Washington and Kerry Washington arrive at the newly opened Oscar de la Renta Boutique on November 15, 2004 in New York City© Getty
Kerry and her mom, Valerie, in 2004

Kerry also recalled the inner conflict of hiding her panic attacks while overhearing her parents' fights.

MORE: Kerry Washington celebrates Super Bowl weekend with brand new look

Kerry Washington and Earl Washington at the premiere of "UnPrisoned" held on March 2, 2023 in Los Angeles, California© Getty
Her dad Earl was by her side for the 2023 premiere of her show "UnPrisoned"

"I knew that my job was to hide, to stay in my room and pretend that this was not happening – I understood that they were only fighting because they believed that I was asleep. If I let on that I was awake, well then, I'd be disrupting the roles as they had been written," she said."

One night, she wrote, she braved to interrupt an argument, and remembered: "They stood still, perhaps in shock. My dad had been drinking; he was at the far end of our narrow kitchen. My mother stood across from him in the corner of our cramped living room, close to the door that led to our small terrace," and added: "Watching me enter the stage in the middle of their war was a final stab at my mother's already wounded dreams."

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