Synopsis:A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor’s examining table, missing yet another day of school. Just 12 years old, she’s tall, skinny and weak. It’s 4pm and she hasn’t been allowed to eat anything all day. Her mother, on the other hand, seems curiously excited. She’s about to suggest open heart surgery on her child to ‘get to the bottom of this’. She checks her teeth for lipstick and, as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance. This child will not ruin her plans.
From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually x-rayed, medicated and operated on – in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother’s mind. Munchhausen by proxy (MBP) is the world’s most mysterious and dangerous form of child abuse, in which the caretaker – almost always the mother – invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Many such children die. Julie Gregory not only survived, she escaped the powerful orbit of her mother’s madness and rebuilt her identity as a vibrant, healthy young woman.
Laced with fierce humour, this powerful and haunting memoir recreates the bizarre cocoon of her family’s isolated trailer, their wild shopping sprees and gun-waving confrontations, and the astonishing naivete of medical professionals and social workers. It also exposes the twisted bonds of terror and love that roped Julie’s family together – including the love that made a child willing to sacrifice herself to win her mother’s happiness.
The realization that the sickness lay in her mother, not in herself, would not come to Julie until adulthood. Through her painful metamorphosis, she discovered the courage to save her own life – and, ultimately, the life of the girl her mother had found to replace her.
Comments: The life this poor girl led was sad and tragic. No child should have to go through what she and others have. It is a testimony to her strength that she managed to get through it and come out the other end. The writing style in this memoir is average but the story more than makes up for it.
- Book Review: Sickened (obsessivebookworm.wordpress.com)