A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor’s examining table, missing yet another day of school. Just twelve, she’s tall, skinny, and weak. It’s four o’clock, 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. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is the world’s most hidden 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 MBP children die, but 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.
Sickened is a remarkable memoir that speaks in an original and distinctive Midwestern voice, rising to indelible scenes in prose of scathing beauty and fierce humor. Punctuated with Julie's actual medical records, it re-creates the bizarre cocoon of her family's isolated double-wide trailer, their wild shopping sprees and gun-waving confrontations, the astonishing naïveté 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. But when it did, it would strike like lightning. 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. Sickened takes us to new places in the human heart and spirit. It is an unforgettable story, unforgettably told.
Used Book in Good Condition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. The story is very compelling in itself, but Julie Gregory is also an excellent and occasionally hilarious writer. It did remind me of Augusten Burrough's work in the way she described the people around her with a child's blunt, uncompromising perspective. It breaks your heart that a child this perceptive and aware would have to endure what she did. Her mother has to be one of the scariest parents alive, but Julie opens the book with some hair-raising scenes from her mother's own adolescence so you can see that her cruelly bizarre behavior didn't just spring from a vacuum. Overall this is a fascinating and beautifully poetic read about twisted family dynamics and how the author carved out her own path to sanity.
I could not put "Sickened" down once I started reading it. As someone who is fascinated by psychology and the recovery of the abused, I found Gregory's memoir compelling and satisfying. It is all the more horrifying for having been a true story: yes, Gregory was abused by her attention-seeking mother, and not just in the Munchausen by Proxy context. Yes, her father was abusive as well. But what kept me reading until the end was to see how Gregory would work her way through this as an adult. At the satisfying end of the book, Gregory describes how she came to take responsibility for her own life. Although this book is certainly not for the faint of heart, it provides a heroine and a villain that are all as compelling as any in fiction.
A couple of years ago, I acquired a copy of "Sickened: The Memoir
of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood", by an Ohio woman
named Julie Gregory. I felt certain that the book held
painful truths about my own upbringing, but I kept
stashing it away instead of facing it.
Finally, today, setting aside my fears, I read it from
cover to cover in a single sitting. A couple of
certain aspects of this woman's specific story were
just a little bit more extreme or longer-lasting than
my own, but many of the most traumatic events of her
childhood, induced by the insanity and abuse of both
her parents (but primarily her mother) mirrored
exactly my own childhood experiences. Her description
of the taste of barium in her system left me
shuddering with unpleasant memories.
It was a wrenching read, as it would be for anybody...
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