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Book Review: Sickened – The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood

I have always been intrigued by medical mysteries. Back when we had cable TV, I would often watch Mystery Diagnosis or Untold Stories of the ER.

I came across the book, Sickened – The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood, while browsing Amazon for good books to read. I located a copy at my library and picked it up. I remember seeing a story about Munchausen by Proxy on Dateline way back when.

For those who aren’t familiar with Munchausen by Proxy, it’s a disorder where someone, usually a mother, exaggerates or makes up illnesses in her child to gain the attention and approval of doctors and nurses. It’s awful for the child, who is unnecessarily subjected to medical tests and treatments.

Sickened was a very interesting look into Munchausen by Proxy, through the eyes of someone who experienced this sort of abuse from her mother. The author, Julie Gregory, details her life: missing school for medical tests, believing she would die in early adulthood, mental and physical abuse at home…it’s not a pretty story.

Julie Gregory grew up in a double wide trailer with her mom, her dad, and her little brother, isolated from the rest of the world. She frequently missed school for doctors appointments. Her mom took her from doctor to doctor, trying to find out what was wrong with her daughter’s heart. At least that was her story.

Julie had to endure dozens of tests, from EKGs to barium swallow x-rays to a battery of tests, which required a hospital stay. Through it all, her mom played the part of caring parent, at least in public. At home, she was manipulative and abusive to her children. Julie’s dad was indifferent.

Amazingly, none of the doctors ever caught on that Julie’s mother was making Julie’s “illness” up. Neither did the social workers, who came to check on Julie’s foster brothers and sisters.

When Julie reached adulthood, she finally came to realize that she was not the sick one. It was her mother.

Sickened was a gripping story, but one that was hard to read, due to the subject matter. At times I just wanted to scream at Julie’s parents. At other times I wanted to shake some sense into the doctors and social workers.

In addition to the subject matter, there was quite a bit of language in the book. It wasn’t gratuitous bad language. Rather it was the reality of life with Julie’s parents. Still, if you object to reading bad language even in that context, it would be best to skip this book.

If you are interested in exploring more about Munchausen by Proxy, Sickened is a good book to read. Just be prepared for the difficult subject matter.

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