"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Sickened: Review

Title: Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood
Author: Julie Gregory

Munchausen by Proxy, or MBP, is one of the more insidious forms of child abuse, with the abuser, usually the mother, coming across as a long suffering, committed, caring parent who only wants to find out what's wrong with her sick child, a child she, herself, sickened. The doctors who see the child are unwittingly drawn into the charade, agreeing to unnecessary medical tests. The child, too, becomes collaborator as well as victim, because he or she has come to believe what his or her trusted parent has been saying, that they're sick.

In Julie Gregory's case, it was mostly her heart and she was subjected to years of tests, some invasive, in a futile attempt to "get to the bottom of things." She might not be the most accomplished writer, but her words come from the heart, giving insight into her mother's behavior (her mother was also the victim of abuse), her father's collusion, the years of wondering why she couldn't be like other children and worrying that her mother was right and she would die young, how she brought herself to move away, and finally, how she learned about MBP and started to rebuild her life and her sense of self.

This isn't the easiest book to read for the matter-of-fact telling of the horrors Julie suffered, including beatings by her father at her mother's insistence that he prove himself a man by punishing Julie. But it's a compelling tale that peels away layers of secrecy about this horrifying abuse. Most chilling is that her mother is still out there and still finding children to destroy. Julie's website provides updates.