Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood
by Julie Gregory
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is one of those books where I feel a bit guilty for not liking it. All said, it was a relief when I finally finished it. I'm not sure if it was massive caregiver fatigue getting in my way as I work with helping people recover from trauma (though that has never happened before) or if it was some fault of the book. That said, Gregory's life was horrifying and because of that I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I didn't. I know some people are challenging the veracity of Gregory's memoir, and I do want to say some things in Gregory's favor. First, children tend to want to see their parents as good people because they see their parents as extensions of themselves, so for Gregory to have gotten to this point where she would write a book about the horrific abuse that she experienced, well, she must have had good reasons. Second, Gregory never claims to have forgotten the abuse or have recovered memories she lost, which are red flags for false memories. So I tend to believe Gregory.
I think I was expecting more of a focus on Manchusen by Proxy, a condition where a caretaker, usually the mother, fakes medical symptoms in her child to get attention. In some ways this book seemed segmented into two stories, visits to the doctor and then the horrific abuse that happened at home. It's told as it unfolds from Gregory's POV at the age she was when going through her ordeals, with little insight on how she looks at it now from an adult's perspective and or education about how what her mother was doing fits the pattern for MBP. And the result was that it felt rather voyeuristic. And at times Gregory seemed so focused on painting a picture of what was happening that it just got confusing, such as when she spliced the word "car battery" into "car batter" and then breaks to describe how her mother wails "REE" that left me confused and re-reading that sentence over and over trying to figure out what a car batter (I even Googled car batter) is and what a ree is until I put it together. I read a lot, and I have never seen something like that before.
If anything it left me with more questions about MBP, though I could easily map out the abusive dynamics of the family as that is very familiar from an academic standpoint. And in the end I felt it was more of a story of a severely dysfunctional family with MPB on the side, rather than tackling MPB front and center. I guess you could argue how to do one without the other, but there it is.View all my reviews