The Disease That Wasn’t There
I got my wish with Julie Gregory’s chilling memoir Sickened. Gregory narrates her experiences in doctor’s offices, yearning for a diagnosis. She’s sick–at least that’s what her mother tells her. Gregory’s mother was convinced that something was wrong with her. Whenever the doctor informed Gregory and her mother that there was no problem, they would leave in a huff.
Gregory loved her mother and believed she was sick too. Why else would she look so sickly thin? Gregory kept up the act, giving her mother support and reassuring her that she was ill. And for many years, Gregory believed she was ill, struck with a disease elusive to most medical professionals.
Gregory’s harsh childhood only gets worse. Her parents take in foster children to make money. Gregory is forced to complete all of the chores and rarely attends school because of her doctor’s appointments. She’s put in the middle of her parents’ crumbling marriage where she’d made to suffer severe physical abuse narrated with such horrific clarity.
Gregory’s story is personally frightening. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered the rare disease Munchausen by proxy, “the falsification or induction of physical and/or emotional illness by a caretaker of a dependent person” (v). No one questioned Gregory’s mother or roused suspicion about her obsession with her daughter’s health. Gregory’s voice pierces through the pain with such calm clarity of what happened to her. It’s a powerful read!