I read Sickened a hundred million years ago, you guys, that is how far behind I am on my reviews. HOWEVER. I remember quite a lot about it which I’m assuming means this book was pretty great. Right? That logic is sound?
Sickened is the memoir of a woman named Julie Gregory, whose childhood was stolen away by her mother and countless doctors, doctors who never realized that something was very, very wrong. Gregory’s mother suffered from a disease called Munchausen by Proxy, a form of child abuse in which a parent or caregiver pretends their child is ill, sometimes inducing illness themselves, in order to get attention from doctors.
(Remember Mischa Barton’s story in The Sixth Sense? THAT.)
Gregory was sick for most of her life. Her mother dragged her from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, insisting that she was deathly ill. Often her mother would withhold food or give her medicine she didn’t need. Gregory really WAS sick a lot of the time, but not because of any illness other than her mother’s.
Whenever I read stories like this, memoirs from people whose parents completely fucked up their childhoods, I reflect on how easy I’ve had it. How absolutely, just, NORMAL my own childhood was, and I send up a quick thank you to God, The Universe, or Whoever for giving me parents who weren’t suffering from mental illness or addiction, who took care of me and nurtured me not because OOPS they had a kid, but because they loved me and it was the right thing to do.
Sickened will infuriate you, as a parent (I mean, I can only assume, having no children of my own) and, hell, as a person. Even aside from the utter insanity that Gregory’s mother put her through, the ill effects on her health and psyche, her home life in general left much to be desired. But you’ll also be inspired, as Gregory was able to disengage herself from the destructive lives her parents were leading and she even gets the chance to save a young girl from the same fate, when she realizes her mother is doing to a foster child what she’d done to her. I don’t know what makes a person do to a child what Gregory’s mother did, but I am grateful that Gregory made it through and was able to write about it.