Saturday, April 30, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks ----- Week 18 ----- Sickened

For this week's book in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Sickened - The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory. 

The description on the back cover of the book caught my attention: 

"A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor's examining table, mising yet another day of school.

Just twelve, she is tall, skinny, and weak.  It's four o'clock and she hasn't been allowed to eat anything all day.

Her mother, on the other hands, seems curiously excited.  She's about to suggest open-heart surgery on her child 'to get to the bottom of this.'

She checks her teeth once more for lipstick, and as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance.

This child will not ruin her plans."

When most people think of domestic violence, they associate it with a male aggressor’s domination over a woman. Yet, in Julie Gregory’s case, and in the case of the majority who suffer from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MBP), the violence that she underwent was caused by a maternal parent towards her vulnerable and powerless child.

According to SickenedMBP "may be the single most complex - and lethal - form of maltreatment known today."  Basically, MBP is when a caregiver (often a child’s natural mother) becomes irrationally convinced that her child is sick and - despite any medical evidence to the contrary - insists that the child be subjected to a multitude of often physically-invasive medical practices.

The caregiver becomes increasingly more frustrated as more medical professionals insist that the child is not sick. This frustration leads the caregiver to sicken the child or have the child act ill to fool doctors and specialists.

I began reading Sickened this morning and read 65 pages before relunctantly putting the book down to do other things.  It is absolutely fascinating - though quite sad - to read the impact MBP has on the author. 

This is the first time I've read anything about MBP from the victim's perspective.  In college, when working towards a degree in psychology, I learned about MBP briefly.  However, learning about different disorders in college was done as an overview (e.g., name of disorder, brief definition, key symptoms). 

Sickened provides an in-depth look at the mother (perpetrator), child (victim), and others in the picture (e.g., grandparents, husbands - the mother was married twice, doctors, specialists). 

The author can remember such tiny details - albeit very paintful ones - which paints a captivating picture of what life was like during her early, formative years.

If the remainder of the book continues as this one does, I would highly recommend it for anyone who in interested in learning more about MBP. 

This book is quite an interesting contrast to another one that I'm reading right now called Home Education by Charlotte Mason.  (Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.  I use many of her ideas and methods with homeschooling Sophia and Olivia.)

The beginning of Home Education opens with Charlotte Mason's belief that children are a public trust.  She says,

"...that work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children –– in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman.

It is a great thing to be a parent: there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it.

....The children are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society.

And this responsibility is not equally divided between the parents: it is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressible years."

Clearly, Sickened and Home Education provide two vastly different views on motherhood and raising children.  As I read through Sickened, I'm horrified (and saddened) that there have been - and, unfortunately, will continue to be - children subjected to living their lives with such abuse (physical and mental/psychological) at the hands of their parents, most often their mothers. 

As I look at the photographs in Sickened, it reflects a life and story of courage and persistent spirit. It has appeared in over 20 countries and was named Book Of The Year by The Sunday London Times, and editor’s pick in Entertainment Weekly, as well as being a top ten book of the year in their December issue. It is definitely a worthwhile book to read.

1 comment:

Lenna said...

This is such a frigthening and strange disorder! I've read somewhere that the mothers do it usually in order to get attention that they woundl't be getting otherwise. I mean, everybody feels pitty and symopathy for a mother with a sick child! I think that doctors and nurses need to be informed and trained to recognize the signs of this!