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Sickened
Cover of Sickened
Sickened
The True Story of a Lost Childhood
Borrow
A remarkable memoir that speaks in an original and distinctive Midwestern voice, rising to indelible scenes in prose of scathing beauty and fierce humor. 

A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor’s examining table, missing yet another day of school. Just twelve, she’s 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 hand, 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 for lipstick and, as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance. This child will not ruin her plans.

From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually X-rayed, medicated, and operated on—in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother’s mind. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is the world’s most hidden and dangerous form of child...
A remarkable memoir that speaks in an original and distinctive Midwestern voice, rising to indelible scenes in prose of scathing beauty and fierce humor. 

A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor’s examining table, missing yet another day of school. Just twelve, she’s 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 hand, 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 for lipstick and, as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance. This child will not ruin her plans.

From early childhood, Julie Gregory was continually X-rayed, medicated, and operated on—in the vain pursuit of an illness that was created in her mother’s mind. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is the world’s most hidden and dangerous form of child...
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    6.1
  • Lexile:
    1050
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    4 - 5

Recommended for you

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    The part I hated most was the shaving. I mean, if you're a twelve-year-old girl, how much hair can you have on your chest? But they'd lather me up anyway and run a new plastic Bic between my barely-there breasts. They needed me smooth and hairless so the little white pads would stick to those points constellated around my heart and record my beats. And while they were preparing, I'd hover above myself, intent on studying the nubby white ceiling tiles, imagining a room where I lived, inverted, upon the ceiling, away from the clutter of our trailer, away from the hospital--just floating in pure, white peace.

    The scent of the shaving cream pulls me back down from the ceiling: It's the same kind Dad used. Every day before dawn, he'd erupt in violent heaving and crawl off to the toilet trying to peel the Agent Orange from his lungs. Sometimes the sounds of his retching would come out the mouths of those elusive figures in my dreams, the worlds between sleep and wake merging seamlessly for a few groggy moments. He'd usually shave after he puked.

    In an unspoken understanding, the examining room nurse folds a giant pile of cream from the can onto her palm, so much that as she smooths an inch-thick trail down my chest, our naked skin never touches.

    Eventually the tide of Agent Orange would ebb and he'd lean dizzy in the doorway and say, "I'm selling Buicks, Sissy. Get it? Selling Buicks? Buuicck. Buuuuiiick." Then he'd cackle and brush the back of his meaty fist across his mouth.

    The nurse picks up a new blue-handled blade and runs it neatly down my sternum, slicing out another clean, pink row.

    And what do you do at seven in the morning but laugh with your big, lumbering father, who's pretending the doorway of the bathroom is a lamppost and that he, leaning on it like a drunk, is hawking Buicks in his best barker accent?

    And then they're done. The white pads have been spread with a clear magnetic jelly and pressed on to six different locations. Their wires run into one larger river of wires that flows from under my sternum down my abdomen, emerging out the zipper of my pants like I had some elaborate cable TV pay-per-view setup in there. The rubber-coated electrodes feed into a tape recorder that fits snugly into a rectangular leather harness; it looks like a purse. I wear the strap over my shoulder, and while my seventh-grade life ticks away, so do the heartbeats that go with it, right into the box.

    For starters, I was a sick kid. Beanpole skinny and as fragile as a microwave souffle, I bruised easy and wilted in a snap. Kids in school used to walk straight up to me and ask point-blank if I was anorexic. But I wasn't; just sick. And Mom bent over backwards trying to find out what was wrong with me. It wasn't just that I had a heart problem. It was everything rolled into one, bleeding together with so many indistinguishable layers that to get to the root of it was impossible, like peeling off every transparent layer of an onion, and when I got old enough to peel the onion myself, every layer made me cry.

    I was conceived in the sickly womb of a sickly mother--who starved herself and in turn starved me. She was highly anemic and blind with toxemia at the time of my birth--the result, she explained, of high blood pressure cutting off the circulation to her eyes. I was pushed into this world premature at three pounds seven ounces, an embryonic little bird, glowing translucently, and when they slapped me I didn't even yowl. They thought I was dead. The doctor, holding my bluish body upside down by the ankles, took one look at me and said, "My, what big feet she has." And then I was ushered into an incubator where I lay, as all...

About the Author-
  • JULIE GREGORY grew up in southern Ohio. She is now an expert writer and spokesperson on Munchausen by proxy and an advocate
    in MBP cases. A graduate student in psychiatry at Sheffield University, England, she currently lives in the United States.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 1, 2003
    The first of its kind, this compelling memoir recounts the story of a childhood affected by Munchausen by proxy disease, a.k.a. MBP, a psychological disorder in which caretakers, usually themselves the victims of traumatic abuse,"make an otherwise healthy child sick" as a way of gaining attention and approval. Set in towns of rural obscurity, Gregory's memoir movingly describes how, as a"sick" child, she believed that her constant feelings of exhaustion and lethargy were caused by some illness in herself rather than by her mother's complicated and abusive rituals. When her mother feeds her handfuls of pills, withholds food or instructs her to"act sick," Gregory does as she is told because she wants to please her. Then, undernourished and doped up on drugs for problems that don't exist, Gregory is dragged from hospital to hospital in search of"answers." Interspersed throughout Gregory's narrative are real medical records that show the efforts of dozens of doctors, procedures and surgeries to"heal" her, efforts which instead become the source of new illnesses. Not until adulthood, when she hears a professor describe MPB during a lecture, does Gregory realize what the real problem is. Gregory's impressive and disturbing memoir uncovers the truths of this elusive and disturbing form of child abuse that is often overlooked and misdiagnosed. 22 pages of b&w white photos.

  • Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight "Like some Diane Arbus photograph come to life, Julie Gregory's Sickened offers us a portrait of quintessential American Disturbos in all their tender, heinous can't-look-and-can't-look-away glory. A miraculous book by a woman whose very survival is itself a miracle."
  • Ann Magnuson, actress, singer, writer "Set in a southern-culture-on-the-skids world reminiscent of J.T. Leroy, Sickened is written with a lyrical directness that is both riveting and horrific. Julie Gregory reminds us that those who find the courage to slay the dragons of their past and stop the cycle of abuse are the true heroes of the world."
  • Chris Monaco, Ph.D., Director, Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline "Gripping self-disclosure by a remarkable young woman . . . Sickened will surely and finally impact the proper diagnosis and treatment of children caught in the terror of MBP."
  • Marc D. Feldman, M.D. "This searing and beautiful memoir represents a genuine triumph
    of the human spirit."
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    Random House Publishing Group
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Sickened
The True Story of a Lost Childhood
Julie Gregory
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