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Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood [Paperback]

Julie Gregory
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 28 2004
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 abuse, in which the caretaker—almost always the mother—invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Many MBP children die, but Julie Gregory not only survived, she escaped the powerful orbit of her mother's madness and rebuilt her identity as a vibrant, healthy young woman.

Sickened is a remarkable memoir that speaks in an original and distinctive Midwestern voice, rising to indelible scenes in prose of scathing beauty and fierce humor. Punctuated with Julie's actual medical records, it re-creates the bizarre cocoon of her family's isolated double-wide trailer, their wild shopping sprees and gun-waving confrontations, the astonishing naïveté of medical professionals and social workers. It also exposes the twisted bonds of terror and love that roped Julie's family together—including the love that made a child willing to sacrifice herself to win her mother's happiness.

The realization that the sickness lay in her mother, not in herself, would not come to Julie until adulthood. But when it did, it would strike like lightning. Through her painful metamorphosis, she discovered the courage to save her own life—and, ultimately, the life of the girl her mother had found to replace her. Sickened takes us to new places in the human heart and spirit. It is an unforgettable story, unforgettably told.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

Product Description


“A painful but wonderfully written memoir that should create greater awareness of a bizarre disorder… Keen self-awareness, a sharp eye for details, and an original, poetic voice.”
--Kirkus Reviews

“This story of unfathomable child abuse is told with remarkable wit, compassion, and courage. It’s a work of beauty from a beast of a childhood.”
--Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors and Dry

“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.”
--Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight

“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.”
--Ann Magnuson, actress, singer, writer

"A stunning account by a courageous woman who journeyed from the depths of hell to reclaim her own power and worth. Julie Gregory casts an extraordinary beacon of healing. You will be hearing a lot about this one.”
--Alan Cohen, author of I Had It All the Time

"A born storyteller with perfect pitch, Julie Gregory guides the reader through this surreal form of cruelty, in which the ultimate weapon is the scalpel, with originality, gusto and heart-stopping courage."
--Sylvia Fraser, author of My Father's House: A Memoir of Incest and of Healing

"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."
--Chris Monaco, Ph.D., Director, Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline

“This searing and beautiful memoir represents a genuine triumph
of the human spirit.”
--Marc D. Feldman, M.D.

From the Hardcover edition.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Won't Let You Go June 24 2004
By A Customer
Jim Pierce,
The darkness that permeates SICKENED: A MEMOIR is riveting. There is not the detachment of watching a car wreck. Rather, we feel the tortured confusion of the young girl convinced by her mother that she is ill despite being healthy. What is only now becoming clear in our society is that child abuse is not always a physical act. It is not even a malicious act. It can take so many forms. SICKENED is a unique book not only because of the unique type of abuse it chronicles, but because as a reader you really do feel the turmoil. It is the kind of writing that captures you, pulls you in, and doesn't let go. Rarely can writers accomplish this, particularly in the area of abuse chronicles. That is why the few exceptions (MY FRACTURED LIFE, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, NIGHTMARES ECHO, and SICKENED) are such riveting books that you really can't get enough of. As someone who reads several books a week, I consider myself lucky when I find just one that hits with the impact of SICKENED, MY FRACTURED LIFE, NIGHTMARES ECHO, or RUNNING WITH SCISSORS. To have found four is true opulence.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blown Away March 19 2007
It's hard to know where to start with this book--describing it. On one hand, it's totally unbelievable, yet on the other, I know these things happen. The story is, sadly, nothing that new; we've seen it before in some form or another in the likes of Dave Pelzer with his "A Child Called It," which just destroyed me, or the novel "Bark of the Dogwood" which is, believe it or not, at times funny. But "Sickened," while it is often spoken in the same breath as those books, is different. It deals with MBP syndrome and the mother is really the sick one in this horrifying tale of control and other issues. For those not familiar with MBP, it involves a parent usually making the child sick, or at least claiming that the child is so, in order to get attention for themselves. In this case the mother was willing to have open heart surgery on her daughter just to "get to the bottom of what the problem was." Somebody should have done the surgery on her (the mother) in the head.

If you're easily put off by both physical medical issues and serious psychological ones, you might want to pass on this book. If, however, you want to read a riveting memoir of just how twisted parents can be, then you've come to the right place. Would also recommend the books "A Child Called it," by Dave Pelzer, "Bark of the Dogwood" and "A Man Named Dave," for equally involved reads.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and compelling April 25 2007
It's very rare to find an autobiography about a traumatic childhood that's not contrived, boring, or self-indulgent, but this story by Julie Gregory is not your typical "re-hash" of the early years gone bad. It reminded me of Alice Sebold's "Lucky" - the author manages to take you through her journey of a life with a munchausen by proxy mother without desperately trying to gain sympathy, and yet I felt compelled from the beginning to root for her success. For anyone who enjoys a true personal story, I highly recommend this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Inspirational Dec 17 2004
By A Customer
Through the horrowing details of the painful childhood, of going without food, and hustled from one Doctor to would think that this child would have climbed in to an inner shell and never stepped back out to the light of day. Instead, what you find is inspiration. A child that realizes what is happening and takes the steps slowly to push away from the painful past and start her life anew. Amazing book.
Also recommended: Nightmares Echo, Paper Life
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Voiced in Memoir March 9 2005
By A Customer
We often ask ourselves "what would make someone act like that?" when we see a mentally or emotionally disturbed individual acting out in abusive ways. However, we rarely ask what the effect will be on the child of such a person.
"Sickened" is a book that answers that secondary question under the most brutal of emotional circumstances in which a child does not know they are being abused, in fact they are taught to believe they are being guarded. I cannot do justice to describing the disease depicted in the pages of "Sickened," I leave that to the author. But the short line depiction is that a parent subjects a healthy child to a lifetime of believing they are chronically sick, and the emotional scars that ensue.
Readers will most equate "Sickened" with "My Fractured Life" and "Nightmares Echo" in the depiction of both the abuse of parents upon their children and the long lasting affects thereof. The capture point that creates such an inherent bond with the reader is that these authors employ a literary approach of memoir reflection and storyline flow, steering away from clinical analysis and statistical data. The openness draws us in, the raw ness hypnotizes. The experience is life changing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sickened May 16 2009
"Sickened" is written in delicious prose that draw you closer to the malicious mind of a mother who is backed with an unspoken paternal consent for long term and consistant child abuse in a deviously constructed sadistic environment.

Julie Gregory fills your mind with undeniable images that cling to you from page to page. Gregory's description give a panoramic view from the point of view of an incarcerated child. She makes your heart ache, she makes you laugh and she leaves you with a glimmer of hope.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sickened is sickening, a child traumatized and abused
Sickened focuses on Julie Gregory's upbringing. From start to finish it becomes clear that her mother's trauma history and mental health issues impacted on her treatment towards... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amy
3.0 out of 5 stars it was ok
I liked reading her story as I hadn't seen any other books like it, but I didn't like the writing style as much. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Private
3.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing story, somewhat interesting
I thought that this was written okay.. It was an unfortunate story, but it was very simply written, not overly complex, and not very deep. Read more
Published on July 11 2010 by Booklover
5.0 out of 5 stars Sickened was sickening, but great.
Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood

Short review: not an easy read, but easy to read, stylistically. Read more
Published on May 14 2010 by Turbo Kelly
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking.......
I can't say that i enjoyed this book..... As another reviewer said the author just summarized certain events in her life in order to prove a point. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2010 by N.M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read.
I saw that book on here quite a while ago and looked everywhere to find it, so when I DID find it I devoured the book in a night. Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2008 by P. Gaudon
3.0 out of 5 stars More of a string of events to prove a point
I didn't find this book to be that captivating. It was an ok story from a survivor of child abuse. However, it lacked a true insight and narrative quality that should go along with... Read more
Published on Sept. 9 2007 by B. NH
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