Upon putting myself into therapy for suicidal ideation, it was quickly identified that my mother was the root cause of my self-loathing due to emotional abuse. Yet after a lot of growth, I hit a plateau where I still blamed myself for everything, never felt good enough, and was drawn to a dangerous person who I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about. I was incredibly frustrated because I couldn’t understand why I was still struggling so much.
I was very fixated on my memories of laying on the bathroom floor crying because I was throwing up, with my mother standing over me yelling at me. “Enough!” “Stop milking it.” “Stop being such a baby.” “You want to go to the emergency room? If it’s so bad, get up; let’s go to the emergency room.” We rarely did, because her yelling made it sound so awful that I was terrified to go, and was in so much pain from all the vomiting, I could barely imagine making it as far as the hospital which was only a few blocks from my home.
I spoke to my older sister, saying that I had forgotten how mean Mommy was, how much she’d yell when we were sick. My sister responded by saying she wasn’t sick that much. I said “But I always was.” I shared that information with my best friend who is a therapist (I am a therapist as well), and she asked questions like “What do you mean sick all the time? Sick how? You don’t think it’s weird you didn’t give your sister whatever it was that was making you sick?” I just remember throwing up all the time, and being sick certain times, like holidays. I was sick every Mother’s Day, every Father’s Day, and every Thanksgiving. I know that, because I remember my mother yelling at me that I had ruined another holiday, that I was always ruining Mother’s Day for her. My friend thought the timing was very suspicious and said that if my mother wanted me to be sick, it wouldn’t have been that hard to do that by putting soap in my food. I responded by saying that there was always soap in my food; that’s why I won’t do dishes. (I’ll either use paper plates, or leave the dishes for my husband.)
That’s when the idea of Munchhausen by proxy first came up. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. I remember throwing up when I had fifth’s disease (fifth strain of the measles), but vomiting isn’t a symptom. I remember that most times when I was sick, it was just me and her; I can’t recall my sister or father being around, and I had initially interpreted that as neglect on my father’s part. My mom’s best friend was a nurse, and she would often examine me instead of a doctor. I remember my mom always holding me down… in the ER, at the dentist, at the eye doctor. She is oddly calm in medical settings, and was overly friendly with medical personnel. She loved our dentist, who she was on a first name basis with, and who filled at least ten cavities before I was even in Junior High. Since my parents have split. Since I haven’t been seeing my mom, the frequency of my vomiting has significantly decreased. My mom also has diabetes and eats chocolate constantly; since I moved out, her diabetes related medical issues (retinopathy, neuropathy, kidney disease) have gotten exponentially worse; even before I thought she could have MBP, I felt like she was making her diabetes worse and exaggerating her symptoms for the attention, which now makes sense, because she has no one to make sick anymore except herself.
I don’t recall my sister being as sick, so an obstacle for me has been accepting and understanding why I was targeted, and accepting that it’s not because I’m inherently wrong and unlovable. This has also caused me to question my memory, because my perspective is so easily disputed by my sister.
My sister says that she recalls there being soap on the dishes, but that it was because my mom was lazy and bad at doing dishes. That was what I believed for most of my life. Here are my concerns with this thinking. I have some legitimate questions that I hope you can help answer.
1. If we go with my sister’s version, that soap was there by accident, is it still considered Munchhausen because my mother was okay with us eating soap? There was soap on our dishes for twenty years. At some point, if it had bothered her, she could have had one of us do dishes, or learned to do a better job, or used paper plates. The fact that this went on for so long seems to indicate that she liked it that way.
2. Is it normal for soap to be on dishes? I really don’t know, because I have always avoided dishes, and my family says it’s normal. It seems to me that a sponge would spread the soap, leaving a film or bubbles. But I remember globs of soap, and chunks of Comet. Can those things really be on dishes by accident?
I confronted my mother, and her response was “There was soap on your dishes, occasionally.” She is still sticking with the whole “I’m just bad at doing dishes” defense. How do you interpret her response?
I’m so used to my mother telling me a different version of reality from the one I believe, that I question myself. My sister usually agrees with her, and the two side against me, so that makes me question myself even more. I tried to get my medical records, but they were destroyed in Superstorm Sandy. I’m not sure what to think anymore, and the not knowing is stressful; it causes me to loop, and creates an emotional roller-coaster. That’s why I would like to hear from people with knowledge and experience on this issue.
Some other questions I have that I hope you can help me with…
1. The biggest gain for my mother seems to be hurting me. She seems to be sadistic; she was raped by her father for years, so it must be fulfilling for her to switch roles. She also seems to have enjoyed hurting my dad, who would always get upset when we were sick, and would rush home for us. (Don’t be fooled into thinking he was a good parent; he was a drug addict who stole from me to buy his drugs, and would hit us when he was coked up). When I read about MBP, there seems to be a focus on wanting attention from doctors, and demanding medical tests. While my mother did demand tests, it was for a condition I was born with (Strabismus), not the vomiting that she induced. So does this qualify as Munchhausen?
2. My mother did not take care of me when I was sick, or really want me to be taken care of at all. She mostly just yelled at me. So does this qualify as Munchhausen?
3. Where do I go from here? What is the treatment for victims of Munchhausen? I love my therapist and find her extremely helpful. However, this is a rare issue, and I’m having a hard time finding literature on treatment. As a therapist myself, I want to apply the most appropriate techniques so that I don’t have to feel this hurt anymore. I don’t want my mother’s actions to keep controlling me. What can you recommend?