Thursday, July 7, 2011

MSBP Makes It Into My Participation in a Planned Parenthood Blog Carnival

Planned Parenthood Blog Carnival. I'm telling my story.

This post  is cross-posted from my blog,  Build Peace,  which is participating in a blog carnival today organized by two Hoosier-based blogs, What Tami Said and Shakesville in support of Planned Parenthood which  as you know is under siege from Right Wing extremists.  Check out the Blog Carnival here.  

It wasn't until I wrote this blog entry that I realized how having a mother with the problems I did impacted my view on having children.  

My story of interaction with Planned Parenthood is not all that special.  Every woman's life story is unique.  Planned Parenthood allows women to have unique, self-guided lives.   That is a very good thing.

I live in a city in Arizona where Margaret Sanger spent much of the later part of her life.  I grew up a few miles from a country town in Indiana where good but poor girls died from septicemia or blood loss from botched back alley abortions and wealthy girls traveled to "see an Auntie" who lived somewhere that a skilled physician performed abortions for a hefty fee and silence in a clean medical office after hours.  It was a very big deal.  I grew up hearing my Mom's stories of good women who died young from back alley abortions.  Her take.  Nasty business, but sometime necessary, and it should be legal.  Apparently at least one of her friends died because of lack of access to medical care and the butchery of an illegal abortion. 

"The pill" was developed around the time I was born, with persistence it could be obtained in the 1960s when I was a child, and by the time I was a teenager it was widely prescribed to mature adult women, but teenagers needed to have their parents permission and that was a rarity.  I knew one girl who had a mother who actually helped her get on the pill.

It was not easy to get access to the services Planned Parenthood now offers.  The Fort Wayne branch, founded in 1977,  did not exist the first time I went to a women's clinic in Fort Wayne.  The county of my official residence at that time had no dedicated women's services.  You had to lie to say you lived in Allen County and give the address of a friend or relative if you wanted to get birth control. If you did not want to take your chances and go to a male physician who might or might not lecture you, refuse to help you, or who simply was so old school that he (physicians back then seemed to all be male) didn't understand the basics of the types and risks of different contraceptive options.

Then I began to attend Purdue University and had some not so good experiences with the campus Medical Center, again largely because at that time you did not know what type of person the physician you might see was and whether you would get a lecture, good information, or help.  That is when I began to use Planned Parenthood for annual check-ups.  The Lafayette branch opened in 1975. 

For the next ten years all my annual check ups were done there.  I paid the highest price on the sliding scale after I was out of college and continued to use PP because I felt it was important to support the only facility within an hour and a half drive where women without support systems could turn for information about contraception, annual check ups, and referrals to more specialized services.  I remember interns rotating through the clinic getting experience that was not easy to arrange in Indiana back then.

I am fortunate to have faced no unwanted pregnancies and to have had no abortions.  Until I was with my husband (in my thirties) I never faced an unplanned pregnancy.  In my twenties when I was unmarried and living with a man with whom I knew I did not want to have children, I was the birth control Goddess.  It was a bad situation and I didn't realize the gravity of it until I tried to leave him and experienced "spousal" rape, stalking, and threats of violence.   I could not safely use the pill but had a couple different models of IUD,  and used a diaphragm religiously.  I had made the decision that if I became pregnant I would immediately go to Planned Parenthood and seek a referral for terminating the pregnancy.  I now understand that this determination to never have a child with this guy signaled the problems in the relationship long before I consciously admitted them to myself.   Prevention, prevention, prevention was also my mantra because growing up as an unwanted and unplanned child myself, I swore I would never expose a child to the resentment I had experienced because I was not wanted.  I am still haunted by the memory of my mother, when I was no more than 9, when in an angry outburst she voiced, with utter contempt of having to deal with a preteen, that she had not planned for nor wanted me to be.  It stays with me to this day. 

My daughter was unplanned but dearly wanted and born in another state than Indiana.   I will never tell another woman what she should do in a given situation. I just want all the options within our current human tool kit to be available to that woman.   I dearly and passionately want every child born to be a wanted and loved child.  That is the bottom line for me.  I will never forget stopping at a Planned Parenthood booth during a street fair when I was very preggers just about 3 weeks before I had my daughter to sign a petition to keep abortion safe and legal and the wonderment that even the women working the booth showed that a pregnant woman would support abortion.  It was then that I realized that I would be fighting this fight to keep all our options open for the rest of my life because ingrained attitudes and stereotypes do not go away easily or in one generation.

I ventured to Washington, D.C. in April of 2004 to participate in the March for Women's Lives. That was one of the largest marches, some say the largest ever marches on D.C. The official count was 1.4 million in attendance.  I volunteered to help direct people arriving in 1000 buses that parked at RFK Stadium to transportation to the National Mall. It was amazing.  I will never forget the school bus filled with Junior High girls from Pennsylvania,  a Quaker School I believe, that had raised funds to attend. After the bus parking, I "rushed" to the mall as fast as the packed metro would take me.  I marched with Arizona Planned Parenthood.   I wanted to march with my friends in CODEPINK, but I felt it was far more important to show that even "conservative" states such as AZ have large numbers of people willing to spend time, money, and effort to be a part of a national statement by women, and men, about our commitment to the preservation of women as agents of control over their own lives.

My hope is that one day Planned Parenthood will no longer be the needed, vital service it is today.  Good top notch healthcare needs to be available to everyone. Someday it will be. Perhaps then we will stop segregating, and thus stigmatizing health care for women, and we will be able to offer all services under the same roof as immunizations, back to school check ups, and routine visits with your physician,  and with that all surgical procedures will then done in multi-specialty clinics or hospitals without the stigma of separation of services, and the denial of privacy from which specialized clinics suffer and to which their clients are unconstitutionally subjected. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Caring for Elderly or Infirm Parents Who Were Not Always The Best of Parents

I just read a post from the blog, Half-Past Kissin' Time, on The BlogHer Network.  It isn't a long post and basically it just asks the question, "Are we obligated to take care of our parents one day?" That question is an especially complicated one for persons who had their childhood contaminated with less than stellar parenting. 

As some of you know, I took care of my Mom from early March through late June 2007 when she passed away in her home of 67 years at the age of 92.  Let me tell you a little bit about the details  of our relationship.  Mom was in her forties when she gave birth to me.  She and Dad owned a small mixed crop farm that made less and less money throughout the 1960s and 1970s  while I was growing up.  She worked unbelievably hard and was not a happy person.  She thought she was done having children over 9 years earlier when she gave birth to the last of my four brothers.  Neither my youngest brother, the one 9 years older than me,  nor I were planned.  She told me once when I was around 10 years old that "I never asked for you to be born."  When I was about 12 and feeling the intensity of what I think was probably my first severe depressive episode, I was sobbing and asked the question, "Why do I have to be so ugly?" Mom answered "I wouldn't say you are ugly,  you are just plain."  She, obviously, was not always a tactful or compassionate mother.  These types of comments were just the tip of the iceberg.  Let it suffice to say that I don't think that anyone who knew the truth of all the things that went on in my family would have expected me to leave Arizona and return to Indiana to care for my mother during her final days, especially not when I had a teenage daughter, age 17,  at home, as well as a marriage that needed attention.  But I did.

I did not have to do it.  I would not expect anyone who has experienced medical child abuse, or any type of child abuse, to be able to personally care for the parent or person who abused or orchestrated the abuse, nor even to want to participate in any way in care-giving for that person.

I finally came to terms with my abuse four years before my mother died.   I confronted my Mom about the lack of care about 10 years before that.  I was old enough, mature enough, when all this unfolded that I could realize I had the ability to control whether I interacted with my Mom and what those interactions were like.  Realizing this was empowering.  I know the word empower is over used to the point of banality, but this truly was a realization that I had power over my own life.  That allowed me to say, "Just because my mother was not always a good mother does not mean that I have to be a "bad" daughter.  I choose to interact and, if I want to, I can be good daughter.  It was not always smooth sailing, but I learned, when I was around my mom during those ensuing years, to take actions that preserved my autonomy.  I always rented a hotel room when I visited my Mom in the years before she was dying.  It gave me a place to retreat to when being around my mom became caustic. 

My mother's decline had begun in earnest a few months before I began caring for her. We tried other caretakers first.  It wasn't the first option. It was the last option before putting her in a nursing home knowing she would never come home again.  In other words, it wasn't my first choice.  Her condition also influenced my choice.  She was weak, frail, and could not initiate speech.  She could answer questions when directly asked and her answers showed that she was cogent and understood the basics of what was happening around her.  It might have been an entirely different story if she could initiate speech and chose to criticize me.  But we were not anywhere near that reality.  It might have been different if the sweet side of Mom was not obviously in tact and responding to the little things I did for her.

I did not think of it this way at the time, but the months together allowed us to bond through physical contact that I had no memory of ever experiencing with her.  I fed, dressed, and bathed her.  I cooked her favorite foods and at bedtime I always gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her I loved her, and she told me she loved me.  This time allowed us both to heal emotionally. I know it allowed me to heal.  I want to think it allowed her to heal too.

And there was another after the fact impact that I didn't give much thought to at the time.  Though my daughter felt a bit abandoned by me at the time, she has told me since then that she will take care of me.  I modeled compassion and she noticed.

Many things came together to allow me to be in a place in my life from which I could care for my mother.  We all have different circumstances.  As long as you are comfortable with it don't rule any option out.   If you have gotten to that point in life, you know you are in charge and what other people, beyond those you love, really doesn't matter.   Do what is right.  What is right will not hurt you. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing What is Read

This is a repost of a 29 January 2008 blog post from a site that is no longer active. 


I do not intend for these posts to be therapeutic journaling written mainly to fill some need I might have.   I write about what captures my attention, makes me think thoughts that have some novel component, and what readers want to read.   I look at statistics from my websites to gauge what I should be writing.   I give topics that fill some sort of a need in the informational milieu of the world have a higher priority than personally favorite topics that no one reads.

Munchausen by Proxy Abuse is what has received the most traffic so far on this site.   This lends supports my impression that there is a dearth of real information for the survivors of this type of abuse.   I will set up a page on Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome Abuse.   (Pages are static and function more like traditional website pages while blog entries like this one roll over into archives and are replaced as front page featured posts with newer entries as they are published.)  You will also be able to pull up all of the MSBPA pages under the category "medical abuse." 

I prefer the term "medical abuse" as it parallels the term sexual abuse, a term fairly well understood by the population at large.  Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is not only a mouth full, it also begins to set up a favorable context for framing the behavior it is supposed to identify or describe.    MSBP put the focus on the abuser.   Munchausen sets it up to be thought of as a big word with a fanciful connection.   The phrase "by proxy" maintains the focus of the phrase on the active "doer" of the behavior, although it does acknowledge an anonymous person who was acted upon.   Medical  abuse is a far more terse and far less romantic term.   Of course the people who harm others through needless medical procedures or induced illness need help. But the exhibitors of this syndrome do not deserve attention. 
The victims of this syndrome need the therapy and assistance in healing those wounds that can heal. 

There are survivors of MSBP.   The "famous" cases of medical abuse tend to be ones in which the abuser (most often the mother of the victim) is caught in an attempt to seriously harm or kill her young child.    I am steadfast in my belief that many if not most cases of this bizarre violation of a dependent's body, and spirit,  are never brought to light because the victim hasn't been killed and grows up to eventually participate in a world where criticism of "the mother"  is not acceptable, and quite often able to be perceived by members of the culture that has ruled out such behavior as even possible.  This is an invisible form of abuse if the victim survives, as family members and the victim him or herself will most likely be unable to even understand that abuse has happened. It was once culturally unacceptable to expose or acknowledge sexual abuse.  Medical abuse for the most part still wears a cultural cloak of invisibility. 

How do I know all this?   What makes me qualified to discuss and analyze such behavior? 

Briefly, for now, I survived unnecessary medical procedures initiated by my mother.   I at first studied psychology but found semiotic anthropology to be a fascinating area of study and research.  I have an MS in Anthropology and specialized in biosemiotic analysis specifically focused on "the body."    I did not fully come to understand that this MSBP thing  was what I had experienced until five years ago.   I began to venture toward the mental and emotional place where I could  accept and integrate that experience  into  myself about 15 years ago.  The uncanny thing  that still amazes me is that  I  had equipped myself with a nearly perfect theoretical toolkit for making the cultural denial visible and then for parsing and reframing the behaviors into discrete acts of meaning.

We're out there, we adult survivors of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy abuse, even though society for the most part does not want to know we are there,  and in some small way I hope that my discussion and dissection of medical abuse under my self-ground lens provides some illumination along the path to understanding how to eradicate this particular cycle of abuse. 

Letter to My Body

This is a repost of a 23 May 2008 blog post from a site that is no longer active. 


Letter To My Body

BlogHer started this thing called A Letter To My Body.  I've been thinking about writing one, a letter, and linking it to the others on BlogHer from this site.  I haven't done it already as I've been heavily into constructive change for the last couple months.   The couple months before that I was numb.  The months before that I was working in a job that took all my physical and emotional energy so that I wouldn't think about the previous six months when I cared for my mother in her home,  1893 miles from my  home and family,  as she passed from this life, and then lived in her house as we cleared almost 70 years of accumulated memories from the house after her death.
For those of us who have abused and watched our bodies be abused, well at least for me, writing a letter to that part of myself is beyond difficult if we do it honestly and with the real intention of communicating something to ourselves and all our parts. 

My dear faithful physical self, I love you, never doubt that, ever again, and please hear me as I say, I am sorry for all things I've done to you and all the things I have allowed to happen to you.   I've been learning to make peace with the past for the last couple of years... it started two years ago on my birthday when I called Donald Rumsfeld a liar and was escorted from the Senate meeting room.  At that point I knew that I was strong that you were strong and that we had arrived.  Finally we were whole, we were together, and everything was alright.   You were so calm and steady.  I was so proud of you.

I still want to officially apologize for trauma you've suffered when I starved myself, when I gorged myself, when I would scratch you until you bled, when I smoked and drank and did everything I could to hurt you, when I stayed in relationships that brought you no pleasure out of fear, when I was not aware enough to warn you to get up an leave before an assault happened, when I stayed vigilant for years at a time and worked our adrenal glands to exhaustion, when I allowed young foolish vanity to tempt fate and got us into a situation where rape occurred, when you had to suffer through needless surgery and countless tests, x-rays, injections, medications, scans, and years of inactivity when I played sick to please a mother who wanted me to be sick because of her own sickness.    I am so sorry you experienced all these things.  But you know what?  It wasn't your fault, and it wasn't my fault.  We were young, practically babies when the brutalization began and we learned to think that self-sacrifice, in a literal sense, was the norm and what we had to do and what we should do. 
I want to thank you for being so resilient,  for all the pleasures you have allowed me to experience.   Thank you for the perfect timing of the ovulation that allowed me to become mother to the most wonderful baby in the world now grown to most wonderful young woman in the world.  Thank you for becoming strong enough for me to lift my mother during her last days as I cared for her, that ability allowed me  to have the time with her to truly understand forgiveness and experience love for and from her. 

Thank you for coordinating fingers and developing neural paths that allow me to blog and write for hours on end without strain or tiring.   Thank you for naturally guiding me away from wanting to eat things that have faces. Thank you for enjoying it when I work out.  Thank you for hating being directly in the sun.   Thank you for giving me that great white streak in my dark hair while I got used to graying. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you.   I will continue to take better care of you with each passing day in these second fifty years. 

Namaste my dear old friend.   Namaste.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter, Mothers Day, and a Proxy's Memory

Happy Easter!  Spring is such a mix-mash of memories for me.  Easter in my mind is a lead up to Mother's Day.    I  think of baby chicks, wild flowers, morels, and the wet scent of earth nurturing an explosion of birth and life,  and of family and celebrations in spring.  Spring, for me as a child, was the time between Easter and Mother's Day.  I grew up on a farm that had lots and lots of hens.  Mom and I always put up an Easter egg tree and to me that was the signal that spring had officially begun.  Summer began the week after Mothers Day, on my birthday, when to my mind summer arrived.   So, for me, spring is forever linked to the farm, Mom, and me.  Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 92; I spent her last spring with her in my childhood home, on that farm, in her home of 67 years, taking care of her.  Spring has become a sad time for me, not just because she is gone, although I do miss her terribly, but because of a conflict I feel within myself about her.  

The lead up to Mothers Day is difficult for me because I have very mixed emotions about publicly sharing my memories of my life with Mom.  Though we can never be sure exactly what is real, and what time may have adjusted  in our memory of an event, I can say with complete certainty that my mother exhibited some degree of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.  I was the proxy through which Mom gained the attention and recognition she so desperately craved.  Memories of family holidays and the almost foreboding approach of  Mother's Day just seems to highlight a discontinuity within myself. For the last few months I've been feeling terribly uncertain about writing in detail about our relationship. 

I loved and always will love my mother.   She was not an evil person.  But she was ill.  She abused me and allowed me to be tortured by physicians and medical personnel to gain attention or recognition for herself.  I believe she also did this with one of my older brothers, David.  That brother is now deceased, so I will never know for certain, although from what she told me of the improper way she had him wear his eye-patch for his amblyopia, I am fairly certain this brother also was abused and essentially blinded in one eye by her to obtain sympathy or recognition. 

Is it profane to expose what remains of my mother, the memory of her and her legacy, to  criticism by speaking and writing about this type of abuse from my perspective as an adult survivor of MSBP?  Does the benefit to others justify the defilement of her memory?  I've written about this before now, but I used pseudonyms, and I did not do this in a way that would gain much attention.  Will my two living brothers ever talk to me again when they find out I am doing this.  I'm not sure they, or their children could ever condone my sharing this information, even if they could accept it.  My mother orchestrated our family's behavior with an incredible amount of precision and absolute authority.   All communication went through her and she freely censored or shaped the family story. 

I am not going to go into any detail about my personal abuse experience here, the focus of this blog is to share what I have learned from my personal journey and what I have found out from my research into this topic.  (I knew that graduate studies in social science had to be good for something.)   It has been not quite 10 years since I really was able to accept that my mother suffered from MSBP and that I too I suffered because of it. 

My healing really began years before that when I first expressed hurt and confusion about how she could have looked the other way when I was faking illness as a child or getting myself into trouble as a teenager.  Even though I was in my late thirties at the time, I still felt responsible for everything in my childhood.

That beginning to heal event was to confront my mother about keeping me out of school to an absolutely astonishing degree; my report card shows 100 plus days marked absent in third grade.   After I had my own daughter and could look back on what I experienced through a mother's eyes with a mother's heart I simply could not make sense of that.   Somehow when she was visiting in my home  one spring, we got into a dispute in which I ended up yelling and crying.  I asked her bluntly and through sobs with what I remember as a raggedy and rough voice, for an explanation from her as to how she could have allowed me to hurt myself by pretending to be sick so much when I was little and how she could have allowed me to go out with people and stay out until totally inappropriate times as a young teenager?  Her response was to act hurt and simply say with utter disappointment in her voice, "Nancy, how could you?' and storm into the guest room.  I was crying and shaking as I never had before as I had never confronted my mom about anything in my entire life,  When she re-emerged into the living room where I was she demanded that I change her flight and have her return home immediately.  I don't know how I found the courage, but I told her, "Do it yourself."   She always presented herself as meek and totally incapable of doing anything for herself in the outside world.  This time was no different.  She did not do it.   She claimed she didn't know how to do it.  The only thing I can figure out, is that by refusing to act on her own in this and other circumstances, she could place blame on others who did not properly, in her view, meet her needs and absolve herself from any responsibility.

This was the beginning of a healing journey for me, but in typical dysfunctional family style, after this interaction we did not speak of it again.  I felt that it would benefit no one to revisit the topic with her.  Mom acted as though it never happened, and I was able to create boundaries so I would not have to deny what I knew to be real, I would say, whenever a topic that involved medical or hypochondriacal talk, or her accounting some poison pen tale, I would simply tell her that was a topic I did not talk about or with which I was uncomfortable, and move on to another subject.  That was a huge step for me and for her. 

Finally, in my 40s I had learned to draw boundaries, enforce them, and say, "No."  It was several more years until I would put all the disparate memories of missing school, being taken to the doctor all the time as a child, having excessive medical tests, surgeries, and procedures, and being taken to different doctors together with an older brother receiving similar attentions from mom when he was in early grade school, and actually realizing that my mother engaged in medical abuse known as Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, MSBP.   The abuse I suffered was not the stereotypic, homicidal type I'd most often heard of on the news.  A counselor had even brought up the topic of my mother having MSBP years earlier, after I confronted Mom but before I could accept all the facts, but I'd dismissed it because I hadn't been killed and I believed that because I was complicit in staging illness in the early years I was totally to blame.   Finally everything came together and in 2003 I began to research MSBP and found that in the psychological literature there is a type of the syndrome referred to as a blended form where the caregiver is aided in the deceit by the minor or dependent person on the receiving end of all the medical treatments and surgeries. 

This description of blending, malingering, and faking being brought into the consideration of abuse so insulted me at that time I read about it that I was then able to name the abuse.  Naming is a very powerful step in understanding almost anything significant. Once I could name the abuse I could ask questions.   If a child's body is invaded by sexual assault and through time the child keeps the secret of abuse or even assists  the abuser in small ways, is the sexual assault and abuse termed blended as though it is a lesser type of abuse?  The invasion of a child's body by another person's body or by an instrument makes no difference in my way of seeing things.  The assault is just as violent and invasive no matter whether the assault is medical or sexual,  and no matter whether the child continues to seek comfort from the caregiver who is also the abuser by doing what is necessary to get the approval or affection of that person.

After this awakening percolated to a conscious level, I understood that I could not be blamed for what had happened because I was a child and the one who was abused,  I was then able to tell my family physician about this, and follow up on her recommendation of working with a specific psychotherapist who specialized in therapy with victims of child abuse.  Earlier treatment for depression had been ok, but I realized I needed counseling with someone who really understood what I had experienced and and with which I was coming to terms.  I joined a poetry group and allowed words and emotions to join together on the page to express sentiments and allow me to frame and reframe experiences.  I brought my writings with me into the talk therapy.   All these things together allowed me to heal to a point that amazes me. 

I arrived at a place where I decided to build a new relationship with my mother through conscious action.  Actually the building had begun with my drawing of boundaries for the relationship but I didn't understand that at that time.   It became clear to me that just because my mother had not always been a good mother was no reason for me to not be a good daughter if I wanted to.  It was up to me.

Not so long after the realization that I could be any type of daughter I wanted to be, my mother actually admitted to me, "You know, sometimes I wasn't a very good mother."  I didn't push the issue or pounce on it.  Hearing her say that was enough.  I still cry and want to hug her.  People who engage in MSBP abuse like those who are sexual predators almost never admit that they engaged in any inappropriate behavior.  For her to admit that to me was huge. She must have been so hurt and messed up herself have developed MSBP.  It doesn't excuse what she did.  But I am so happy that we learned to hug and even say, "I love you." to each other.  That was enormous for me.  It was for her too.  No one ever hugged or said, "I love you," in my family before I started doing it. 

In the last years of Mom's  life we would send each other flowers for any and all special occasions.  Easter and Mother's Day were hard for me the first couple of years after her death when there were no floral deliveries to my home from Mom.  Though it came late in our relationship, the concrete gesture of her sitting down and choosing a specific bouquet with which to to say, "I love you" meant the world to me.  So now when my own daughter comes over with flowers or a gift and there is laughter and healthy love filling my house at, there is a bouquet on the mantle that I make for myself in one of the vases from an arrangement my mom once sent to me.

This year I've finally come to the conclusion that yes, you would be embarrassed or ashamed of the things I discuss here, but you would also be proud of me for being able to offer up our life together to others so that the healing can continue beyond just us. 

Happy Easter Momma.  I'm missing the Midwestern spring flowers and you today, but I'm also  happy I learned how to be a better me, and that maybe that allowed you to be a happier, better you.  I love you and I miss you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mother Love

Please hang with me while I get a bit technical for a paragraph or so.

Mother love is the phrase we all know best, but there is a companion phrase, mother hurt, that exists in our linguistic brains as the complementary opposite of it.  When we say good, the word bad also pops into our brains, just as when we say alive the word dead is also in play.   These complementary pairs are antonyms in which the presence of one quality or state signifies the absence of the other and vice versa.  No intermediate states exist.  Our culture does not always sanction the equal expression or even the existence of these pairs.  Mothers are good in our cultural lexicon.  Phrases that question this basic ground rule are suppressed.  But they exist.  Mother hurt is the flip side of mother love.  Something seems not quite right when you hear it.  That is your cultural conscience at work.

Your cultural conscience is also where anger and a host of other emotional responses such as guilt, fear, and self-doubt can reside as you work to suppress one half of the natural pair that you know exists but that you also feel you should not admit exists.  The tension between these two points of view is how I conceptualize the space between mother hurt and mother love which is the space and place I existed from my earliest school age memories to the present.  This is my model and it helps me to evaluate my own response when I need to gain perspective on my behavior or my reaction to something in my environment.

 This "Mother Hurt" that I talk about is not necessarily about my own mother or abuse.  It is about the complete spectrum of emotions involving caretakers.  Sometimes my mother experienced hurt.  Sometimes I experienced hurt.  Sometimes we experience hurt.  Sometimes we experienced love.  There is nothing simple about a relationship with a parent, guardian or caregiver.  That "nothing simple" is what I write about.

Most of what I write will not be all that technical, but at times I will lapse into theory and research.  In this area and the area of Munchausen by Proxy abuse, and actually in all factitious disorders, there is a dearth of information about the people who experienced the abuse.  I do this (this being the blog) because there is a need for it and if I can help develop an understanding in this area, then I feel responsibility to do so.  This responsibility comes from the mother love side of this complex issue, for there was much to love about my mother and I do not ever want to lose the good times we shared and the good things she taught me.  To do so would be to tell lies, even if it would be through omission.  And lies only hurt people.  I do not want to hurt;  I focus on healing and helping.

Reposts of Original Posts After I Recognized I was an MSBP Abuse Survivor

I first wrote these entries in the fall of 2003.


I responded to this question on an MSP site ( 

"Since you have already been there I would like to know what type of treatment and counseling we are going to need after we prove that my step childrens mother is doing this to them. They are 7 and 9 years old and the eldest has started denying claims that the mother makes as to his sicknesses and abuse allegations against the childrens father but the youngest is still going along with the mother although there is documentation in her medical records, school records etc to prove what the mother is doing. Where did you go wrong in treatment (if you ever did)? Would you do anything different? Are there things we need to be aware of that they need that is not in medical research into msbp? Please let me know from experience what these babies need, I dont want them harmed more by me doing something wrong although it is to help them.
And how the heck can we explain what has happend without them hating her(we dont want that i believe that the mother is sick but that she can heal and be a good mom)?"

Here's my reply....

This is the heart of the matter for me. There is so much that needs to be understood and known about how to heal the wounds that this type of abuse inflicts. I'm only now, as a mature adult, coming to grips with what I experienced and what I can still do to heal and to learn to live a healthy and whole life even though I am covered with scars.

You are doing the right thing (IMHO) in being persistent, in focusing on healing the children and not on seeking retribution against the mother.

I can only speak from my experience but... here goes...

Find a therapist who understands this type of physical and psychological abuse probably one who specializes in non-sexual abuse.

These children need love and lots of it... follow their leads. The type of love they will comfortably and healthily accept will have been tainted. The love offered them or what they interpreted as love has been the perverse medical and nursemaiding behaviors and situations they experienced. They need to be brought back into healthy loving family relations and they may well need to have specific learned expressions of how love is expressed be overwritten, reframed and extinguished. Talk to the counselors about this.

The kids’ senses of trust have been shattered. They have probably learned not to trust their own feelings and/or assessments of situations -- and this self doubt about basic perceptions has been the most insidious remnant of the abuse.

Knowing that someone you love is capable of not only harming you, but wanting you dead, is Hell to deal with. I still find it extremely difficult to trust at the deepest levels.

Be careful of falling into religious justifications that “suffering is good” or “it was meant to be” or “you will be stronger for having being given these tests.” That kind of rationalization was extremely harmful to me. It feeds into the “I deserve the bad things that have happened to me” ideology. What was done to them was sick, wrong and perverted. A life long masochistic approach to interpersonal relationshps could develop from the foundations already built. Suffering is not good for children or other human beings.

I know you want to believe that the abuser can be “healed or “reformed” and that you want to be able to trust her again. You probably love her and want to see her healthy too. Your priority is the children. My own take on MSP abusers is that they are much like child sexual abusers and they may never be able to be entrusted to caring for a child again. Be very careful. The abuser may well find other victims when these children are removed from her care. The parallels with sexual predation are there.

I and at least one other survivor I’ve spoken with also experienced a phenomena I haven’t seen mentioned in the literature. As teenagers, when we began rejecting the unhealthy and abusive behaviors both within ourselves and those carried out by our mothers against us, our mothers withdrew all care other than the most basic from us. In my case my mother allowed and enabled me leave the house with men much older than myself, didn’t impose a curfew, and effectively encouraged situations in which harm to me was likely to occur. It is difficult for me to say whether she wanted me to be declared mentally ill, be arrested and prosecuted as delinquent, or to die. She certainly didn’t want anything good for me. So I would caution you to be diligent in watching for other types of abuse supplanting the medical abuse when medical abuse no longer becomes an option for her.

I will try to expand this on my geocities asombpa site when I have time. I am searching all the MBP literature as time permits looking for mention of health, wellness, healing and successful therapeutic strategies. (So much of the literature focuses on the abuser and on people unjustly accused.) While these are real concerns, I have to believe that the focus of research should be on survivors and stopping the cycles of violence.)

I think the most important thing to remember is that this IS abuse. Get survivor counseling for the children. Be very sure the counselor is someone you truly trust and MONITOR it. I was victimized by a “helping” professional as a very young adult and consequently stopped seeking any real therapy until recently.

Thank you for helping these kids. The few people who extended helping hands to me as a child and teen made a world of difference. The will to survive is powerful. Kids will latch on to positive guidance and caring given them. Bless you.

// posted by Nerthus @ 12:04 PM
Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I'm waivering between belief this all happened to me and disbelief, hope that I somehow I got it wrong. I haven't had any revelations nor found memories. I'm simply putting together bits and pieces of well worn memories. I use the term integration. I'm allowing myself to remember A, B, and C simultaneously when previously, for whatever reason, I kept them discretely separated from each other.

I am, however, remembering them together with suspicion. The poisoning is certainly conjecture, but I wonder what a woman who likes to enhance stories to add status to herself, who to this day consistently turns the knife in me through little persistent but extremely meaningful digs, omissions, and such... who loves illness, who allowed much harm to come to me by fostering situations in which it was totally inappropriate for me to participate, and who didn't recognize any of my life's milestones appropriately or in a timely fashion.

I remember confronting her about "allowing" me to miss so much school. I was totally distraught when I did this. My memory focuses on saying, "How could you do this to me?" There was absolutely no concern for me in her reaction, she only expressed outrage that I could treat her so badly.

She has no empathy whatsoever and seemed to view everything in relationship to herself. She never asks, "How are you?" Of course we all view the world from our own perspective, but the extreme degree to which she carried this behavior clearly points to some sort of mental illness or criminal mindset.

Cultural conditioning is so strong. Even with all this, I still feel "guilt" over speaking badly of her.

The next question is, "where were my brothers and father as this was going on?"

// posted by Nerthus @ 7:56 AM
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
I am beginning to think that my mother poisoned me on at least two occasions. Even if it isn't true, which I will never know, to be able to logically entertain the thought that my mother was capable of this speaks volumes.

On Mother's Day just one week before I turned 12 I became very ill with mono. I wasn't faking it, and as I now think back, the diagnosis of mono was because nothing else fit. That apparently served the purpose of my mother whatever that might have been. One weird thing I also remember in conjunction with this was that it allowed her to "have" to complete a show and tell for me at school, one I had never planned to do. And this meant leaving me home alone and "untended" which she never did. The whole thing just doesn't add up.

Also shortly after I was born, both my father and I -- no one else in the family -- came down with "the Asian flu." The things that are suspicious to me in this revolve around how my mom recounts the events of the time. Nothing is stated about being worried about us, but rather she focuses on the things she shared with other people about the illnesses... how others had to come in and help with the crops... and how my "little tee shirts" were discolored for months from sweating out the drugs given me. They aren't inappropriate recollections in and of themselves, but that they are the only things she recounts is somehow "off."

After I realized that she had fostered my participation in activities that could have easily harmed or killed me when I was a teen, I began thinking back to what was done before that time. That's when my stomach turned as I remembered the above two incidents.

The sadness that my own mother may have tried to kill me is a very heavy burden right now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
This is the first post here and I'm uncertain about this whole venture. But I am certain that I am not the only person searching the web in an attempt to figure out whether the horrible childhood I had can be said to include abuse that legitimately falls under the now trendy label of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Believe it or not it is not always easy to figure out if you were an abused child. This can be especially true if the abuse did not involve beatings or sexual abuse, the most recognized types of child abuse.

Munchausen Syndrome, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Factitious Disorders, malingering, faking, and a host of other terms all come into play here. I really don't give a hoot about what it is called and whether my mother suffered from a disorder, mental illness, or was just a weird, occasionally nasty woman... I just know that stuff she did, stuff she encouraged me to do stuff, and the stuff I did to get her attention harmed me and is a significant factor in the severe periodic depression I've experienced for decades.

This blog will hopefully help me, and perhaps others, figure out what MSBP is, whether it is a factor in the depression and post traumatic stress with which I, and others, live.