Archive Page - 08/16/13 40 years, 2,169 covers and 54,876 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- From Gwen Stefani to Jon Hamm: Our Favorite Moments from the People Magazine Awards
- Read the Cover Story: Family and Friends Remember Robin Williams
- Watch Maroon 5, 5SOS Pharrell & Gwen Stefani Perform at the PEOPLE Magazine Awards
- Kate Upton Tells Boyfriend 'You're Welcome' for Her Sexiness
- PEOPLE Magazine Awards: Watch Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina's Hot Moment! (VIDEO)
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Friday December 19, 2014 09:10AM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- October 20, 2003
- Vol. 60
- No. 16
In a New Memoir, Julie Gregory Reveals Why She Thinks Her Mother Purposely Sickened Her as a Child
It wasn't the truth, but Gregory, confused and terrified of displeasing her mother, didn't speak out. Only now, after 26 years, has she found her voice. In her just-published autobiography Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood, Gregory describes a childhood ravaged by a form of abuse in which parents fabricate children's illnesses—sometimes injuring or killing them—to get attention and sympathy. "Being the parent of a terribly ill child becomes their claim to fame," says Marc Feldman, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama, who wrote the foreword to Gregory's memoir. Her book, says Gregory, is intended "to help people understand what it's like—to spot MBP and be able to save the child."
The daughter of Dan, 55, a handyman, and Sandy, 61, a former rodeo stunt rider, Gregory grew up in a trailer in rural Ohio. "I was a sick kid," she admits. "I bruised easily and wilted in a snap." Her fragility may have made it easier for Sandy (who declined to comment to PEOPLE about Julia's claims) to victimize her. Her mother's behavior, Gregory says, "was built on kernels of truth. The doctor suggested I might have food allergies; that allowed my mother to selectively not give me food." When hunger made Julie listless, Sandy could head for help. Says Gregory, now pursuing a master's degree in psychology via an independent study program at England's Sheffield University: "We went to the doctor when my mom needed that interaction. It was all about her."
By the time Gregory was 14, she says, Sandy was doubling the dose of medicine for migraines she had convinced doctors Gregory had and pushing for unneeded tests. (Gregory says her brother Daniel, now 26, was shielded by her father and remembers nothing of the treatments.) And like most MBP victims, Gregory says she didn't fully understand she was being abused—although in the hospital in 1982 for a painful heart catheterization, "I blurted out, 'Please don't do this to me. My mom made it up!' They didn't believe me."
Why did no one suspect MBP? Dr. John Stang, who, concerned about an erratic heartbeat, authorized Julie's heart procedure (which showed nothing irregular), says that MBP was little known at the time. And Sandy, says Stang, whom Gregory contacted while writing her book, seemed to be "a concerned, attentive parent. The last thing that we as physicians would seek to challenge is the maternal instinct. In retrospect I accept that as an error."
By the time she finished high school, Gregory had had enough of a family dynamic that, she says, included physical abuse by her father. "I bought an old convertible," she says, "and never looked back." For three years she worked at odd jobs before returning to Ohio to attend community college, where she first heard of Munchausen by proxy in a psychology class. "I couldn't believe there was a name for it," she says. The discovery started her on a self-guided road to recovery. Rejecting therapy ("It didn't help"), she found solace in writing and reading. "Books were kind of like parents should be," she says. "Nurturing and reaffirming."
Although neither Sandy nor Dan, who divorced in 1987, would comment to PEOPLE about Julie's charges ("I'm happy for her that she's been published," says Dan), Nancy Phillips, 61, an old friend of Sandy's, disputes Julie's recollections. "She was pampered," Phillips says. "The devastation she has caused her mother is unforgivable."
Now living alone in an Ohio town she won't name, Gregory has sporadic phone contact with her mother. Even after all they've been through, she'd like that to change. "If this book does anything," she says, "it would be my hope that my mother gets help. Until she heals, it's not possible for us to have a relationship. But I don't have any malice."
Barbara Sandler in Ohio
- Barbara Sandler.
December 19, 2014
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!