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04 July 2006 @ 11:26 pm
more MBP memories  
Some of the other things I've remembered involved my mom's notion that my near fainting spells at school were epilepsy (I remember her throwing around the terms grand mal and petite mal). I was taken to the university hospital in Iowa City for a battery of tests. I should look into getting those records too.

Years later I realized what had happened. I was reading the book Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane and he describes the changes in his visual field before he would pass out from starvation. It was exactly like what I'd experienced on the stairs at school. I was crash dieting that year, eating only the school lunch because my mom was in a major depression and was not cooking, and the kitchen was in no shape for me to make anything for myself. So I was starving, basically, and I'd get very faint and see spots of light against a brown-gray color background, I'd hang my head down and blood would flow to my brain and stop me from actually passing out.

The residents who did the tests never thought to ask me what, if anything, I was eating. (I was 13 at the time.)

Mom was of course disappointed that I didn't turn out to have epilepsy.

Once doctors failed to diagnose something I actually did have because they no longer believed my mom. I started having gallbladder attacks when I was 15. I'd be doubled over in pain for hours at a time after a heavy meal. Classic symptoms, and classic placement for the pain. Teens don't normally develop this but I read years later of a study that connected crash dieting and gallbladder disease. The doctor didn't believe it could be gallbladder and in fact it remained undiagnosed for 22 years before my gallstones showed up on ultrasound and x ray and I had it removed. This didn't exactly help my relationship with doctors. More than one along the way suggested it was "in my head." Of course this infuriated me. The last thing I wanted was to be mistaken for my Munchausen afflicted mother, even though I hadn't yet heard that term for what she had.

I am currently going through my baby books which chronicle my mom's earliest obsessions with my health.

It makes me sad to look back and realize I never thought of myself as healthy. I was expected to be sick, and rewarded for going along with my Mom's stories. Of course when I was younger I didn't even question her stories or behavior. She was MOM. She must be right. And I guess that's what the doctors thought too.
equani_tsulaequani_tsula on July 5th, 2006 07:30 am (UTC)
It is amazing the things we manage to live through, is it not? Although I was spared the MBP, my mother was definately crazy and definately abusive. My heart goes out to you - even as I feel that, like me, you've learned to be strong and to cope and are not digging for sympathy, but only trying to share what you lived through so that maybe someone else will be spared, or another victim will know at least that they are not alone.

Tapatitapati on July 5th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Blessedbe
Thank you. I sometimes wonder if any of us grew up in sane and safe households. I meet so few who did.

I'm just amazed that medical abuse still goes undiscovered and unreported most of the time. It ought to be more recognizable these days but I still hear horror stories. I'm sure doctors and nurses hate thinking this way and looking for it but they can save us a lot of grief and pain.
(Anonymous) on July 5th, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Blessedbe
It seems that way sometimes, doesn't it? Maybe us damaged people just tend to find each other.

You would think that medical personnel would recognize the signs of medical abuse. At the same time, if a parent continually switches doctors, hospitals and so on, I can see how it would be difficult for a medical person to recognize a pattern. I do find it hard to imagine that they didn't notice you were starving when you were 13!

I have to think that some perfectly nice people just find the possibly so horrifying that they refuse to recognize it. The symptoms of my abuse were obvious and clear, looking back, and I know that there were some people who were suspicious, but no one would step in as long as my parents appeared to be the "good upper middle class" family with all the right social connections. It was easier to believe my mothers explanation that I was a bizarre, horrible, strange, psychotic liar of a child that she just couldn't control or figure out. Better to believe that than to believe my step-father, head of his Masonic order, respected businessman, had been molesting me regularly since I was 2 years old with her approval and aid in hiding it. People see what they want to see...

That said - I believe, I hope anyway, that things have changed at least somewhat. Medical people, teachers, and so on, are more aware of the sort of symptoms an abused child will show - like the lack of affect and fear of being touched or examined or even alone with someone. I like to think that...
Tapatitapati on July 8th, 2006 09:39 am (UTC)
Re: Blessedbe
I think they didn't realize I was starving myself because I was still 25 pounds "overweight" even though I'd lost quite a few. Still most doctors should ask about diet even if a teen is fat. Any size person may be crash dieting. Ironically when I became a vegetarian and was eating much better, that's when my mom freaked out about whether I was getting enough protein! After years of seeing me on bizarre weight loss diets like the stillman diet where you pick two foods and only two foods, etc., she worries when I merely give up meat and fish but still eat plenty of dairy. Go figure.

I am always shocked to hear about mothers who collude with step-fathers who molest their children. While I put up with abuse in my first marriage, if he'd laid a hand on my children I would have been out of there so fast! I guess I was very clear on the concept that while I might choose to tolerate something directed at me, I had no right to allow any harm to my kids. Once I recognized my marriage was adversely affecting them too I was gone.

I am so sorry your mother couldn't do the same.

I think knowledge of MBP is growing and that's why I continue to speak out about it. The more who talk about its impact the more alert doctors and nurses will become. Maybe even some mothers will realize the long term harm they are causing and seek help. Miracles sometimes happen.