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Surviving Munchausen By Proxy

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

By definition Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) -- or Munchausen by proxy -- is a psychological disorder marked by attention-seeking behavior by a caregiver through those who are in their care. MSP is a relatively rare behavioral disorder. It affects a primary caretaker, often the mother. The person with MSP gains attention by seeking medical help for exaggerated or made-up symptoms of a child in his or her care. As health care providers strive to identify what's causing the child's symptoms, the deliberate actions of the mother or caretaker can often make the symptoms worse.

I don’t remember the feeling of comfort and safety as a child. Or that my body was my own sacred space. I remember after my parents’ messy divorce is when my mother started taking me to multiple doctors’ appointments. At the time I was only 6 years old, and it didn’t seem strange to me that my mother had concerns about my health and was taking me to people that could make me all better... I trusted my mother.

By the time I was 16 years old, I had been hospitalized over 9 times, had 2 diagnostic surgeries and gone through numerous invasive tests and medication trials. Convinced that I was born broken, and all of this was to help me get better, I didn’t understand how I was so sick when I felt ok. I mean yeah, I was very upset about my parents’ divorce, but I didn’t feel sick. Through my own research into my past health records, it was confirmed that these doctors' visits, surgeries, and hospitalizations were 100% unnecessary and my mother's way of seeking unhealthy attention by creating the image of illness within me.

The bond and connection between a mother and child are unexplainable. I never thought she would do or say anything to hurt me. We formed a trauma bond and as that bond grew deeper, I slowly became more detached from my body and reality. It was my body's natural response to the trauma to disassociate. This would happen again to me later in life when I my husband passed away.

At 28, I was freed from that toxic trauma bond when I broke away from the relationship with my mother after my husband and I became pregnant with our daughter. I didn’t want this innocent child to be exposed to such toxic behavior patterns that had left me with anxiety, shame, and the image of a sick world. The initial shock of breaking away from my mother and then realizing I was going to have a daughter sent me into a depressive state that produced deep-rooted disordered eating behavior; I then voluntarily sought treatment.

Hold On Pain Ends - HOPE.

My healing journey began with yoga. While I was in treatment for my disordered eating behavior, I met an amazing yoga teacher. Her light was so bright in my darkest time. During her classes, for the first time ever I felt connected to my body, emotions, thoughts and breathing. Yoga allowed me the space to let go of all the years of physical and emotional pain that was locked inside. I remember the first time I cried during a yoga practice. It was so cleansing and refreshing. My tears were vessels of built-up emotions being washing away.

I practiced yoga in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), but it was the practice of yoga that made the defining moments in my recovery. It opened doors to life I never knew existed. One filled with patience, compassion, forgiveness, grace, strength and fluidity. It allowed me to start the journey to self-discovery and self-love. Which poured into the relationship with my daughter.

Years later, yoga is something she and I enjoy doing together. The ethics and moral codes of yoga are what we practice most. I love being her mom and teaching her to love herself and feel empowered. The funny thing is, I learn from her just as much as she learns from me. She reminds me to enjoy the moments in life that we normally take for granted or even ignore because we’re so caught up in past or future thoughts.

With the past behind me, I look forward to each beautiful moment with my daughter. I don’t expect to be perfect, but I have come a long way from where I once was. Yoga has taught me that in the beginning, it may be tough, and it takes time to build the trust within yourself. Not being afraid to make mistakes without judgment but with kindness and compassion. Learning from those mistakes and turning them into the greatest gifts of your life.

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.” - Alan Watts

If you or someone you know may be a victim of Munchausen By Proxy, please call your local child protective service agency.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is also hard to quantify due to the number of undetected or undiagnosed cases. The last study was done in 1996 which estimated that Munchausen syndrome by proxy occurred annually in 0.5 of every 100,000 children under the age of 16, and in 2.8 of every 100,000 children under the age of one.

Book recommendations:

The Body Keeps Score - by Bessel Van Der Kolk


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