Life with a mother with severe, untreated Munchausen syndrome

Personal Narrative | 12 comments

My mother has been sick since before I was born, not, however, in the way she has always desired to be sick.

Before her children came along, her cat had seizures. Then my older sister had seizures and my mother convinced the pediatrician to write an anti-seizure medication that was not needed. My sister was never confirmed to have seizures, my mother was just taken at her word. Now that we are grown, my mother has seizures herself. In recent years, numerous hospitals have told us that there is no physical cause for her seizures. She’s actually conscious when they are happening. Because they aren’t real.

She will tell you that I almost died when I was born and had to be resuscitated. She will tell you that I was allergic to all kinds of foods when I was young and had a very restrictive diet. She will tell you that I could only eat cream of wheat by the age of six because I couldn’t tolerate any other foods until a surgeon took my tonsils out and I could eat again. She said my tonsils were so big that I couldn’t get any food past them except for cream of wheat.

None of this is true. I did have my tonsils removed and I had at least six sets of ear tubes put in my ears via surgery, but I’m not sure if all of that was necessary. My mother was very good at selecting doctors who trusted the things she said.

We are born to trust our parents. I once overheard my mother telling a story about a guinea pig that we had that the neighborhood kids adored. She went on to describe the funeral that we had for the guinea pig that the neighborhood kids attended. I didn’t remember this funeral so I assumed that I just wasn’t there that day. I didn’t assume she wasn’t being truthful, I assumed that I was somewhere else when that big neighborhood funeral happened. Why wouldn’t I trust my mother? I thought it was my own fault for not remembering this funeral.

I was ten when my mother lied about having cancer for the first time. I walked into her room after school and her head was shaved. She wrapped me in a hug and told me that it was ok, that her hair would grow back. She also told my sisters and me to keep it from my father.

This was the first of many lessons about my mother’s illness. The illness is to be protected at all cost.

If you are against her illness, you are her enemy. She will turn as many people as she can against you in order to protect her illness. It doesn’t matter if you are her child, her husband, a boyfriend, her parents, her sibling… you are her enemy if you are against her illness.

Anxiety has been my life long companion. I only learned the name for that companion as an adult. My childhood was tumultuous. We lived as if the end of the world was around the corner. My mother was always one night away from dying. She told my older sister a few times that she needed to take care of her younger siblings because my mother was going to die during the night. This was traumatizing for my sister.

I remember wishing on a shooting star in the midst of a panic, because I didn’t think my mother was going to walk through the door ever again. I couldn’t have been older than six at the time.
I never knew if I would come home to an ambulance outside of our house, I never knew if she was going to collapse in a store with me there due to crashing blood sugar levels… I didn’t have the safety of a mother to protect me. I spent my childhood feeling unsafe and this led to a lifetime struggle with anxiety.

The self-hatred came when I was older. When I eventually started to doubt her illnesses, she taught me so well that I was worthy of being hated that I actually hated myself for the majority of my adult life. One wrong move in my life with my mother meant I was her enemy and everyone surrounding her viewed me as an enemy as well. She made sure of that.

As a result, I had to be perfect. One wrong move in any relationship meant that I believed that every single good thing anyone ever saw in me would be gone in an instant. I had to react to every situation the way a “perfect” person would react and if I made a mistake, real or imagined, I beat myself up for weeks, sometimes even longer.

I hated every fiber of my being. This is the biggest life lesson my mother has taught me, that I am a person who is worthy of being hated. I was an enemy and she wanted the world to know. Eventually, I started to hate myself too. People would tell me how kind I was and with a heavy heart I would think “you poor thing, if you only knew me, you would hate me too. Just give it time to see who I really am”.

I’ve been my mother’s enemy for almost fifteen years. I used to fight with her and point out her lies and inconsistencies. She would create more lies to cover for the lies that I exposed and I would end up confused and doubting myself.

After a doozy of a fight with my mother’s husband, I left my house to stay with a friend and I wasn’t allowed back home, even to visit, for years. She made sure that my family knew I was an enemy. She told them that I did things that I didn’t do and she turned them against me. They believed her and I lost them for a few years.

As traumatic as that was, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced a separation from my mother that allowed me to watch her and study her from a distance.
My self-hatred has been gone for about a year now. As I learned to accept myself, as I learned that I really am a good person who wants good things for people, I started to allow myself to just be human. I saw that people embraced me more when I allowed myself to just be me.

I realized that people are complex. You can be annoyed by someone and still love them with all of your heart. I realized that if I love someone who is flawed, maybe, just maybe, it is possible for the people in my life to love me even though I am flawed. That realization allowed me to explore the possibility that I am also worthy of being loved even though I am flawed.

I am still my mother’s enemy. She went through a phase where she lied about events instead of illnesses. These imagined events led to her claiming PTSD, anxiety, and dissociative disorders. She will tell you that she’s been attacked, she’s been stabbed in the chest, she’s had a car trunk smashed on her head which led to her seizure disorder, she’s been raped, she’s been beaten by ex-husbands and ex boyfriends. She even went into safe houses for a brief period of time to get away from the people who were attacking her. Her story was taken at face value. The attacks never happened and people were not after her. But my mother was trusted. Who would lie about attacks like that? She’s back to what she knows best, faking illnesses. She’s been on a seizure kick; she’s perfected her act so well that doctors actually think she’s seizing until they get close to her and realize that she’s conscious.

Her second cancer lie a few months ago was a lie of convenience. She claimed to be vomiting so often that she crushed a disk in her spine and when the hospital did a scan of her back to check, they found a cyst that the surgeon wanted to remove. Thus, her second cancer lie was born. She told us that she had inoperable spine cancer in two places that would kill her. She was able to lie for a few days until a surgeon told us that they removed a cyst and they were not actually doing a biopsy of her inoperable spine cancer like she said they were.

This is what can be so confusing for people who are not well versed in her illness. She will get sick; she will get colds or the flu. People think “she had a positive flu test so this is true, she’s not lying”. The illness takes it a few steps further. She was hospitalized for the flu and then needed physical therapy to learn how to walk again during the same hospital stay. She was in a car accident and she had to be rushed to the emergency room for blunt force trauma. I still remember that phone call from my sister: “everyone is ok but mom had to be taken to the hospital for blunt force trauma”. I was onto her by then so I rolled my eyes and thought “of COURSE she did”.

There are the massive lies, then there are the lies of convenience, and then there are the completely unnecessary lies like the guinea pig funeral that didn’t happen. It’s like she has no control over the lies that she tells, however, she tailors them to whatever audience she has at the time. The lies are calculated but she just can’t stop telling them. She never spoke of her first cancer lie again, that lie ended in a custody hearing because she was found to be lying without a doubt. She was caught so she knows not to lie about that instance ever again. While it seems like she has no control, she knows which lies she can tell and which lies she can’t tell based on her current audience.

She’s now pretending that she had a stroke by slurring her words because she couldn’t keep the cancer lie going. I’m not sure how long she will be able to keep the stroke lie going, it’s a lot of effort to constantly slur your speech.

Anyone caught up in my mother’s web believes me to be a hate and rage filled monster who is obsessed with the past. It amuses me that they think I’m obsessed with the past when my mother has never recovered from her illness. I’m not obsessed with the past; I’m protecting myself from things that still happen to this day. Her Münchausen didn’t stop, in fact, I believe she’s become more extreme as the years have passed. It’s like she completely lost herself to the illness.

A few people caught in her web have actually tried to set me straight. They’ve only known my mother for a few months, yet, they believe that they need to set her abusive, hate filled daughter straight. I refuse to have contact with anyone caught in her web for that exact reason. These people are constantly changing as she only stays in one place for a few years at a time. She takes off with no warning, leaving everyone behind, in order to find a new audience.

It’s taken me a while to be able to brush these people off. As I learned to accept myself, I began to surround myself with people who only brought positivity to my life, people who accept and love me for me. As I started to separate from people who treated me like I was a bad person, I was able to stop worrying about what strangers thought of me.

If the people I surround myself with know that I am a good person, what does it matter what strangers think?

It’s actually a little funny, she tells people that I’m full of hate and rage, and they believe it to be true. The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference. I don’t want bad things for my mother, it actually makes me feel sad to think of hurting her feelings, but other than that, I’m indifferent to her.

She holds no power over my thoughts and I’ve undone as much of her damage as I could possibly undo.


  1. Carolyn

    I have a sister who acts the same way. The stories of illness, being chased and stalked by people and being raped. Stories made up and told for no other reason than wow factor and attention, sympathy, pity is sickening once you catch onto someone like this. To make matters worse she is a nurse and I believe that she may have made my father with dementia sick. Making people believe her comes as naturally as breathing to her. I have had several of her flying monkey’s threaten to kick my a** for being mean to her and not believing her once I confront her she tells everyone that I yelled at her. The most frustrating part is family who believes whatever she says at face value and then treats me like I’m the bad guy for speaking truth on what I believe is going on.

    • Original Poster

      This is why I don’t bother, I have five siblings and some of them have come around and others have not. Those that have come around have come around at their own pace. The hardest thing I’ve had to do is just step back and trust that some day, they will get burned enough to see the truth themselves.

      I‘m sorry you’ve been through this with your sister, I hope you are in a place where you can shrug people off who think you’re the bad guy

      It’s such a hard place to get to but it’s necessary for your own well being

      I’ve learned that you can scream until you’re blue in the face but often times, the people surrounding your sister (and my mother) view this as validation that you really are the bad guy

      I’ve learned that it’s best to just not engage and to protect yourself from anyone who is wrapped up in the stories

  2. Alice

    Thanks for your post — I just found this, and so much of it is a similar experience of my own.  I was a “sick kid” who was in and out of clinics and hospitals and specialists my entire childhood.  My mom, who worked at a hospital, got a lot of sympathy about my “illnesses” as well as sympathy about my alcoholic father.  As an only child, I spent the most time with my mother, who was relatively the safest person for me.  But it wasn’t until adulthood that I started to question my mother’s actions, as so much in my world was focused on trying to avoid and stay out of the path of my father.

    When I was in college I was off the antibiotics that my mother had me on for years (free samples to the hospital from pharma) and actually got really sick with recurring sinus infections for the first year, when the doctor I went to on my own said that my immune system really needed the opportunity to develop without the meds my mom was giving me.

    I also started to really notice what my mom talked about: she was / is obsessed with sick people, whether it was her own hypochondriac mother, my alcoholic father, whatever she thought was wrong with me….I noticed that even as a young woman, my mother would befriend really sick and elderly people which seems really nice, yes?  But it also seemed that she really would light up when talking about their illnesses, and eventually she started complaining about her own illnesses all of the time (after her mom and my dad died and I was away from the home).

    For example, she went in to have a colon polyp removed…a story which has, over the years, evolved into major colon cancer tumor removed.  She developed arthritis and has medication for that (which, I’m sorry for anyone who has arthritis) but compares her situation as similar to friends of hers who are dying of cancer.  She views her situation as a similar plight as someone taking chemotherapy.

    She got remarried many years ago and, her husband being older and retired at the time, opted to quit her job… seems like her whole weird fascination with illness went completely off the rails then.

    My mom will talk endlessly about her health problems and go on and on about every personal medical test she has (and that of others who talk about their medical issues to her — people I don’t even know).  I have begged her for years to stop telling me about this stuff, but she is incredibly personally offended if, for example, I don’t want to hear all of the details of her yearly vaginal exam, or her mammogram, or any of the barrage of endless tests and appointments that she and her husband have. Or, she will tell me about the personal medical things that other people tell her which she completely latches on to.  My conversations with her are not what one would consider normal.

    But I remember once, when I was asking her about my childhood and trying to understand if I was actually sick, she said that she went to one doctor who accused her of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.  She was so offended that she never went back to him and had to “look even harder” to find someone to treat me…..I’m still not sure I had the medical problems she insisted on.

    I’ve tried talking about my concerns about my mother to people, but I’ve actually had my own friends tell me that I’m ungrateful and that my mom is a wonderful, selfless person…how she’s so caring and kind to sacrifice everything and be caretaker to my stepdad (who has an ever growing list of illness).  I feel like I can’t talk to anyone without being seen as ungrateful.

    She’s not interested in my life, my job, any problems that I actually have.  All she wants to talk about is her illness, or that of my stepdad, or illnesses of people I have never met. If I don’t want to talk about these things to her, she is offended and will leave the call…..I actually feel better when I don’t speak with her often, but it’s hard to set up any sort of reasonable boundaries with her.

  3. Channan

    I wish I could find resources to help my husband cope. I am positive this is what his mother has. She’s even trying to make his younger brother sick who’s still a minor. It’s mainly for financial gain. I have repeatedly called her out on her lies. This has led to her lying about me, trying to have “her children” (my kids) taken away from me and trying to make me and my teen daughter lose our jobs with her lies. My husband has diagnosed ptsd. Refuses to talk a professional. She accused him of doing it to make her look bad. Unfortunately we live a 30 second walk from her making cutting contact difficult

    • munchausen_y1qjhr

      Please email me through the Contact Form on my website. I am sorry to hear about what you and your family are going through.–Dr. Feldman

  4. Struggling

    Thank you for this article. This is the story of my life and I’m still living the nightmare at 54 years old. It was always my mother and my father was codependent. After he was hospitalized for Covid in 2020 he decided to jump on the fictitious disease bandwagon. I’m a horrible person but I want my parents to die because then maybe I’ll finally be free. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone

  5. Jackie

    I’ve never related so much to a story in my entire life. I had cut ties with my mom somewhat in 2007 and she showed up to my house in July 2023. She had an oxygen tank and 2 sickly dogs with her. She described her siblings trying to hurt her so she had moved back to where I was. She supposedly had “won some money” and came back to get it to give to her heirs. Then she told me about the 9 year old living inside her. I disassociated and told her to never return. She hasn’t, but I’m still suffering the effects and I’ve been told by friends to just “get over it.” I’m actively in EMDR therapy but they think it shouldn’t take that. Yet, they know a tiny bit of what really happened and haven’t made an effort to learn more. It’s hard to have these feelings and be surrounded by people who want us to just get over it. Thank you for sharing so that I know I can’t just get over it, I need to heal from it and that takes time.

  6. Brooke

    I just read your post and it resonated so much. My own experience growing up was similar in that my mom would always have some sort of “illness” and she would almost always need surgery for said illness. She has had so many surgeries, I’d never be able to count. She is also on an incredible amount of medication. Any time she gets a doctor to tell her she has a new ailment, it’s like she gains new life and has this weird happiness about her. It is pretty infuriating, to be honest.

    Do you find that your empathy levels for other people have been affected due to your mother’s “illnesses?” I personally struggle to feel empathy if anyone tells me about their health issues. It makes me feel disgusted with myself but, no matter how hard I try, I can’t force it.

  7. Return to Sender

    I never realized that my mother had this illness until recent years. Her psychosis holds no limits and I am genuinely concerned for my brother who has a disability. We went no contact recently and I never use this term lightly but I can’t stand the bitch.

    How many years were wasted thinking that I was “broken” when my mentally deranged mother was sick and everyone around her was sick. She had me thrown in mental asylums throughout my teens and early adulthood. I suspect she drugged me so that I would be forcibly hospitalized. I believe her goal was to get me to develop a mental illness and be forced onto disability, therein so she could play her favorite role, the martyr.

    My Dad was abusive too, but nowhere near the extreme levels of my mother. It took until her recently trying to blackmail me and my husband, extort money out of us to pay her bills, and her endangering my son. She will never be around my son and we plan to file a restraining order.

    I’m so glad that I have finally gotten away from her mind control. She has been married 4 times and stood idly by when one of my stepfathers molested me in my teens. She’s purely the most evil vile being on the planet, and I was a teenage girl. I was innocent and she acted like it was okay that I was endangered. I hate her and I look forward to her death. At least then I will have “restitution” from years of psychological warfare and all the fallout that I am still in therapy for. May the bitch rot in hell for all she has done

  8. Sally

    My mother says she has cancer , secondary cancer and she only has a few months to live. I have realised she is a compulsive liar. She has been ruining my reputation for years. She collaborates with my ex husband, my ex friend and my estranged son to destroy my reputation. She has ruined many jobs for me. I didn’t know it was her. I am sure she has been drugging me too.

  9. M. Wiens

    Your story is the same as mine except for the fact that she didn’t try to make people believe that I was sick because I was a very fit two year old child who beat her grandfathers ocelot with her doll when he tried to take it from her. My motto when I got sick was ignore it and it will go away. I was very sick with tonsillitis and adnoiditis when I was eight. My adnoids burst one night and I almost bled to death in my sleep. My mother would take my sister and I to measle parties and the like. My sister caught everything and I didn’t catch anything even though I shared a bedroom with her. I was jealous because she got to stay home from school and I didn’t. I did get chicken pox when my children did but I still haven’t had measles or mumps. It seems that I am the only person who knows that my mom fakes assorted illnesses. I am sixty years old and I caught onto her act in my early teens. Her latest so called illnesses are a difficulty breathing which only happens in the middle of the night when she’s unobserved and the that she can’t tell when she is defecating so she wears an adult diaper and tells every member of the family all about it even my teenage granddaughters. It’s not like we need her to tell us about it because we can all hear and smell when she is soiling herself. It usually happens at the dinner table. Her favorite story that she’s been telling people how three EMTs had to help her off the toilet in her little ensuite bathroom. She seems to really enjoy telling people all about it. I just keep my mouth shut.

  10. Ann

    I came across this article looking for insights into what is going on with my daughter-in-law, out of concern for my grandchildren. If she has a diagnosis of Munchausen’s or Munchausen’s by proxy I would never be told about it because she has successfully isolated their children and alienated my son from the rest of the family so we really have no access to their true feelings. At the present time my husband is the bad guy, mostly because everyone else stopped playing – “don’t take the bait” was the advice we were given, but he occasionally does. I sense that some members of her own family are on to her because of gestures they have made toward us.
    I have always thought that she was exaggerating illnesses in herself and children, but thought it was hypochondria. But lately there are more alarming stories about life threatening seizures in the one child who is autistic and nonverbal. The story was bizarre and caused me to worry that the “seizure” was induced. We invited them on vacation in a shared house and observed a bag full of medication. I wish I had snooped to see what they were giving the child and who prescribed it.
    At this point we are trying to maintain the connection and fearful of speaking up. When my husband tried to talk to our son he was very defensive. They do confide in my brother, who likes being their hero. He is very loyal and gullible, and sees us as the problem. But at least he provides some support for the children because their mother trusts him and finds him useful.
    I have expressed my recent concerns to him and he was less resistant to my point of view.
    One other thing, the children are home schooled. My husband has expressed concern about that. I am not for or against homeschooling and know people whose children have thrived in that system. In this case I think it is a means for the mother to control their entire lives. I don’t know what to do.


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