Woman, 38, says ‘abusive’ mother with Munchausen’s fake ME and Parkinson’s

A woman whose mother deliberately faked serious illness for 30 years thought her mother had been miraculously “cured” after enjoying a “great vacation” to the US where conditions seemed to be disappearing.

Helen Naylor, 38, from Nottingham, was seven years old when her mother Elinor told her she had myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition that causes extreme exhaustion.

Throughout her childhood, Helen was “expected to fend for herself” as life revolved around Elinor’s illness – while also being told her father had a heart condition that could kill him at any moment.

It wasn’t until Elinor died in a nursing home at age 69 in 2016 that Helen found 55 years worth of diaries, detailing how she went shopping and having lunch while claiming she was sleeping 18 hours a day.

Helen, who has shared her story in a new memoir, now believes her mother had Munchausen syndrome, a mental illness in which a person pretends to be sick or intentionally causes physical symptoms.

She recalled a trip to America at age 16 where her mother appeared to be ‘all better’, walking for ‘blocks and blocks’ before pretending to be wheelchair-bound the moment she returned to the UK.

Helen Naylor, 38, from Nottingham, was seven years old when her mother Elinor told her she had myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition that causes extreme exhaustion. She later found out that her mother had been dealing with serious illnesses for more than 30 years

She appeared on This Morning today and said: ‘There were a lot of red flags during my childhood. I think this was probably the biggest when I was 16 and we went to America on this amazing vacation and she was all the better.

“She wouldn’t take me to the end of the street when we got home, but in America she could walk block after block.

“We had these wonderful fortnights of wonderful experiences and I truly believed America had healed her. I didn’t understand why we didn’t move to America, because I really believed in it.’

But Elinor’s symptoms returned as soon as she got home, with Helen saying her mother used a wheelchair to get from the plane to the airport on the way back to the country.

She appeared on This Morning today and said she thought her mother was miraculously

She appeared on This Morning today and said she thought her mother was miraculously “cured” after enjoying a “great vacation” to the US, where conditions seemed to be disappearing.

At the age of seven, Helen was told that her father Alan was suffering from ‘very serious heart and lung problems’.

Shortly after, her mother claimed to be developing symptoms of ME, and Helen says her life changed instantly, with ‘it was all about my mother’s illness’.

“Although I knew my father’s illness was more serious, it was my mother’s ME that was all about,” she said. “We couldn’t go out for day trips anymore, she didn’t take me on the weekends.

“On weekends and holidays I was pretty much alone in the afternoons, my mother was in bed, my father was in the pub and I had to entertain myself and take care of myself.”

In addition to faking her illnesses, Helen says her mother had “abused” her as a child and discovered that her arm was broken somehow when she was two.

Helen explained that she can remember falling from a chair at the age of four and going to the hospital, where she was told her arm was not broken, but had been three months earlier.

Helen, who has shared her story in a new memoir, now believes her mother had Munchausen syndrome, a mental illness in which a person pretends to be sick or intentionally causes physical symptoms.

Helen, who has shared her story in a new memoir, now believes her mother had Munchausen syndrome, a mental illness in which a person pretends to be sick or intentionally causes physical symptoms.

Her mother claimed her arm was injured after accidentally closing the door on her arm while Helen reached back to close the door.

But when she read her mother’s diaries, she realized she was only two, not four, at the time of the accident.

She says it would have been impossible for her arm to get hurt that way because she was too young to reach behind her and close the car door.

“She broke my arm, but I don’t know how,” Helen said. “She didn’t take me to the hospital. It wasn’t until I fell off this chair three months later that they discovered it had been broken in the past.”

At ten, she says her mother left her to put out a fire in their house alone, telling her to turn off a washing machine that had caught fire.

“My girlfriend and I were playing downstairs one day when I was about ten and we heard this noise in the kitchen,” she said.

In her new memoir, Helen reveals how she learned the truth about her mother's deceit by reading her diaries after her death

In her new memoir, Helen reveals how she learned the truth about her mother’s deceit by reading her diaries after her death

‘It was full of smoke, it sparkled, I called for my mother. She didn’t come, I ran upstairs to say, “What should I do?” and she told me to go back to the room and turn off the washing machine. You are now thinking with a primary school child, you would never think of that.’

Helen says her mother was unkind to her as a teenager, revealing that at age 13, her self-esteem was so low that she began to self-harm.

“She always told me I was ugly, stupid and fat and that I really hated myself,” she said. “Because she’s my mother, I absolutely believed she was telling me the truth.”

Elinor had been a prolific diarist for 55 years and her daughter admitted she was stunned after discovering the diaries.

“It was such a shock,” she said. “I really didn’t expect to find anything like it. I discovered that this faking disease had been going on all her life.

“As a healthy 20-year-old woman, she went to the doctor for everything, but the most shocking thing was to find out that she had abused me as a small child.”

Helen thinks her mother’s ‘demise’ was when she started faking Parkinson’s disease later in life, revealing that she was once confronted by a nurse who suspected she was faking it and was hesitant to give her medicine for the disease .

“I think that was her real downfall,” Helen said. “I think if she had continued with ME, no one would have realized what was going on because ME is so difficult to diagnose and there is such a range of symptoms.

“But for Parkinson’s there are specific tests and symptoms and you can’t really fake that.”

She added: “I think I’d like to think I can forgive her. I don’t really feel anger towards her, it’s a very unnatural emotion for me to feel. I’m a Christian and I hope I can, will forgive her, but it’s an ongoing process.”

FAKING IT: WHAT IS MUNCHAUSEN’S SYNDROME, THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DISEASE TAKEN TO A LYING GERMAN ARISTOCRAT?

Munchausen syndrome is a mental illness in which a person pretends to be sick or intentionally causes symptoms of illness in himself.

Their main intention is to take on the ‘sick role’ so that people take care of them and they are the center of attention.

A practical benefit of pretending to be sick — for example, claiming disability benefits — is not the reason for their behavior.

Munchausen syndrome is named after a German aristocrat, Baron Munchausen, who became famous for telling wild, unbelievable stories about his exploits.

Munchausen syndrome is complex and poorly understood. Many people refuse psychiatric treatment or psychological profiling, and it is unclear why people with the syndrome behave the way they do.

People with Munchausen syndrome may behave in a variety of ways, including:

  • pretending to have psychological symptoms – for example, claiming to hear voices or see things that aren’t really there
  • pretending to have physical symptoms – for example, claiming to have chest or stomach pain
  • actively trying to get sick – such as intentionally infecting a wound by rubbing dirt into it

Some people with Munchausen syndrome may spend years traveling from hospital to hospital faking a wide variety of illnesses. When it is discovered that they are lying, they can suddenly leave the hospital and move to another area.

People with Munchausen syndrome can be very manipulative, undergoing painful and sometimes life-threatening surgery in the most severe cases, even though they know it’s not necessary.

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing Munchausen syndrome can be challenging for medical professionals.

People with the syndrome are often very persuasive and adept at manipulating and exploiting doctors.

THERAPY

Treating Munchausen syndrome can be difficult because most people with the syndrome refuse to admit they have a problem and refuse to cooperate with treatment plans.

Some experts recommend that health care professionals take a gentle, non-confrontational approach, suggesting that the person may benefit from a referral to a psychiatrist.

Others argue that a person with Munchausen syndrome should be confronted directly with the question of why they lied and whether they have stress and anxiety.

People with Munchausen’s disease are truly mentally ill, but will often only admit that they have a physical illness.

If a person confesses to his behavior, he may be referred to a psychiatrist for further treatment. If they don’t admit they’re lying, most experts agree that the physician in charge of their care should minimize medical contact with them.

The doctor-patient relationship is based on trust and if there are indications that the patient can no longer be trusted, the doctor cannot continue to treat him.

SOURCE: NHS

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