A woman whose mother deliberately faked serious illnesses for 30 years believed that her mother had been miraculously “cured” after enjoying a “wonderful vacation” in the United States where conditions here seemed to disappear.
Helen Naylor, 38, of Nottingham, was seven years old when her mother Elinor told her she had encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition that causes extreme fatigue.
Throughout her childhood, Helen was expected to take care of herself while life revolved around Elinor’s illness – while also being told that her father had a heart condition that could kill him at any moment.
It wasn’t until Elinor died in a nursing home at the age of 69 in 2016, and Helen found a 55-year-old diary detailing how she would go on shopping trips and eat lunch while claiming to sleep 18 hours a day.
Helen, who has opened up about her story in her new memoir, now believes her mother had Munchausen syndrome, a psychological condition where someone pretends to be ill or intentionally causes physical symptoms.
She recalled a trip to America at the age of 16 where her mother looked “perfectly better”, walking in search of “lumps and cubes” before pretending to be wheelchair-bound the moment she returned to the UK.
Helen Naylor, 38, of Nottingham, was seven years old when her mother Elinor told her she had encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition that causes extreme fatigue. She later found out that her mother had been feigning serious illnesses for over 30 years
Appearing this morning today, she said, ‘There have been a lot of red flags throughout my growing up years. I think this was probably the biggest event when I was 16 and we went to America for this amazing vacation and it was just so much better.
She wouldn’t lead me to the end of the street when we were home, but she could walk one distance after another in America.
We’ve had these amazing experiences for two weeks and I truly believe America has processed it. I couldn’t understand why we didn’t move to America, because I really believed.
But Elinor’s symptoms returned as soon as she got home, as Helen said her mother used a wheelchair to travel from the plane to the airport on the way back to the country.
Appearing this morning today, she said she thought her mother had been miraculously “recovered” after enjoying a “wonderful vacation” in the US as conditions here seemed to be disappearing
At the age of seven, Helen was told that her father, Alan, had “serious heart and lung problems”.
Shortly thereafter, her mother claimed she developed ME symptoms, and Helen says her life immediately changed, with “everything revolving around my mother’s illness.”
“Although I knew my father’s illness was more serious, my mother was the one who got it all,” she said. We were no longer able to go out on day trips, she didn’t take me outside on weekends.
“On weekends and holidays, I was basically alone in the afternoon, my mom was in bed, my dad was at the bar and left to entertain and take care of myself.”
In addition to faking her illnesses, Helen says her mother “abused” her when she was a child, discovering that her arm was somehow broken at the age of two.
Helen explained that she remembers falling off a chair at the age of four and visiting the hospital, where she was told that her arm had not been broken, but three months earlier.
Helen, who has opened up about her story in her new memoir, now believes her mother had Munchausen syndrome, a psychological condition where someone fakes illness or intentionally causes physical symptoms.
Her mother claimed that her arm was injured after she accidentally slammed the door on her arm while Helen was trying to get back to shut the door.
However, upon reading her mother’s diary, she realized that she was only two years old, not four, at the time of the accident.
She says it was impossible for her arm to be injured this way because she is too small to reach behind her and close the car door.
“I broke my arm,’ said Helen, `but I don’t know how. “She didn’t take me to the hospital, and it wasn’t until I fell off that chair three months later that they found out it was broken in the past.”
At ten she says her mother left her alone to deal with a fire in their house, and asked her to put out a washing machine that caught fire.
She said, “My friend and I were playing downstairs when I was ten and we heard this sound in the kitchen.
Helen reveals in her new memoirs how she learned the truth about her mother’s deception by reading her memoirs after her death.
I cried to my mother, ‘It was full of smoke that lit its spark. She didn’t come, I ran upstairs to say “What do I do?” She asked me to go back to the room and turn off the washing machine. Now with a kid in elementary school, you think you’d never, ever think about that.
Helen says her mother was harsh towards her when she was a teenager, and revealed that at the age of thirteen her self-esteem was so low that she started hurting herself.
“She used to tell me I was ugly, stupid, and fat, and I really hated myself,” she said. “Because she’s my mom, I totally thought she was telling me the truth.”
Elinor has been a prolific memoirist for 55 years, and her daughter admitted she was shocked to discover the journals.
“It was a shock,” she said. I wasn’t really expecting to find any of them. She discovered that this fake disease had been going on her whole life.
She’s been going to the doctors for all sorts of things as a healthy 20-year-old, but the most shocking thing is knowing that she abused me when I was a little girl.
Helen believes her mother’s “fall” was when she began faking Parkinson’s later in her life, revealing that she was once confronted by a nurse who suspected she was faking and was reluctant to give her medicine for the disease.
‘I think this was her real downfall,’ said Helen. I think if I had continued with ME, no one would have realized what was going on, because diagnosing ME is very difficult and there is a host of symptoms.
“But for Parkinson’s disease, there are specific tests and symptoms and you can’t really fake it.”
She added, ‘I think I’d like to think I can forgive her, I’m not really angry with her, it’s a really unnatural feeling for me. I am a Christian and I hope I can forgive her but it is an ongoing process.
Faking it: What is Munchausen syndrome, the mental illness named after a stinging German aristocrat?
Munchausen syndrome is a psychological disorder in which a person pretends to be ill or intentionally produces symptoms of illness in themselves.
Their main goal is to take on the “sick role” so that people take care of them and be the center of attention.
Any practical benefit in feigning illness – eg, claiming disability benefits – is not a reason for their behaviour.
Munchausen syndrome is named after a German aristocrat, Baron Munchausen, who was best known for telling unbelievable wild tales of his exploits.
Munchausen syndrome is complex and poorly understood. Many people refuse psychotherapy or psychological profiling, and it is not clear why people with the syndrome act the way they do.
People with Munchausen syndrome can act in a number of different ways, including:
- Pretending to have psychiatric symptoms – for example, pretending to hear voices or pretending to see things that aren’t really there
- Pretending to have physical symptoms – for example, pretending to have chest pain or stomach pain
- Actively trying to get sick – such as deliberately injuring a wound by rubbing dirt into it
Some people with Munchausen syndrome may spend years traveling from one hospital to another displaying a wide range of illnesses. When he finds out that they are lying, they may suddenly leave the hospital and move to another area.
People with Munchausen syndrome can be very manipulative and, in more serious cases, may undergo painful and sometimes life-threatening surgery, even though they know it is unnecessary.
Diagnosing Munchausen syndrome can be a challenge for medical professionals.
People with the syndrome are often very persuasive and skilled at manipulating and manipulating doctors.
treatment or treatment
Treating Munchausen syndrome can be difficult because most people with it refuse to admit they have a problem and refuse to cooperate with treatment plans.
Some experts recommend that healthcare professionals take a gentle, non-confrontational approach, suggesting that a person may benefit from a referral to a psychiatrist.
Others argue that a person with Munchausen syndrome should confront them head-on and ask why they are lying and whether they have stress and anxiety.
People with Munchausen’s disease have real mental illnesses, but oftentimes they only recognize a physical illness.
If someone admits to their behavior, they can be referred to a psychiatrist for further treatment. If they do not admit to lying, most experts agree that the physician responsible for their care should minimize medical contact with them.
This is because the doctor-patient relationship is built on trust and if there is evidence that the patient can no longer be trusted, the physician is unable to continue treatment.