Woman, 38, reveals her childhood was ‘stolen’ by mother with Munchausen’s who faked ME and Parkinson’s and left her to care for herself – and only found out after reading her diaries after she died
- Helen Naylor, 38, from Nottingham, grew up believing her mother Elinor had ME
- Was ‘expected to care for herself’ and childhood revolved around Elinor’s ‘illness’
- Explained: ‘When I was ten, she told me my father could ‘drop dead at any time”
- Elinor died in a nursing home aged 69 in 2016, and her diaries were uncovered
- Through reading the diaries, Helen learned that Elinor had been faking the illness
- Elinor displayed signs of Munchausen’s syndrome, where someone produces symptoms of a fake illness
A woman has revealed how her mother ‘stole her childhood’ by deliberately faked having serious illnesses for 30 years.
Helen Naylor, 38, from Nottingham, was seven-years-old when her mother Elinor told her she had Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition which causes extreme exhaustion.
Throughout her childhood, Helen was ‘expected to care for herself’ while life revolved around Elinor’s illness.
After Elinor died in a nursing home aged 69 in 2016, Helen found her diaries, which she had written daily for over fifty years, and learned her mother had been faking the illnesses.
She now believes her mother displayed signs of Munchausen’s syndrome, where someone produces symptoms of a fake illness.
Writing in her new book, My Mother, Munchausen’s and Me, which is published on Thursday, Helen explained: ‘My mother faked debilitating illnesses for thirty years and her pretence of disability moulded my family and stole my childhood.
‘Her manipulations forced me to sacrifice and compromise because she appeared to be unwell, and I did it because I loved her.
‘Everything I knew about myself – my identity and my upbringing – relied on the belief that I was the daughter of two physically disabled parents. Except that was a lie.’
In her new book My Mother, Munchausen’s and Me, Helen Naylor, 38, from Nottingham, reveals how her mother Elinor faked illnesses including Myalgic encephalomyelitis and Parkinson’s disease
Meanwhile speaking to The Sun, she revealed: ‘I was shocked and heartbroken to discover a completely different side of the story — one where I had been shut away and neglected through-out my childhood while my mum weaved her web of lies to make herself out to be the victim.’
Helen’s childhood was defined by her mother’s illnesses, with Elinor first telling her she had ME when she was just seven-years-old.
She writes: ‘There’s no tests, no treatment, no medical intervention. It’s the perfect hiding place for someone pretending to be ill.
Meanwhile she said Elinor was ‘enthralled with the ME, spending all her time researching it, talking about it and going to the ME group. I knew it was her favourite child.’
Helen was seven-years-old when her mother Elinor told her she had Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition which causes extreme exhaustion
She learned from a young age that her mother ‘mustn’t be bothered’, explaining: ‘She would sometimes say looking after me had made her condition worse.’
Helen said she was ‘expected’ to entertain and care for herself over weekends and holidays, believing that while she was at school, her mother was in bed all day.
In her new memoir, Helen reveals how she learnt the truth about her mother’s deception by reading her diaries after her death
However the reality was documented in the diaries – in fact, Elinor was often out shopping with friends or having lunch with her father.
In one diary entry, Elinor said she had spent the day going apple-picking and having fun on a day trip.
Yet she told Helen — and doctors — she was sleeping for 18 hours a day.
Helen also learned more about how her mother had neglected her when reading the diaries, realising she had been left alone for hours as a baby while her parents went drinking and for a walk on a beach.
Another entry revealed how Elinor had given her baby daughter whisky when she struggled to sleep.
Meanwhile when Helen was just ten, her mother told her her father Alan could ‘drop dead at any moment due to a heart condition.
Writing in her memoir, Helen said: ‘I waited, expecting something more, but she only shrugged again to dismiss me… My dad who did all the jobs around the house, who cared for Mum, who kept everything going.
One of very few photos of Helen as a baby. The film of the first six months of Helen’s life was destroyed by Elinor ‘by accident’ before the photos could be developed
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Also known as ME – or myalgic encephalomyelitis – CFS can affect anyone, but is most common in women in their mid 20s to mid 40s.
The most noticeable symptom is extreme tiredness, but others include problems sleeping, joint or muscle pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and a fast or irregular heartbeat.
Treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), specific exercises, or medication to target nausea, pain or issues with sleeping.
‘If Dad died – or was it when Dad died? – I would have to replace him as Mum’s carer because there was no one else to help us.
‘I knew, instinctively, that I’d have to give up all my dreams of leaving home and going to university.’
Revealing she felt ‘unloved and unlovable’ she said: ‘From then on I felt a huge responsibility towards my parents, believing I would have to be the sole carer for my mother if the worst happened.’
However at the age of 19, Helen met her husband Peter, now 40.
But when Naylor became pregnant her mother upped the stakes and declared that she had Parkinson’s.
The couple went on to welcome two children, Bailey, ten, and Blossom, eight.
However Elinor didn’t welcome the children into the family, with Helen revealing her mother ‘couldn’t cope with not being the centre of attention’ and ‘pulling tricks’ to bring the focus back to herself.
However Helen’s suspicions were raised when her mother’s behaviour became increasingly odd, and she began researching narcissistic personality disorder online.
It was then that she learned about Munchausen’s syndrome.
This photos was taken at home when Helen was three, found muddled together in a large box marked ‘Photos, mainly Helen.’
FAKING IT: WHAT IS MUNCHAUSEN?
Munchausen by Proxy is a condition where an adult will invent medical conditions for his or her child so that they can get attention or sympathy.
A dangerous facet of this is how they will often induce symptoms in the child to better illustrate the lie.
Munchausen by Proxy is typically considered a severe form of child abuse.
Munchausen Syndrome is when a person will invent their own ailment or illness for sympathy or attention.
Both are mental disorders.
Meanwhile her mother had moved into a nursing home, with Helen dutifully visiting every time she had a fall – which she said began to mount to over 100 a month.
Writing in the book, Helen documents how nurses became suspicious of Elinor’s behaviour.
She remembers Elinor saying: ”[The nurse] said I had to stop making up illnesses and faking falls and enjoy my life. Not that they were all faked, just that one. But anyway, it’s been flagged on my notes that I’m not to be admitted to hospital for a fall.”
On another occasion, Elinor staged a controlled fall and when Helen tried to help her up, her mother exclaimed: ‘You little b*****! Look at what you’ve done to me. You’re trying to destroy me.’
In the end, Elinor died in a nursing home in 2016, having starved herself, binding her hands to create contractions and retreating permanently to bed.
It was then Helen discovered her diaries, but felt too consumed by grief to read them.
It was only when Helen began reading the tomes two years later that she learned her mother had actually enjoyed pretending to be unwell, and the attention she received because of it.
Everything Helen knew about herself and her upbringing was founded on a lie.
Feeling devastated by her mother’s death, Helen said: ‘I felt crushed by the contradictions, the twisted distortions and outright lies…There was no affection and she was always the victim.’
Helen said she was ‘expected’ to entertain and care for herself over weekends and holidays, believing that while she was at school, her mother was in bed all day
Helen aged 10, with Elinor, on holiday. Elinor is using her black stick in both photos, claiming to have ME
Describing how her mother referred to her as a ‘monster’, ‘screaming banshee’ and said Blossom and Bailey were ‘fat’, she said she will ‘never forget’ how her childhood was ‘stolen’ from her.
In the end, Elinor’s pursuit of the patient role led to her starving herself, binding her hands to create contractions and retreating permanently to bed. Eventually, she was so weakened she died of what should have been a minor infection.
Since learning the truth, Helen writes: ‘While I now have a clear view of who my mother was and what she did to me, I still feel like I’ll never really know the whole story, never really have a grip on what happened.
‘I have days when nothing feels real, when I don’t know who I can trust.’
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