I pretended to be sick…and it went too far.
I was raised in a super strict, toxic household, with a mentally insane father. My parents “homeschooled” me, which meant I had little contact outside my immediate family.
I had no interaction with extended family, and had no friends. When I was 11, I had a fascination with researching diseases.
My parents gave me free reign on the internet. I had unlimited online access, but I couldn’t have friends my own age because they’d “corrupt” me.
I ended up on this website called KidsHealth, and I started reading stories about children who had been diagnosed with various illnesses.
I remember reading a story about a girl that had Type 1 Diabetes, and she wrote about how her friends still loved her and tried to help her manage her illness.
And how she’d made friends at school by being open about her illness.
So 11-year-old me thought that being sick meant you’d have people care about you.
I Pretended The Cat Was Sick
I started telling my parents my cat was sick and coughing (she wasn’t) and convinced them to take her to the vet who just told us it was hairballs.
They gave us some medicine to give her at home and sent us on our way.
I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted my cat to be diagnosed with a real illness because I wanted to be able to be upset about it, and have my parents give me attention.
They knew I really loved that cat, and I’d be so upset if she was sick (or so they thought).
I convinced my parents to take her back to the vet and do an X-ray to see if she had an “underlying condition”.
I wanted her to be diagnosed with asthma: something manageable but something I could fuss over and somehow get attention from my parents.
I Decided To Be The Sick One
After the second or third vet visit, I realized I couldn’t get the diagnosis I wanted…for this cat, so I decided I’d have to be the sick one.
I started researching diabetes intently, but soon realized it’s diagnosed through blood work and that would be hard to fake.
I decided to give it my best shot, and starting drinking tons of water, “peeing” constantly, telling my parents my vision was blurry.
My mom recognized it as symptoms of diabetes and immediately took me to the doctor.
My sugar level was tested (at this point I’m almost praying for a diagnosis), and my levels come back…normal.
My doctor suggested that I have a fasting blood test, so I couldn’t eat anything at dinner or overnight and had to come back in the morning.
That evening, I snuck out to the shoplots and bought a box of sugar cubes.
The next morning, just before we left the house to go to the doctor, I ate as many sugar cubes as I could, hoping it would lead to high blood sugar levels.
The doctor told my parents I was completely normal & healthy. I was upset.
I wanted to be diagnosed with an illness I didn’t have in hopes of my parents showing me love.
Back to the drawing board
I then decided to research asthma intently, the symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, how it’s treated, what medications are usually described.
Keep in mind that I’m 11 going on 12, spending hours building a case for having a disease I want, just for attention. I felt ready.
I waited till the weekend when my family would usually be spending the day together, although I always felt alienated and invisible.
My little brother was laying on my mom’s lap, and I told her “Mom, I don’t feel well, like I’m getting a cold or something.”
I remember her responding: ”Go drink some water.”
My parents almost never took me to a doctor, I wasn’t vaccinated, and drinking water and eating healthy were the only medicine I usually got.
Later that evening, I began “sneezing” repeatedly. Sneezing every 30 seconds or so. I continued to sneeze constantly for days on end.
Finally, my parents took me to a doctor. At this point, I had perfected breathing in such a way that made me sound congested.
The doctor used the stethoscope to listen to my lungs and finally pulled my mom aside and started whispering.
I couldn’t hear the exact words, but the sentiment was that this wasn’t just a simple cold, but something more serious.
I Was Diagnosed with Asthma
The doctor listened to my lungs again, before finally saying “I think you might have asthma but it’s hard to say. I want to try an inhaler to see if it relieves your symptoms.”
She pulled out a brand new, pale blue asthma inhaler, and attached a “spacer” to it, a plastic device that helps children to properly inhale the medicine.
She gave me two puffs of medicine and told me to breathe it in slowly, counting to 3 each time. I told her I felt “much better” afterwards.
She listened to my lungs again, and of course, they sounded closer to normal.
She pulled out a few brochures, more medicines, talked to my mom about my illness and how to “manage it at home”, and booked me in for a follow up appointment a week later.
I left the doctor’s office feeling elated. Finally, I’d have the attention I needed.
On our way out, I grabbed a red, magnetic poster on asthma. “Take your medicine daily!” it read, in bold white lettering.
Below, it had tips on how to manage symptoms, how to recognize symptoms of an asthma attack, and how to prevent them.
My Dad Tried To Google A Cure
Back home, my mom sat my dad down and told him I had asthma. My dad was upset. He told me he was sure it could be cured if I “eat healthy” and perhaps tried a natural remedy.
I was angry. Finally, I’m sick. I needed love, care, and attention, and all my dad was fixated on, was curing a disease I didn’t even have, because he was sure I was doing something unhealthy that resulted in me developing asthma.
He jumped onto the computer and sat me down. “Natural cure for asthma” he typed into Google. He told me not to look at the websites, but he’d find a cure for me to start as soon as possible.
The next day, he made me a “smoothie” that was supposed to “cure” me. It was disgusting. It had grapefruit, orange, raw garlic, and a bunch of other things I don’t remember.
After he made me drink some, I felt sick to my stomach and started crying. He eventually told me I could stop, and would find “another cure”.
Meanwhile, I knew I had to amp it up. I was not about to be cured. I had to show my parents it was serious.
I Faked An Allergy Towards My Pets
My next plan: convince my parents I’m allergic to all of our pets and force them to re-home them.
At this point, we had 3 guinea pigs, two were mine and one belonged to my sister; plus two cats, who were indoors/outdoors.
I started rubbing my eyes subtly, whenever any of the furry pets were around. Through research, I knew that once asthma has developed, new allergens could develop, too.
I started to pretend to have trouble breathing around our pets. I told my mom I couldn’t clean the guinea pigs cages because I might have an asthma attack, and made her do it for me.
I full-out faked an asthma attack after my dad told me to try and hold my cat.
Over the next several weeks, my symptoms “worsened” and my parents decided to re-home my guinea pigs. Don’t worry, they went to good homes.
What was left in their place was a sick sense of accomplishment. I missed them, but having so much attention focused on my illness made me feel happy and valuable.
Although I tried and tried to re-home the cats too, my parents loved them too much and wouldn’t let me. After a few weeks, I gave up.
My Mom Thought I Was Masturbating
One day, my mom pulled me aside and asked me if I was masturbating. I didn’t know what it meant, but I had an inkling that it meant something sexual.
I was uncomfortable and confused. My mom explained that “Christians shouldn’t get sick” and if they did, I must be doing something “sinful” in secret. I assured her I wasn’t, and I really wasn’t.
I was just faking an entire illness because I needed someone to show me I was valuable and important.
I was put on a “preventative” medicine to relieve my symptoms, and for a while I pretended it worked.
My mom reminded me to take my medicine daily, and if I “wasn’t feeling well”, I wouldn’t have to do my homeschool lessons.
She gave me a bell to put next to my bed in case I suddenly had an attack at night and couldn’t breathe.
My ultimate goal was to be hospitalized, to have an ambulance pull up at my house and whisk my sick, depressed self away.
I ultimately decided that this was too risky. I’d probably have an x-ray taken and my entire lie would fall apart.
Despite Everything, I Was Still Lonely
Months passed, and the excitement of being sick wore off.
I still didn’t have any friends, I was still lonely. I’d still stand at the end of my driveway, hoping a neighborhood child my age would notice me and want to be my friend.
I missed my guinea pigs. I missed letting them run loose and chase each other in the back garden.
My red magnetic asthma sticker that I was so excited to bring home, was slowly peeling off the fridge, and blended into the gazillion other fridge magnets. No one noticed it anymore.
One day, now 12 years old, I was taking a bath when a sudden wave of depression hit me, and this was the first time I thought about committing suicide.
Here it is, I have a disease that I so desperately wanted, just so I could feel loved and special, and now I felt like no one cared or noticed.
It wasn’t worth it.
I lowered my torso into the water, until the water reached my ears and drowned out all sounds around me. I had to give it up.
I decided to tell my parents.
For more stories about dysfunctional family relationships, read My Parents Deleted My Social Life and It Ruined Me and How Your Relationship with Your Parents Change after They Get Older.