Real Talk

Gypsy Rose Blanchard: What Parents Can Learn From Her Story

The story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard is one filled with lessons to parents. It’s also a heartbreaking one that reveals how love bombing is one of the hardest forms of abuse to detect.

Once we become parents, everything becomes a threat. We’re scared our kids will scrape their knees, get sick by being near certain people, or learn bad things—all because we want to preserve and protect them. However, in the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, what her mother, Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard, exhibited wasn’t overprotectiveness, but rather, the desire to control.

Thankfully, Gypsy found a peaceful ending. And not a moment too soon as the new year started. On the morning of December 28, 2023, at 3:00 AM, Gypsy Rose stepped out of prison due to receiving parole for the second-degree murder of Dee Dee Blanchard.

But this tragic tale is one filled with lessons that parents should be aware of and learn from.

What Happened Between Gypsy Rose Blanchard and Her Mother

Gypsy’s mother Dee Dee claimed that her daughter had all sorts of diseases—starting from sleep apnea, leukemia, muscular dystrophy, asthma, visual and hearing impairments—and seizures that Dee Dee insisted all stemmed from an unidentified chromosomal issue. Thus, the matriarch was able to get help from charities such as Children’s Mercy Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

On June 14, 2015, Dee Dee’s body was found by sheriff’s deputies in Greene County, Missouri, United States, with stab wounds inflicted several days earlier. Concerned neighbors notified the police, worried that Gypsy Rose may have been abducted, as her wheelchair and medications were still in the house. However, the police found her in Wisconsin with her then-boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn.

Eventually, it was proven that Gypsy was a victim of physical and psychological abuse, with her mother passing Gypsy off as someone who was disabled and chronically ill and likewise subjecting her to unnecessary surgery and medication. Gypsy then pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and served 8 years of a 10-year sentence.

More to What Meets the Eye

Many thriller horror movies such as The Act (2016), Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017), and Run (2020) paid tribute to Gypsy’s story wherein the mother—although acting like the ideal mother—actually had more sinister motives. After all, Dee Dee has already caused trouble for other people, including her family. Some of her relatives revealed that she would “steal” from them when “things didn’t go her way.”

It was an extreme desire for control—evidenced in some of the interviews where Dee Dee would be holding Gypsy’s hand the whole time. Although appearing doting, according to Gyspy in an interview, any sign of showing that she was not as frail as she appeared to be was met with harsh punishment.

“The Act with Dee Dee Blanchard played by Patricia Arquette and Joey King playing Gypsy Rose”
Source: Hulu

Eventually, the various hospital visits, bouncing checks, and even the unnecessary medical interventions led to Gypsy growing frustrated and likewise suspicious. With the help of her then-boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn, they planned and murdered Dee before surrendering to the officials. It was in jail that Gypsy revealed that she discovered through research that her mother may have had Munchausen by Proxy.

Munchausen by Proxy, Explained

Unlike the many stories of abuse we’ve heard wherein a parent “neglects” a child, Munchausen by Proxy is the complete opposite: doting and loving to disguise the ulterior motive of control (Rand and Feldman, 2001; Deutsch, 2023). But the story is not an unusual case, as abusers can look like outstanding and saintly members of the community. They do this to further isolate their victims—making people unconsciously gaslight the victim for questioning his or her parent’s motives.

Munchausen By Proxy—more currently known as Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another—is a variation of Munchausen Syndrome, wherein instead of fabricating the disease for themselves, they do so on other people. Or at least, on those they know they can control (Awadallah, Vaughan, Franco, Munir, Sharaby, and Goldfarb, 2005; Akpinar, 2021).

However, this is different from being a hypochondriac: while a hypochondriac is worrying that one is sick, Munchausen shows that they want themselves or whoever they’re controlling—usually a child—to be sick (Akpinar, 2021).

But why would a parent want their child to be sick?

Studies show that those who have the disorder get “validation” and “elation” from seeing doctors treat their allegedly sick child. Why? It validates the parent as a good person, even if they are the cause of the problem (Rand and Feldman, 2001; Awadallah et. al, 2005). Various models even explain that the trauma of losing a child or growing up with a parent with Munchausen Syndrome itself makes individuals more prone to getting Munchausen by Proxy.

The thing is, it’s not easy to identify the symptoms because there are times we gaslight ourselves to think we’re overreacting. But cases often show that people with Munchausen by Proxy often have an “emotional detachment” to their child. They rarely express empathy or care that their kid suffers from the medical treatments and interventions, and instead agree to what the doctor says (Akpinar, 2021).

Even if they cannot financially afford it! And that’s what happened with Gypsy Rose Blanchard. Dee Dee Blanchard had been caught several times for writing and submitting “bad checks” that were meant to pay for Gypsy’s medical interventions (Marchionda, 2019; Deutch, 2023). She also falsified birth certificates to masquerade Gypsy’s true age.

Other symptoms include the child seemingly losing their disease when the parent leaves them. Once Nicholas murdered Dee Dee, pictures revealed that Gypsy could walk on her own when most knew her as wheelchair-bound for most of her life.

Overprotectiveness vs. Munchausen by Proxy

As parents, we want to protect them from everything. Sometimes, we even say “no” to something that appears seemingly safe because it’s outside our comfort zone. It usually earns us the name “helicopter parent” and if we do it often enough, this parenting style actually makes kids more rebellious. Because they lived a life “under control,” they didn’t learn the natural way kids do: via exploring (Srivastav and Mathur, 2020; Bagnato, 2022).

But that’s not to say our instincts are always wrong. We win some; we lose some. As parents who want nothing but our children to be safe, we respond to situations based on the information we have. And when we don’t have enough information, our decisions don’t always make things happen the way we want them to.

However, Munchausen by Proxy or Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another is a completely different story. Why? Those who have it actively seek to hurt their “other” to gain approval or attention. Although they don’t inflict the pain themselves, they manipulate others into doing so by masquerading it as a form of care. Extreme ones include overdosing on vitamins, medicines, and drugs, and using the side effects that we are always so afraid of to their advantage (Deutsch, 2023).

What happens to Gypsy Rose Blanchard now?

Once released from jail and on parole, Gypsy Rose Blanchard met up with her father and his second family. She also appears to have a happy relationship with her husband, Louisianna’s special education teacher Ryan Scott Anderson. She then posted a selfie which earned mixed responses. However, according to TMZ, she and her family had been advised by her parole officer to “leave Missouri” due to “security risks” and possibly how peculiar her case was.

Besides the selfie, she celebrated freedom with her family, which includes Rod Blanchard, her half-sister, Mia, and her husband, Ryan Scott Anderson. On her Instagram, she also dropped teasers about her book and a show called The Prison Confessions of Gypsy Rose Blanchard—a new Lifetime docuseries set to air on January 5, 2024.

Gypsy’s story is not as uncommon as we think.

Although Dee Dee Blanchard never received an official diagnosis for Munchausen’s by Proxy, Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s case is one case that truly says “Never judge a book by its cover.”

Her case, however, has then gained notoriety. Many stated Gypsy manipulated someone who was “mentally disabled” to murder her mother. On the other hand, other people—especially former victims of abuse—have defended Gypsy, saying that the abuse she faced and the belief that no one would believe her has caused her to resort to extreme measures.

Gypsy also revealed in an interview with Dr. Phil that she’s not excusing what she did. “Nothing justifies murder,” she says. “But I think abuse should be punished by prison.”

In which it is but, how does one truly know if it’s abuse when it looks as normal? Dee Dee Blanchard looked like any typical doting mom with a sick child. Where does one draw the line?

In most cases of abuse, it’s difficult to believe the victim because they already feel that the world has been turned against them. Especially if it’s a child, all the more they will remain silent. While disciplinary measures are still a must, there’s a fine line wherein the way we discipline them is for them to learn and not for us to relish in the power exerted.

Don’t let our overprotectiveness ignore the true needs of our children!

As parents, we want our children to grow up safe and happy. We want to protect them from all sorts of pains and evil things, sometimes, even playing the bad cop role. However, our love doesn’t always act as intended. By loving them “too hard,” we actually hurt them more by ignoring their right to be themselves.

Looking at the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, despite it being an extreme situation, reminds us that:

  • Kids are not ours to control,but to guide
  • Kids are not there to fulfill our unanswered psychological needs
  • It’s okay to let our kids develop away from us.

After all, parenting isn’t just about us but, helping our child or children become the individuals they were meant to be.

References

AKPINAR, A. (2021). Munchausen by proxy syndrome. HEALTH SCIENCES QUARTERLY5(Supplement Issue), 199-209.

Awadallah, N., Vaughan, A., Franco, K., Munir, F., Sharaby, N. A., & Goldfarb, J. (2005). Munchausen by proxy: a case, chart series, and literature review of older victims. Child Abuse & Neglect29(8), 931-941.

Bagnato, K. (2022). “Helicopter Parenting” and Antisocial Behavior: The Role of Family Education. Rivista italiana di educazione familiare21(2), 99-115.

Deutsch, M. (2023). Dehumanization and Medical Abuse: Understanding Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and Physician Liability.

Marchionda, C. (2019). Examining Sanity Testing: Past, Present, And Future (Doctoral dissertation).

Rand, D. C., & Feldman, M. D. (2001). An explanatory model for Munchausen by proxy abuse. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine31(2), 113-126.

Srivastav, D., & Mathur, M. L. (2020). Helicopter parenting and adolescent development: from the perspective of mental health. Parenting-studies by an ecocultural and transactional perspective.

More real talk about mental health?

Breaking the Cycle of Generational Trauma and Toxic Patterns
Maxene Magalona Gets Real About Childhood Trauma and Its Effects on Adulthood
Teacher or Parent: Who is Responsible For Discipline Really?

Order your Modern Parenting magazine's print copy:
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]