This is part of an on-going series, for all posts in this series see the tag Chrystal’s Story.
A note from Chrystal: I was born a fourth-generation Christian Scientist, and finally left the religion when I was in my 40s. In this blog series, I will do my best to share with you my 40+ year journey. I have done my best to make the journey sequential, but it’s also themed to a large extent, and sometimes it has been necessary to take things out of sequence to share a theme.
Quaker note: Some time in probably fourth grade, I learned about the Quaker Faith: “The Religious Society of Friends.” I remember opening my eyes wide and staring at the history book, and reading their beliefs, and thinking, “I wish they were still around, I would definitely be Quaker! That fits me to a ‘T!’” And I think it was at that point that I realized, “if I wasn’t a Christian Scientist, I would be Quaker.”
My sophomore year in high school, I had a lump develop on my face. The growth had actually been there since 4th grade. You can see it in all my school photos from 4th grade on. And my sophomore year in high school, it got bigger. It took up ½ of my cheek. I was, frankly, quite pretty, and I had this growth on my face that was distracting. And, being a Christian Scientist, I couldn’t go get this simple thing taken care of medically.
It had appeared on my face some time in fourth grade. My bio mom had disappeared some time during the spring of third grade. At first, it was a small white spot. Sort of looked like a pimple. I also developed acne in fourth grade. Red spots, white spots, black heads. And this one thing on my face too. A growth. It was a cyst. If I had been crying tears, it would have landed on my cheek and been where this cyst was. It stayed there. I remember going to a playground with my family one time. I was probably in fifth grade or sixth grade at the time. Well aware that I had this thing on my face, trying hard always to forget it. I couldn’t see it, though everyone else sure could. I wasn’t allowed to wear even skin tone makeup to cover it. It was a white spot surrounded by a growing lump. The white spot was always the same size. The lump got gradually bigger over the years. I figured we prayed about it, and eventually it would go away. I was told story after story about girls and boys who had prayed their acne away. My step-mom had had acne for a long long time and probably thought she was comforting me when she said, “I didn’t have self confidence, and I didn’t gain that until I got married. And once I got married, my acne went away!” She was trying to tell me to spontaneously heal any confidence issues I had. Frankly, I had been beaten down so much, where the heck was I supposed to build self-confidence? No one ever told me when I did well in something. I certainly heard about every time I had done something wrong. Any time I did succeed in something, the “glory went to God.” Everything good was “expressing God,” and everything bad was “not Chrystal, it’s error [a mistake], and needs to be called attention to and rebuked. Remember Jesus yelling at the money changers in the Bible? The money exchange people at the temple? And Jesus running around kicking over all the tables? If something is wrong, it needs to be strongly rebuked. If something is right, it was rarely acknowledged. And I was supposed to miraculously find self-confidence in there somewhere.
I went to the playground one time. I think it was a large family gathering, and at this point in my life, I was starting to have little cousins (I was always the oldest grand child, the oldest sibling, the oldest cousin). So we all had a big family picnic at a park or playground. I remember standing by a bunch of monkey bars. I remember my uncle reaching to my face and trying brush the “tear” off my cheek. (The cyst.) As he reached over he said, “have you been crying?” I said, “no,” and ducked. He did manage to brush my cheek. I hadn’t known what he was going to do. This is a kind and gentle man. He didn’t mean any harm. He was trying to take care of his niece. But it startled me, and it made me feel embarrassed that this thing was so visible and made me look like I was crying. All the time. After that, it was really clear that it looked like a teardrop. So, of course now it was time to heal my grief over losing my mom. I wasn’t given any tools or therapy or anything. Anything other than, “heal your grief, grief isn’t real, find something to be grateful for, find the good,” was basically against Christian Science. How does a fourth grader heal grief over losing a mom who lied and then rejected her and ultimately stole her favorite toy? Well, the teardrop shaped cyst stayed on my face. And everyone in my family reminded me that I was still grieving my bio mom. Lovely.
So, even when I wasn’t thinking about her, I would suddenly see my reflection in the mirror or some random person would ask me, “what’s that on your cheek?” And I would get embarrassed and make up random words. “I don’t know,” “I don’t talk about it,” “it’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” “It means I am sad for losing my mom.” And none of these answers were good enough. I didn’t know why it persisted, and yet it did. I was taught it persisted because I was sad for losing my mom and I had no self-confidence.
My bio mom came back in my life when I was 15 years old. I went to visit her – she lived far away now. She of course saw the lump on my face, and mentioned it. When I got home, I lied to my parents. I told them that my bio mom wanted it removed surgically. I knew inside me, that I wanted it removed. My bio mom had asked if I had considered having that done. Well, yes, I had, considering at least once a week I ran into someone who asked me why I hadn’t already done that. So I leaped at the chance of the fact that my bio mom had mentioned both the lump and surgery, and stretched it to say, “she said she wants it removed.” My step-mom helped find a cosmetic surgeon. Wow. A cosmetic surgeon! He was a good looking man who sat in his chair very oddly. I have never seen a man or anyone sit in a chair like that. He had his butt on the chair, and pulled his knees all the way up to his shoulders, and had his hands on his knees. It was completely bizarre. Like he was showing off his private area through his pants. I was taught very strictly to sit like a lady for the one hour of mostly silence on Wednesday nights at church. I had to sit incredibly uncomfortably and keep my knees stick tight, so no one could look up my skirt. And here was a doctor, of course wearing pants, holding his legs up and completely (what is called now) “man spreading” in the most bizarre way.
We looked through his cosmetic book of procedures he had done. He had not removed any lumps from anyone that I could see. But he had helped with acne, and some other surgical procedures, removal of fat and such. And we didn’t know where else to go. Plus, he had that cool word as a title – “Cosmetic.” I knew he would make me look beautiful. And normal. I had no doubts.
The following week, I went to the surgery. I was awake for the whole procedure. There was a lady nurse working right along with him. They put novocaine all around the lump, he cut it open right at the white tear spot, and proceeded to scoop out all of the cyst material. The first moment after they opened the cyst, it spurted on the nurse lady’s hair, and she was startled. I felt incredibly sorry for her, but I had been instructed not to talk. So I lay as still as I could and witnessed them taking this horrible thing off my face.
After it was over, I had a gray stitches that were supposed to melt into my skin. They did. It looked really strange for a while. I was going to the beach that weekend with a bunch of church “friends.” (I put that in quotes because I never felt accepted by these people, always felt like an outsider, and never thought of them as friends.) And I was told not to put makeup on my stitches to hide anything. I was told to wear sunscreen, also something Christian Scientists really didn’t believe in. (Seriously.) How can the sun harm us if the sun is something good? We know what the sun represents. It represents love, and warmth, life and light. It represents energy and nourishment. So since none of those qualities can harm us, the sun can’t harm us. So I had no sunscreen or sunblock on my scar, and I put some makeup on anyway, to hide the dark gray stitches that were now surrounding my scar. We also did not do any follow-up care with the doctor. Everything in that regard turned out fine. Thank goodness.
About a week after the procedure, my step-mom and her mom, who was a Christian Science Practitioner, said to each other that they noticed the cyst was growing back. They didn’t tell me this until years later. They both prayed about it, apparently, figuring that if they prayed and I didn’t know about it, it could be healed. If I learned about it, I would get afraid and then it would grow back again to be healed for real at a future time. They never told me they saw it growing back. But they prayed and said it went back away. My guess is it was swollen from surgery. And the swelling went down.
It was such a relief to have this horrible tear thing off my face! And, now my bio mom was sort of back in my life. At least we could write each other letters and things. So, I guess on some level everyone decided it was all healed because I didn’t have to grieve for her any more.
Chrystal is the pseudonym for one of our Ex-Christian Scientist bloggers. She was born into Christian Science and had a lifelong dream of one day being a Christian Science practitioner, which she achieved. In ‘the practice’, all she found was ‘Crosses’ and no ‘Crowns’. Chrystal finally found a sense of peace when she turned her back on Christian Science and walked away. Her family is still in the religion, and she uses the pseudonym to protect their anonymity.