How to tell your medical provider about your CS background

How to tell your medical provider about your CS background is an ever-green topic that comes up for the ex-Christian Science community, so we reached out to our Facebook group for scripts and tips that they have used over the years. A huge thanks to everyone who contributed.

  • Write it down in advance
  • Scripts for Doctors & Other Medical Professionals
  • Ask Questions
  • Childhood vaccines / getting caught up as an adult 
  • Sample Letter
  • Website resources

Write it down in advance

I find written communication reduces my anxiety in communicating information that holds a lot of emotion for me with doctors. It strips the emotional tone and gives them less to react to. It gives them a moment to consume before responding. It prevents them from interrupting. It gets all my key concerns into one place without me forgetting. It provides clear communication about what I want from them and any barriers to my care. -SL

I try & send something in advance whenever possible. – KT

I always write out a bullet point list of what I want to cover in that appointment. Quite often, it takes more than one appointment. It will take at least several when a CSer has never seen a doctor before. And be ready for a load of referrals to get maintenance things done. I often work on my bullet list a good while in advance to boil it down as brief as possible, I type it and HAND that to the doctor to START (half a page is my max). -V

Scripts for Doctors & Other Medical Professionals

“I did not receive medical care of any kind until I was — due to being raised in a zealous religion that refused medical interventions of any kind and treated science as something to be distrusted.

Because of this, sometimes I don’t have even basic awareness of commonly understood medical knowledge. Occasionally, I am not even aware I am experiencing a symptom. Sometimes this is because I don’t know something might be related. Sometimes it’s because I was raised to ruthlessly deny my physical symptoms were happening.

I am here today because of this: (full in reason for visit)

I am hopeful to achieve this: (desired outcome. Might be medication, might be pain relief, diagnosis help, figuring out mysterious symptom, reassurance or referrals to correct doctor)

I may need help understanding terminology. If there are next steps that *I* am responsible for, it would help if someone detailed what those would be. (Appointments, follow up, pharmacy, at home care, what should prompt me to call back)

If there are next steps you are responsible for, I would appreciate knowing what those are (pre authorization, time lines, referrals, finding information)

Thank you for your patience and understanding.” -S.L.

“During my childhood my family was Christian Science, which is an extreme brand of religion that refuses to see doctors or accept medical care. or acknowledge health issues… So I essentially have no family health history.

Because of that, I worry about the things I don’t know. Layer on top of that a very incomplete understanding of medical issues because the years I went without any exposure to anything regarding health.

If there is a concern where family health history might be a risk factor, a contributing piece of information, relevant to the conversation, can you please take into consideration that my answer of ‘No’ on a form really means a big black question mark and may warrant a discussion? And that any screenings may need to assume ‘yes’ to take into account the lack of information available to me.” -S.L.

I’ll start out by saying, well I didn’t get medical care as a child because my parents were [in] this crazy religion. (Roll eyes for effect). But since I “escaped” at 25, I’m trying to fix the effects of those years of neglect. (So they know I’m no longer in it). – D.S.

“You’re the first doctor I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve had ZERO medical care ever and have NEVER taken any medicine. No Tylenol, no advil, no nothing. No vaccines. I was raised in a cult that didn’t believe in medicine and doctors. My knowledge of illness and the way my body works is practically non-existent. Please explain things to me on a very basic level. I’m very nervous as I’ve been brainwashed to be afraid of the medical system.” – J.T.

I’ve sometimes told doctors what I suspect about my family medical history, but I don’t know much of anything for sure. They’ve always taken that in stride. Some years ago I told my primary care: let’s assume I missed every childhood shot (mom used to tell me I got everything I “needed” but later I realized she was probably lying through her teeth). – Anon.

Ask Questions:

“I am not fully understanding what you said.”

“I spent years having my concerns dismissed by my family. I’m sure that’s not what you are trying to do, but I am going to have to ask you to have a little patience with me. Can you explain the treatment plan in more detail?/Can you help me understand why this doesn’t seem like a concern to you?”

Childhood vaccines / getting caught up as an adult 

“I didn’t get my childhood vaccinations. Which ones should I get now, as an adult?”

Print out’s sheet of immunizations for adults and bring it along

Sample Letter

An option of a form letter, for your medical files- this was one I have for general use, and was handy for a hospital stay with its constant care staff changes.

Dear Medical Professional,

 My name is _____, and I am a patient of yours. This letter is just to prepare you with a few facts that I think would be important to you as my care provider.

I was raised in a cult called Christian Science, which practices radical reliance on prayer for healing, and rejects all medical care. This is everything from cancer and diabetic treatment to ice for a burn, or mental health assistance.

I escaped the influence of this high control environment at (age range), but have struggled with the continuing trauma from both the indoctrination and the medical neglect I experienced.

The issues that this presents are varied, but mainly the following- 

  • I struggle with understanding complex medical situations
  • I am unfamiliar with many terms and pieces of information that are considered ‘common knowledge’ 
  • I am somewhat resistant to taking medications unless there are no other reasonable methods of treatment. 
  • I need things explained to me
  • I need to know at least your top 3 treatment options for any issues, so that I can choose from them. This helps with my anxiety and gives me more agency
  • I often struggle with determining where and how severe my pain is, because of disassociation, and trauma associated with having illness in a high control group that denies the existence of disease, bacteria, viruses, and injury.
  • Because of the cult’s influence I have very limited information about my own medical history, as well as my family medical history. 
  •  My childhood also involved being denied checkups, which means many vaccines you might assume I have, I likely do not – (list any exceptions) 
  • As well, due to indoctrination, I have limited knowledge in modern science and medicine

You might also list any goals or ideas you have around your health- any patterns you are aware of, or pieces of information that you feel are important for a person whose expertise you rely on to know. 

I had in mine things like my sexual activity, weight and diet discussion, my neurodiversity and accommodation I might need around that. Otherwise, try to keep it to one page. Ask if they read it; expect that they didn’t. Ask them to read it in front of you, as it pertains to your care. Think of this as a bit of a BS filter- you deserve comprehensive, compassionate care. You do not have to endure bad people. 

Thank you so much for your time to read this in preparation for my care, I appreciate it greatly.

(Your name)

– Emi H.

Website resources

Other Resources