By Michael, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Michael is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.
I want to take a moment to talk about reality.
I was raised to believe that the world around me, the world that I perceive with my physical senses, is not real. I was told that I live my life swaddled in illusion, and that I should constantly struggle to break through that illusion. I was completely sold on this idea. I craved reality. As a teenager, I vowed to dedicate my life to breaking through the illusion. I didn’t expect to succeed in this lifetime, but hey, death was unreal, so there was no deadline. I planned to keep “adjusting my thought” until someday the illusion melted away and I could finally see the real world.
After I left Christian Science, I gradually came around to the idea that the world that I perceive with my senses IS the real world. It was shocking. It was unnerving. It was electrifying. All my life, I’d been struggling for access to reality, and suddenly I found that I had this access… that I had always had this access.
By analogy, it was as if I’d been told all my life that I lived inside a shell, and that the “stars” were just dots painted on the inside of the shell — and then, one day, I discovered that there never was any shell, and the stars were actually gigantic distant balls of plasma, and I COULD SEE THEM JUST BY LOOKING AT THEM.
It blew my mind. It continues to blow my mind every day. All I have to do is stop and think to myself “I have direct access to reality!” and instantly I’m filled with joy. It’s like remembering that I have a superpower.
The following musings on Father’s Day are by ExCS Group Member and Contributor Chrystal. This is part 3 of 3.
As my dad’s condition got worse and worse, he stayed at home. For decades. He did his best. He kept a happy attitude. I think it was the last 2 or 3 days of his life that he finally lost his chipper attitude and gave up. Before that, for decades of horrendous Parkinson’s Disease ravaging his body, my dad kept his cheerful attitude. He was patient. He couldn’t speak, and most people didn’t have the patience to try to listen to him. I was always incredibly grateful when someone kind would actually sit and listen to him. Parkinson’s Disease is a disease that freezes up your body. It stops the throat from being able to swallow, the voice from being able to speak, the hand from doing something simple like brushing teeth or putting clothes on and off frequently (like for using the toilet). My dad could barely speak above a whisper. Each word was either strung together because he finally got the strength to speak it all, and we couldn’t understand, or it was one painfully forced out word at a time. Even in this condition, my dad still told jokes. Thankfully, for most of my life, he told the same jokes, so he would only need to refer to a word or two and we would know which joke it was that he was telling. My dad never deserved ANY of this.
While he was at home “being taken care of” by his wife, his hands turned black from dirt and lack of being washed. His teeth started to fall out from lack of good oral hygiene. (Remember, he couldn’t brush his own teeth anymore.) He couldn’t always make it to the bathroom and needed help most of the time once he was in there. So he often had a “potty jar” near him. (A large jug that laundry detergent comes in.) This was too often taken away from him, because his wife thought it was disgusting. It wasn’t until just a few months before he died that he got a real commode, and someone was hired to clean it out every morning.
My dad’s feet turned black from pacing the floor. His feet were so dirty. I never thought about it, and I didn’t live at home at the time. I was out of college and on my own. I came back for visits, but didn’t think much about all of it. My dad never complained. He was much too nice to complain. But he was being subjected to elder abuse. His wife hired Christian Science Nurses to come in to help. You know what sort of help they gave? They did the dishes. They emptied and loaded the dishwasher. Maybe they got my dad dressed, but I am not sure. They would come in for maybe an hour, 3 times a week. That was it. They were nice people. But were they actually doing any nursing? NO!
I remember my dad hiring a Practitioner to pray. She wasn’t listed in the Christian Science Journal, but was probably working towards that. She agreed to take his case even though he was on medicine. She was nice enough. Her bills were dutifully paid. My dad kept getting worse. (That Practitioner died too young a few years later, after losing her mobility and ending up in a wheelchair looking very frail.) The Christian Science Nurses were dutifully paid. My dad kept getting worse. My dad called other practitioners, even ones who were listed in the Christian Science Journal. My dad kept getting worse. He was on a full array of medicines. He kept getting worse. Every practitioner blamed my dad for his condition.
I remember coming home and seeing my dad’s filthy dirty glasses. I would clean them, and he would mouth, “thank you.” He loved that. A family member saw my dad at a family gathering with his black hands, and got a washcloth to wash his hands off. My dad mouthed “thank you” to this kind family member. Where was my dad’s wife during these things? Ignoring him. She has a never ending “to do list,” and takes daily hour long “prayer walks.” She did everything she could to avoid taking care of my dad. She hired people to come in. If she had to take care of him, she yelled at him constantly. I have yet to ever see a kind bone in her body appear. Oh yeah, that’s right, Mary Baker Eddy says that we aren’t made up of bones, therefore bones don’t exist. I went to my dad’s house regularly during what turned into the last year of his life. I have never been trained in any way to take care of someone. I was a Christian Scientist at the time. I did my best, because I loved my dad. Another Christian Scientist came in every morning. We were having some sort of (mediocre) care for my dad around the clock at this point in his life. My dad was now struggling with Alzheimer’s and hallucinations. He needed to be watched so he wouldn’t hurt himself, mostly. He fell down all the time. He kept forgetting to use his walker and would launch himself across the room and fall. His falls shook the house consistently.
My dad also started having seizures. At one point, his breathing stopped. I was there at the home with the other person – a Christian Scientist who was hired to take care of him. My dad’s lips started to turn blue. I was basically hitting him and yelling at him saying, “Dad! Dad! Dad! Breathe! Dad! Breathe! Please, Dad! Breathe!” I was getting super upset. I yelled at the other woman to “Dial 911!” I hollered at her over and over. She laughed and laughed. She thought it was hilarious. She thought all of this was a joke. I was panicking and crying and screaming to get my dad to breathe and she was standing over there, laughing and laughing. Oh, I was also holding him up with my arms, because he would have fallen on the floor if I had let go. That’s why I couldn’t call 911, and desperately needed her to do it. My dad did eventually wake up from this seizure. I made a huge stink about this to his wife, and told her we could no longer give him the care he needed. He needed better care, he needed around the clock medical care at that point. He needed to go in to a care facility.
She and I both knew very clearly how much he never wanted to go to a care facility. So, she did what she did best; she controlled the information she gave to him. She was going away for a weekend to a Christian Science Retreat. She told him that she was going to put him in a senior care facility an hour away, and she would come get him in a week. My dad fought the idea, but eventually acquiesced.
After a few days, she visited him. He begged her to take him home. At this point, she had decided this would be his permanent arrangement. She told him in one way or another, “oh, you’re here for now,” or she avoided the topic all together: “I’ll be back next week.” My dad would try to speak as she left the room, “I want to go home,” and she would act like she hadn’t heard him. Finally, after a month of these shenanigans, she made it clear he wasn’t coming home. My dad stopped eating. He nearly starved to death. He was so dehydrated. His tongue was shriveled up, it was so dry. One of his arms was horribly swollen and scary looking. The facility rushed him to a hospital. The hospital staff said he would die within 48 hours.
At this point, it became apparent that we had to tell his dad and my dad’s siblings that my dad might die soon. They all rallied and came to visit him. To say their goodbyes. Because of the amazing medical care, my dad got better. His wife was so excited to see him drinking water. I sat there, seething at her, for having put him in this position. I had no clue what to do about any of it. But he was clearly getting horrendous care at this so called “senior care facility.” My dad drank water and drank water. He was so thirsty. He was released back to the senior care facility. His family came to visit him there. We all thought he would be okay. She thought that him drinking water was a healing. Because, of course it was. No mention of the IVs in his arm giving him fluids and sustenance over night and the medical nurse stationed at the doorway 24/7.
Within a month, my dad was on hospice. He’d made a few more trips to the Emergency Room for either pneumonia, dehydration or starvation. He had a very bad fall and cracked his head open. This required many stitches. I have since learned that when a person has a very bad fall, they may lose the ability to do basic things, like eating. It may not happen that same day, but within a few days, it may be clear that they don’t know how to eat. So people in a good care facility watch to see if someone who has had a fall, is still able to feed themselves. My dad forgot how to eat. No one noticed. He was living an hour away in a senior “care” home. His wife visited him once a weekend, for maybe a few hours at a time. The staff kept such horrendous records that they had no clue that he would go 3 days at a time with no food or water.
My dad was put on hospice. Hospice is actually a wonderful thing for people to be put on. It’s completely paid for by the state. There are no bills that come. Often, hospice buys the person a brand new bed. The bed is made to be as comfortable as possible. Nurses and doctors come and go and check on the person all day long. They read charts and administer pain killer including morphine. They listen to the patient and they will even play games with them. My dad made friends with his hospice nurses. My dad taught his hospice nurses to play Poker. The nurse looked at my dad, as he lay there, on the floor (to keep him from falling), and said, “he says I’m doing it wrong, don’t you?” And my dad smiled with his eyes. He had that happy glint in his eyes, the glint of laughter, even when he was on hospice care and had less than a week to live.
The previous summer, the doctor had given him a clean bill of health, saying he was going to live another 10 years. That was late one summer. By Christmas, my dad was in hospice and died before he saw the New Year. Through it all, he always hoped to be healed through Christian Science. The last time he interacted with someone was with me. He was in pain, and on hospice treatment. I asked him, “do you want pain medication?” and he shook his head, “no.” I could see in his eyes that he was STILL hoping for a Christian Science Healing of the Parkinson’s Disease he had lived with for 25+ years. He was put on morphine the next morning. He was still a few years away from being 70, and he died.
After he died, I hit heavy grief. Of all the things that had happened to me through the course of my life as a Christian Scientist, this was the final straw that propelled me out of Christian Science completely. My kind, amazing, wonderful, sweet, friend-to-everyone, creative Dad died. His wife and I were talking about 1 month after he died. She was surprised that I was grieving his death. I seethed inside, that she had no pain about his death at all. She just went on with her life, glad to be done with the burden. She brags that she never shed a tear for either of her parents’ death, nor for my dad’s death. The woman is a stepford wife robot. She thinks she is loving and proclaims herself to be so. But all I see is cruelty.
In her surprise, she asked me why I was still grieving my dad’s death (only weeks later) and why was I so mad at Christian Science? I told her, “if ANYONE deserved a healing, it would have been my kind and amazing dad!” I choked out those words, I could hardly speak from the pain of it.
She said, “Don’t you think if he had read more Christian Science literature that he would have been healed?”
Victim Blaming. That is clear victim blaming. You can read about Victim Blaming Here and more about it here. Christian Scientists are champions of victim blaming. If a person hasn’t received a healing through Christian Science Treatment, it’s their own fault for “not understanding it enough.” A Quaker Friend of mine who is also a doctor calls this, “the blame theory of disease,” so it’s not just a Christian Science thing.
To my dad: You didn’t deserve any of this. You didn’t cause ANY of this. None of it was your fault. You were trampled by a horrible mom, then married two women who also trampled you horribly because you were denied therapy to help you understand your own pain growing up in such a horribly unsupportive home. You never deserved to be controlled or abused. If I had known then what I know now (after years of my own real psychotherapy to heal my own grief, anxiety, depression, ADHD), I would have turned your case over to a state agency. They would have inspected your home decades ago and taken you away from that abusive situation.
You cleaned up after me when I was a child. You were always kind to me. Above all, you taught me what kindness is, and through this example, I could see clearly what kindness isn’t. Thank you. I love you forever.
After my dad died, about 2 evenings later, I was watching the sunset, and thinking about my dad as I stood there, crying. I felt as if he came to me. I know some people will say I sound crazy, but I’m not the only person who has stories to share like this. If this was my imagination soothing me, so be it. It felt like my dad came to visit me. He was so excited. He was once again the happy man he was when he was between wives, and it was just the two of us living together. He was running around, with his healthy legs, and goofy grin. He was so excited to meet all these amazing historical people in the afterlife. He was talking with all of them and learning their stories. I feel strongly that my dad is now living the happy life he always wanted to – meeting interesting people, and listening to their fascinating stories. I feel like my dad is finally happy, eager, enjoying life. What he found too little of in this material life, I feel he has gained in the afterlife. I still miss him terribly, but I am glad to fervently feel that he is finally happy now.
Now, I’m off to call my dad’s dad and wish him a “Happy Father’s Day!” I am glad that he turned to medical care when he needed it. As a result, my kids have gotten to know him and he is still around to visit with and talk with. He is the last grandparent my kids have, and they love him so much.
The following musings on Father’s Day are by ExCS Group Member and Contributor Chrystal. This is part 2 of 3, part 3 will be shared on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
My dad’s first wife was never ready to be a mom. After she potty trained me (her only child), she left. She has appeared a few times in my life over the last 40+ years, but she has been mostly missing my whole life. My dad and I lived in subsidized housing for years. Then, he met his second wife, who earned a respectable income as a teacher several states away. My dad and I moved. As a child, I felt like she threw away probably all of our possessions except maybe my dad’s typewriter, a lamp his brother had made him, and my dad’s bed. As far as I know, none of my possessions moved with us to this new location. Well, except my favorite stuffed animal, which was later stolen by my bio mom “to remember me by.” (I found it in her possession 10 years later, horribly dirty, ruined and mangled, having been carelessly treated.)
One of the weirdest things I have observed with Christian Science is the control of information. In a future blog, I will talk about severe neck pain I endured as an adult, and how I hid in my house, forbidding anyone to visit me, essentially. It’s a common thing in Christian Science to keep knowledge secret. If you don’t speak out loud what a problem is, then the problem won’t be made more real. So, for god’s sake, keep your mouth shut about anything important. If you tell someone something good, they will naturally feel jealous (what control Christian Scientists think they have over other people’s emotions!), and that makes them break The 10th Commandment, and that will bring “Malicious Animal Magnetism” to your good thing, so it will be destroyed. If you tell them something bad, they will not be able to help you at all, and you have just voiced that a seeming problem might exist, and by breathing words into it, it’s now completely real, and harder to heal.
Listening to Christian Scientists give their Wednesday evening “testimonies,” is quite interesting. They sound quite a lot like this –
“I had the supposed belief of what might have been a cold. [Note: no symptoms.] I prayed to feel God surrounding me. I felt God’s presence open up to me as I read ScienceAndHealthWithKeyToTheScripturesByOurBelovedLeaderMaryBakerEddy. I knew clearly this idea of a cold could never be a part of ME! Because I am God’s Perfect Child, I am made in God’s Pure Reflection. There is no spot where God is not. I knew I was fully healed in that moment. And then, several days later, the symptoms released completely. iAmSoGratefulForChristianScience.”
My dad’s second wife was one of the most controlling people I have ever met. One thing she controls with an iron fist is “information.” If she wanted to tell a secret in front of my dad, she would say it in a secret “language” that he couldn’t understand. It’s similar to Pig Latin, but it’s not Pig Latin. We could teach this stupid language to our friends. It’s supposed to just be a little secret code that kids talk to each other in. It shouldn’t be used to abuse someone by keeping information from them. This is one example of her sense to control. My dad and I could both write upside down, backwards in cursive. Guess what. She couldn’t read it. My dad and I would write little notes about Christmas surprises. Well, she couldn’t read it, so that was banned. But this ban didn’t keep her from using her secret language. She spoke it faster and faster over time, knowing my dad couldn’t understand it if she spoke as fast as she could go. My dad objected when she did this, but she steamrolled over him as if she was more important than he was. Her whole intention to do this sort of thing was to inform her kids of something and have my dad stay completely in the dark on the issue.
My dad’s wife wouldn’t let him use the bathroom in the house to pass a bowel movement. I wish I was exaggerating. I remember my dad running in to whatever place we had just driven to, to go use the bathroom. She said, “you make a mess at home, so you’re not allowed to use the bathroom.” My dad was forbidden to use the bathroom in his own home. Holding toxins in is a horrible thing to subject someone’s body too. Toxins are meant to be released, not held in. (He knew how to clean up the “it’s just matter!” Why not just ask him to clean up after himself?)
It is my feeling that this directly contributed to my dad contracting Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease that probably started in his mid 40s. At first he tried to treat it with only Christian Science.
After a few years of trying Christian Science – in earnest – my dad was getting worse. His wife mentioned to their practitioner, “his thumb is still trembling.” Her less than compassionate response was, “he is still dealing with that?” She was exasperated that HE hadn’t healed it yet. Yeah. That’s because Christian Science doesn’t heal. At all. Let alone the fact that as the Practitioner, it’s HER JOB to heal him. Because if HE could do it, he wouldn’t have called her in the first place!
My dad and his siblings were raised in Christian Science (and left it, thank goodness). Two of his siblings and their spouses called my parents when they learned he was struggling with Parkinson’s and that it was becoming worse and worse.
At this point, he was now realizing his all time worst fear – he was in a Christian Science Nursing home. He needed full time care. The disease he lived with every day, had become rapidly worse, thanks to having no medical intervention at all. My understanding is that with early medication, the disease could have been radically slowed. My dad went from a fully capable person running his own business, traveling, speaking on TV, being in the news a lot, reporting on important topics of the day, to, within 2 years, becoming incapable of brushing his teeth and needing to wear diapers. He couldn’t do anything on his own any more. Parkinson’s Disease completely ruined his life. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Especially not my loving, kind, caring dad, creative, incredibly smart and funny dad.
My dad’s siblings and their spouses strong-armed my dad and his wife to make my dad go the medical route. My dad was in his 40s and had young children who needed their dad, not an invalid in a nursing home. So, my dad went the medical route. Being a Christian Science family, this was hidden as best it could for a long long time. Over time, my dad’s body froze again, and the Christian Science Church they were long time members at eventually kicked him out of the two activities he loved to do – being a Sunday School Teacher and being an usher at the door. Because my dad’s comic book collection had been thrown out decades earlier, and he had been raised by a fear-filled hoarder that had survived the Great Depression, my dad was also somewhat of a packrat. He was able to keep it organized until Parkinson’s hit him, though. You might think that someone living with Parkinson’s Disease would be treated kindly and supportively by their spouse. At least most of the time. However, at one point, when my dad had been dealing with Parkinson’s for more than 10 years and had rare moments when he could see and move clearly and clean up after himself, his wife said to him: “after you die, we are throwing all of this away!” My dad told her, “that’s a really mean thing to say.” He rarely spoke up to her. He rarely griped about her. He was far too kind. He did sometimes tell me that she was just awful and overly mean. This breaks my heart. He never dreamed of leaving her, and out of some sort of weird obligation, or more likely, “look at me, I am such a good person I won’t leave him and will take care of him,” she never left him either. The next blog post will share how “well” she “took care of him.”
Eventually, my dad’s (second) Christian Science Teacher told him not to come back to Association. He was too “distracting.” My study of The Holy Bible says that Jesus called the woman To him. The woman who was bowing down – he called her TO HIM. He didn’t say, “go away, you’re a distraction.”
And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no way lift herself up. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
– Luke 13: 10-13
My dad’s Christian Science Teacher did other horrible things, and one of these days I am sure I will get off my duff and write a letter to the Christian Science Board of Education and tell them what this clod did to my dad personally, and what inappropriate comments I heard him say in a Christian Science lecture all those years ago. I haven’t yet, but one of these days.
The following musings on Mother’s Day have been submitted by an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. This is part 2 of 2, part 1 was shared on May 14, 2017.
A few years ago, I walked away from my bio mom. It has been a painful but necessary thing to do for my own peace. I could no longer handle the verbal abuse, and the pain I felt after any contact with her affected my ability to be a good mom for days and days until I could get over it. This year, I walked away from my ex step mom, too. I have been reading a book about codependency by Melody Beattie, and I am finding that it defines the relationship I had with my ex stepmom to a “T.”
I worked and worked for a perfectionistic stepmom who hated me, even though she truly believes that she loves me. She thinks she is expressing love. If I ever told her, “your attitude or behavior is hurting me,” she turned into a crying mess for at least 45 minutes, then would bring up her own pain for almost 2 months or even longer. “No one else has ever given me feedback like that,” she has said on at least two occasions. That does not make my own pain invalid. My pain is valid.
Before she even met me, I am certain she thought I was an evil child and that she had to basically drive the devil out of me. No matter what I said, she was always right and I was always wrong. She taught me to smile no matter what. She taught me never contradict her. She slapped me if I contradicted her. But she could contradict me whenever she pleased. It didn’t matter how petty something was, she contradicted me about it mercilessly. She also gaslighted me. Constantly. It’s a Christian Science thing. Telling people they are well even when they are not. It’s constant. This is crazy making behavior.
Christian Scientists consistently believe they are happy and being loving even when it’s clear their entire demeanor is filled with rage. They deny their own rage. They have no word for it. How can you see something you don’t have a word for?
Healthy, well balanced, normal people do not do something and call it “loving” when it’s done with rage. But, you see, in Christian Science, there is no anger. No “negative” emotions are allowed. Ever. They can’t possibly believe they are angry. To paraphrase a new popular skit: “They can only be happy. They can only be smiling. No one — no one can be sad!”
I am so grateful to say that both times I have had to walk away from an abusive mother figure of mine, the Ex Christian Science forum on Facebook has been there with me. I feel sad that too many people relate to what I say and share. These kind people applaud me for taking steps out of bad relationships. I am finally learning I can be 100% honest with myself about real reality. If something is a spade, call it a spade. If it’s bad, call it bad. Name it. Do something about it. Sitting in your room with your hands folded in your lap and thinking good happy thoughts are not going to change anything. How does that popular saying go? “You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.” I can’t change my step-mom, but I can change my life and not have her in it.
Now, to my own experience as a mom. My step mom constantly told me growing up that I would be a rotten mother. She taught me by example that in order to be a good mom, you need to be controlling. Don’t let a child get away with anything. Make them earn all their fun time. Make them earn playdates with friends. Make them earn toys, tv time, and for god’s sake, don’t ever let them watch more than 2 hours of tv per week. Unless, of course, step mom wants to. Then, of course, you can watch what she wants to.
Force them to spend every waking moment in activities they don’t even enjoy most of the time. “It’s good for them, and it’s how to produce a happy child.” No it’s not. It’s how to produce a mixed up and confused adult who doesn’t even know what they like and dislike, because all of the joy in life has been completely sucked out of them, and getting out of bed every day has become a chore instead of a – gosh – I don’t even know what it should be. I am told that so many people greet each new day as a gift. I’m working on it.
This woman also sucked all the joy out of eating for me. Eating was a chore to be done. Christian Science also teaches “there is no pleasure in matter,” and “the five senses don’t exist.” Thus, no pleasure in eating can be noted, either.
This woman forced me to eat foods I couldn’t stand. Every day. For every meal. I had no choice. I had no input. It has taken me decades to learn that there are a few foods that I can’t stand and also have allergies to. But I was never given a choice.
True story: One time, I had to eat food that I had thrown in the trash can because I so desperately didn’t want to eat it and wasn’t hungry for it. But I had to earn a play date, so I ate the food because I so rarely had a friend over, so I ate the sandwich out of the garbage, despite truly not wanting to eat at all.
With all the people I have known who grew up with a Christian Science mom, I have heard of less than a handful that were kind. These people are horrified at what the rest of us vocalize about our Christian Science moms. They are horrified. So many of us are estranged from our moms. Too many on the forum are watching their CS parent die a painful death while refusing medical care for simple things.
I am now a mom of my own children. The mom figures in my life taught me to be controlling and spank and punish. I was a horrible mom to my sweet children, one of whom is a special needs child. Christian Science told me only to pray about healing his special needs. It never helped me understand him.
After I left Christian Science, I learned that the merciful thing to do was to get him extensively tested by a psychiatrist. Therapy and psychiatric help are both strictly forbidden in Christian Science. Going to someone like this makes a “problem” more real. The psychiatrist told me the ways my son’s brain processes things. Now that I understand my son, I am a much better mom, and he is so much happier. We no longer try to control him and force him to do things like I had been taught to do. My son is starting to thrive now.
I have told things to my therapist that my step mom or a grandmother did to me, and she has looked at me and point blank said: “would YOU do that to YOUR child?” And I just break down, sobbing. “No way. I would NEVER do that to my child!”
It’s heart-breaking to think that Christian Science teaches women to be horrible moms. They take so much pride in being “perfect” that they miss the “good enough” in their own children. There is no allowance for being simply human. Because “matter isn’t real, therefore, humanity is definitely not real either.” Deny basic humanity, deny emotions, deny pain.
A person has been completely brain-washed to be able to spank their own child and then proclaim, “there is no sensation in matter!” Why spank them in the first place then? I believe as generations raised the next generation, things got worse and worse. Last week, my psychiatrist said to me, “I should stop being shocked at all that your step-mom subjected you to; it shouldn’t shock me anymore based on everything else I have heard!” Wow.
Sadly, the best way I have learned to be a mom is “to do the exact opposite of what BOTH of my moms would do.”
I am so glad to have broken away so I can now be a good and kind mom. This past week, I decided to be happy with the fact that my family loves to hang out together in the same room of our home, every day. We relax and feel safe, peaceful and loved as we hang out with each other. If someone is having a rough time (perhaps with a friend or a school assignment or a schedule issue), we just “sit beside” the person and support them the best we can, while validating their struggle, and letting them know “I am here, we are here with each other.” My children and my husband and I all feel safe at home.
I am learning that both of these mom figures in my life are narcissists. One thing a child of a narcissist learns is that they are only valued for “what they do” and not “who they are.” I am starting to glimpse what it’s like to be valued for who I am as a mom (kind, funny, playful, creative), and not for what I do (dishes and decorations and cleaning).
This year, for Mother’s Day, I will not be wishing either of my own moms a happy Mother’s Day. I don’t give two hoots about my own mother’s day. Every day, for me, is mother’s day. My kids love me, talk to me, hug me, tell jokes with me. They also tell me their secrets and ask me for help and support. They work hard, they do what I ask when I ask them. I don’t have to bully them. I celebrate them being in my life every day. I constantly tell them: “thank you for being in my life.”
By the way, I never planned to be a mom either. I know a few Ex Christian Science women who have no intention to ever become a mom. I believe in my own heart, that this is because they don’t want to inflict another victim with the pain that they themselves went through. Bravo to these brave women for knowing where to draw the line, and stop the abuse. It breaks my heart when well intentioned people judge them for not wanting to be a mom. They make their own choice. Leave them be. As the current saying goes: “you do you.”
I do want to share a few good things; because I feel like a lotus flower these days: from the mud, something beautiful blooms.
A few years ago a brand new friend of mine was extraordinarily kind to me. She has been the most kind mother figure to me that I have ever known. One day, my teenager randomly said to me: “what if she could have been your mom?” This made me weep. I would have loved to have this woman as my mom. She is just kind and gentle; she is smart and funny; she is compassionate, out-going, caring, and she just wants the best for everyone she has ever met. I am so grateful to count her as one of my best friends.
Also, the first therapist I went to is a mom of a teenage girl. She is a kind and empathetic person. She is funny and smart. I now go to a psychiatrist, who is also a mom of two gals. I can tell that she is also an extraordinary mom. Both of these professionals in my life assure me that my mom-skills are great, and that I am doing fine. One told me, “if you’re worried that you’re not a good mom, that means you ARE one.” I have been replaying this in my head now for several years and I am finally starting to feel like maybe I am a pretty good mom. I sure try darn hard at it.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who celebrate. I hope that if you have kids, you are a kind parent. I hope that you had a kind mom.
May you find peace and may you share peace with others. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
“Whenever it’s possible, be kind. It is always possible.” – The Dalai Lama
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.
Earache Story (Part 1)
One evening, my younger son had an earache when he was a toddler. He had them every now and then. One of my brothers used to get those too, but my step mom taught me that “at some point he just outgrew those.” She told me that after the pain of an earache is gone, it drains out, and they are “healed.” My son had probably several of those – a painful ear that drained out the next day, and then was “healed.” I called a Practitioner one time because his ear hurt. It was late at night, and I sat in my rocking chair, holding my precious toddler, and trying to “keep my thought calm.” He kept putting his finger in his ear and screaming. I could barely hear the practitioner talking to me on the phone over the screams of my son. After a while, my son calmed down and went to sleep. I never saw drainage, and thought, “well, that’s just a healing in a different way.” (This story continues, but it comes up – after I left the branch church as a member. This story is “to be continued.” See: Earache Story – Part 2)
My “crazy” ideas, and the best events I have ever orchestrated in my life.
As my boys grew up, I became more and more involved in Christian Science branch church work. I organized the annual lecture for our church, I created a dedication ceremony for our new building from scratch. I bought a new dress and gotten my hair done for the occasion, and baked 2 enormous, beautiful cakes. I expected 100 people to attend, and I think we got less than 30 people; to say “I was disappointed” would be a gross understatement.
At the time, I was on the church board. When I was on the board, a gal we all knew who had been a long time member wrote to us and said something like, “I am gay. You didn’t knowingly choose someone to be a gay SS teacher, and I am giving you the opportunity to ask me to leave.” While the whole LBGTQ idea is anti Christian Science historically, we as a church board, were actually quite progressive. We wrote her an easy letter saying, “We love you for who you are. We didn’t even need to discuss this or vote on it. We invite you to participate in this church now and any time in the future in any capacity that you would like.” She felt so incredibly loved by our letter. She had truly expected to be booted out of the church. We absolutely accepted her. I felt like I was working on bringing the branch church into the future. (That member wasn’t there much longer. She moved away, moved back, joined a different branch church, then left that one too. I feel like there are layers upon layers in each of our stories, and none of us discuss them with each other. Each of us on our own little island.)
While this branch church was progressive when it came to loving a member who was gay, that church was ultra traditional, in that it didn’t allow memorial services or weddings in it. (Why would we need a funeral or memorial service when we don’t believe in death? The person didn’t die. They just “sailed in a boat and went over the horizon!” Why would we commemorate something that never happened?) This same church also only used to let Readers read only from the actual books (“The (KJV) Holy Bible,” and “Science and Health” by Mary Baker Eddy). But now that church allows even A.A. Meetings in the building, memorial services, HOA meetings, and if a Reader wants to read from their electronic device, they are welcome to do that too. It’s a fairly progressive church. They even allow memorial services there now too, though they are called, “Celebration of Life,” and look a whole lot like a regular church service with a small “testimony” time, when people can share memories of the deceased.
When my youngest son was in Kindergarten, I started up a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for Christian Science children. A friend of mine and I ran that for a few years. It was a wonderfully progressive thing to do with the children. One hour per week of Sunday School to learn “The Bible,” with kids not even showing up ½ the time didn’t feel like enough. So having a solid week of VBS for kids in the summer felt like a great idea. I went to almost a dozen local branch churches and recruited Sunday School teachers, students and volunteers to come from those places to be a part of our VBS.
You might be surprised to learn that at first, so many church members blasted me about this (can you imagine someone who professes to be a vocal part of a church they think is “The highest form of Christianity,” arguing with someone who wants to teach the children “The Holy Bible” in church?
Too many members actually said, “is that even allowed in our church?”
Seriously? (They were referring to the idea of having a camp for a week, from an insurance perspective. The insurance people thought the people who called to check were completely daft. They said: “you want to teach a Bible camp at your church? It’s your building, and that is a church activity, of COURSE your insurance policy covers it!”)
It was totally bizarre to me that Christian Scientists would wonder if we could teach The Bible to kids on days other than Sunday. They felt the only time to teach kids about The Bible was for that 1 hour every Sunday, and a VBS is just something that is simply not done at a Christian Science Church. I pointed out that we would be teaching The Bible to our children. I pointed out that The Manual of The Mother Church says, “The Sabbath children should be taught the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and The Lord’s Prayer.” I pointed out that Christian Science teaches us that “the sabbath is every day; not just Sunday.”
“The first lessons of the children should be the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 3-18), The Lord’s Prayer, and its Spiritual Interpretation by Mary Baker G. Eddy (Matt. 6: 9-14), Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5: 3-11).”
– The Manual of The Mother Church by Mary Baker Eddy, Article XVIII. Section 11.
I was shocked at how much explaining I had to do to convince people that this was an ok thing to do, and that it would be a good idea. I had passion for this project, and it kept me full of energy to keep pushing for it. I found it interesting that the people who had been my biggest resistance eventually became my biggest supporters.
Parents loved it! They donated money to cover all the costs like snacks, crafts, paper, etc. It was really a nice experience for the kids. That was one of two times when I felt completely supported in one of my “crazy” ideas for the church.
Another crazy idea I had, was to run with an article I saw in The Christian Science Journal, called “Church Alive.” The Journal called on all branch churches to run with the theme “Church Alive” and do an event the weekend of Annual Meeting (the weekend before the first Monday in June). I had an instant vision of what it would look like. It was a beautiful vision, and I thought, “let’s do it! The Mother Church asks us to do this; let’s do it! It will be wonderful!” (Yeah, I’m crazy like that.)
Well, I brought it up to the members at my branch church. This branch church is proud for being the “largest branch church in the state.” (Most of the members do not come to meetings, and don’t show up for church services and haven’t in YEARS and need to be removed from the rolls. But the church seems to love the prestige of being “the largest branch church” so they keep the rolls stacked like that. That feels deceptive to me, but, that’s another story for another blog post.)
Well, I got so much push back on it. The board took forever. The article had come out in the fall, maybe in October. I had until June. To me, this was plenty of time. I had planned my entire wedding in 5 months, I could easily do this.
The decision finally came in late March: “Yes! Go for it!”
I remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “finally!”
After the decision came, I kept getting a lot of people saying “it’s too short of a time line! We can’t do it!”
I wanted to scream, “if you all had said ‘yes’ earlier, it wouldn’t be that short of a time line! Remember Jesus getting across the sea in that boat instantaneously? Christian Science teaches that ‘time is limitation.’ Stop believing in time!” But I just had to keep my mouth shut and let them grumble and show them we could do it & it would be fabulous.
TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.
– Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 595
I wrote to all the people I knew at all the area churches – there were about a dozen within our tri-state area. I got so much response! I had meetings at our branch church. Together with all the volunteers from the area churches, we found speakers, workshop leaders, 200 attendees, and we catered lunch including vegan options for everyone. The entire lunch experience went flawlessly, which is really saying something. People marveled at the wonderful lunch experience, which still strikes me as funny. We hired a musician from Boston to come and do a performance during the day, and we also gave him the opportunity to do a well-attended concert the night before. The day of our “Church Alive” conference, this musician sang “Siyahamba” with my very young son on stage, showing everyone how easy it is to sing the new hymns. (There is an incredible amount of resistance in the membership to sing from the new Hymnal Supplement. Also “Siyahamba” is one of the coolest spiritual songs ever, and I think it has become the hymn of the current generation of Christian Science kids.)
The whole event was to take place the Saturday before Annual Meeting (Annual Meeting is in Boston every year, on the first Monday in June). We saw the brand new community center that we were renting for the event for the first time the Thursday before that. I found out that day, that they had audio-visual capabilities. I developed a whole powerpoint, musical videos, and slide shows and everything after I found out the audio-visual capabilities. I also figured out how to stream a video of The Board of Directors talking to our audience through the audio-visual equipment. I had never done anything like that before. I figured out all of that in 2 days.
It was amazing, if I do say so myself. I consider the entire event to be one of my best shining moments in my life. To recap: I pulled together a team of volunteers and an amazing conference attended by about 200 people in the span of less than 3 months, and I did all of the amazing audio-visual in just 2 days. We not only stayed in budget, we also made a bit of money on the endeavor. I think that’s pretty darn cool.
The one thing that went completely askew was the one time in the group when I had to sadly “let them learn the hard way.” We had 2 choices for our keynote speaker. We could go with a very forward thinking Christian Science Teacher and Lecturer from another state (we had the money to fly her in) who is incredibly creative, or we could go with a local practitioner everyone knew who had started up 2 branch churches from scratch. The second woman had been a Sunday School teacher of mine, and everyone loves her. She’s wonderful and intelligent and kind and funny. However, she is not dynamic, and she is not a public speaker or a lecturer.
I have a leadership quality that lets the group decide, and then I get behind the decision. I don’t cause waves or hard feelings by saying, “you’re wrong here, you’re choosing the wrong option.” I pushed a little, but they were very set on having this local woman be the speaker. So, we had the local speaker come. She sat down during her keynote presentation. She read her speech from her own handwritten notes. Her speech was in no way dynamic, and it was very hard to listen to. Apparently, it had a lot of really great ideas and points in it (I couldn’t hear it from my seat in the back, but people who heard it & wrote on the comment cards, said she had a lot of great things to say). And almost every single feedback form we got for the day had high marks in every single area, except that the key note address was “not dynamic” and “hard to listen to.” That was the only failure of the day. I am not sure if I would push more next time, but it was interesting to observe this group do that to themselves. They chose a “known” over a better alternative that was “unknown,” even though their group leader had passionately and lovingly told them which option would be the better option. They just couldn’t trust or have faith in the idea. And it made me feel sad for them.
This is Part of Elizabeth’s story about ‘Believing Christian Science’.
It’s 1993, and I’m nineteen years old. I am a Christian Scientist–something that is very important to me. I live with my family, and I’m driving to my college class. I am looking at the road ahead of me, and the familiar traffic light is green, which it never is, and I’m pleasantly surprised but sure it will turn red before I get to it. For some reason there is plenty of time today; I’m at the intersection and it’s just turned yellow. I maintain my speed just under the limit of 50 mph. I’m not wearing my seat belt.
Everything is always in its right place.
I see the black car then. It had been stopped at the intersection, but it starts to turn in front of me. “Why is he turning, what is he doing?” I stomp on the brakes but this won’t happen, I will not be in a car accident, God will stop this, and I scream “ahhhhhhhOOH” as I’m thrown forward and my head cracks the windshield, but I don’t even realize what has happened to me until afterwards, at that instant, all I know is impact, a jerk, a smack!
When I wake I look in the rearview mirror and see my forehead growing visibly, all purply-blue and rounded like a china doll’s forehead, with one scary wet reddish mark in the middle, off-center to the left. My vision is affected, trails stream behind everything I look at. Now I am aware that my knees hurt. My ribs hurt. It feels like my body is coming back to life from somewhere far away. Continue reading “Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place”
By Marion, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.
When I was a Christian Scientist, our older child contracted diphtheria, and this fact was published on the front page of the local big city newspaper. Many people asked why we had not immunized him. This was my answer, and it made sense to me at the time:
If we were to have vaccinated him, he would have been protected from diphtheria, but still in danger from many other things, like accidents or other illnesses. But if we had been successful as students of Christian Science, he would have been protected against every thing that could hurt him.
In my thinking at the time, since to vaccinate was to allow a belief of possible harm to enter thought, the protection against every ill would have been compromised. That is, vaccinate, and you endanger your child by compromising the protective thought. He then could be hit by a car, or be subject to any number of tragedies.
The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about growing up in Christian Science.
It was very difficult to explain my religion’s beliefs to my friends. I was always trying to make it sound like a more ‘normal’ religion, in fact writing “United Church” on a form once because I was embarrassed to write Christian Science. I so wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want my friends to know that there was no minister at our church, that there were two people on a podium and one read from a book of garbled language I couldn’t understand and finally, it was mortifying to explain that I had to go to Sunday School instead of the church service until I was twenty!
When I was growing up, we definitely had pictures of Mary Baker Eddy around our house. My parents gave me a framed portrait to keep on my bedside table, in fact. I was pretty much a believer throughout my entire childhood. Then I went through the ‘it works, it’s just not for me’ phase. I think I was in my late twenties when I finally realized how much I had been misled. It’s hard to know better when everyone around you, particularly your loved ones, are fervent believers.
When we would come home from school and announce fearfully that measles or something else was going around, my mother would say firmly, “Contagion is all in the mind!” and send us back to school. I would brag to the other students that my siblings and I never got sick because sickness was all in the mind. Then I got chicken pox. I had no idea what was happening to me and of course my mother wouldn’t have had any medical education to help with that. I remember lying alone and sick in my room staring at every inch of my skin. Where was the chicken that I was sure would be sticking to me?
I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was a Christian Scientist. Even my closest friends didn’t know. It was embarrassing. It made me different in ways I didn’t want to be different. Sunday School was an hour of torturous boredom, and often my parents had to fight with me to get me ready in time to go, and when I was a little kid, I couldn’t stand the little old ladies who always wanted to pinch my cheeks. Ugh! I hated that! That is why to this day, I am always extremely respectful of peoples’ personal space–especially children.
The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about experiences seeking medical care and interacting with medical professionals.
Back in 2000, I had this scaly patch on my neck. After watching it grow and covering it with makeup for two years a friend said, “that looks like skin cancer – you’d better get that looked at!” Sure enough, it was basal cell skin cancer. I had it cut out, and I have a huge scar now. If I’d taken care of it early I probably would have just had a little stitch.
I have been pestering my husband to help me get my basic vaccines (I have zero), and he doesn’t get it that I don’t know how to go to a doctor or what to DO there. A friend who knows the medical field inside and out has offered to set things up with me and come along to hold my hand.
My non-Christian-Scientist cousins were after me to get a colonoscopy (I’m fifty-seven) and it was way overdue. I did so, and wouldn’t you know, I had cancer. Luckily it was stage one, but the doctor said it was a slow grower and had been in me ten years. I had it removed with two operations last spring and summer. I am the fourth generation in my family to have this problem. My grandmother and father died grisly deaths under Christian Science ‘treatment’ of this very thing. The surgeon at Mayo Clinic that said if I had waited six more months it would have spread to other organs. They think they caught it all, but I am having follow-up tests this week and next.
At the very end of my second pregnancy, I am starting to have serious health problems: blood pressure ticking up, signs of pre-eclampsia, etc. So apart from being scared and disappointed, every time I go to one of my appointments I also find myself extremely angry and defensive. My sister helped me figure out that this has to do with an entire childhood of being blamed for every sickness—every cold, upset stomach, or stubbed toe was entirely my fault and had to be fixed only by me (while simultaneously being unreal of course). So when my OB points out that my blood pressure is not in a good range, what I hear is, “what did you do wrong that made your blood pressure so high?” Ugh, old habits die hard, I guess!
Recently, an alarming rash erupted over large parts of my body. I went to the emergency room at the local hospital, and the doctor who treated me humourously diagnosed me as being a “very sensitive guy.” It was his way of informing me that I was having an overly severe allergic reaction to something. I was prescribed an immune system suppressant, and some Benadryl. The rash cleared within a day. I’m glad the old habits of waiting before I go to a doctor about something are beginning to fade finally.