As I’ve grown into adulthood and approached mid-life and motherhood, I have become much clearer on how my Christian Science upbringing has shaped my feelings about myself, my body, and my sense of self-reliance and trust.
It started when I realized how deep my denial was when something seemed wrong with me, either emotionally or physically. How I stuffed it back down, lied about it, felt ashamed, and couldn’t even talk to my family about it. Then, I thought about the silence on the other end of the phone when I mentioned to a Christian Scientist relative that I wasn’t feeling well, or that I’d had a falling out with a friend, or even that I had a leaky pipe or car trouble. Anything that was less than perfect just wasn’t acknowledged, and I could feel the unspoken accusations: “If you would just pray about it…” I knew that my family had struggles of their own, but that they hid them from me and suffered the same guilt and isolation that I did.
I’m conflicted because I feel sympathy for people still caught in the web of Christian Science thought. It alienates them from human emotions, life experiences, and their bodies. I want to help them and I hope that this project reaches them. Over my first 30 years of life, I came to associate illness with shame and failure, and to feel betrayed by my body when it didn’t live up to perfection.
But, I’ve learned that when I am anxious, usually it’s my body telling me that I need to get something done, or work something out, or let go of something that I’m hanging on to unnecessarily. Instead of stuffing it down, or feeling ashamed, I listen to it and address whatever needs addressing. Sometimes it’s taking it easy for a few days, or making sure I eat well and exercise and take care of myself, or spending some time with my husband or a good friend. I’m not angry at my body for not being perfect. I love it and what it does for me. I love myself and the people around me who love me and take care of me. I let them take care of me.
Things aren’t perfect, and never will be, and it is okay. Though I wish I could help my parents out of this prison of perfection.