Unashamed ExCS

By m.rose, submitted via email. m.rose is a pseudonym. For more information about how to share your story, please visit https://exchristianscience.com/about-2/share-your-story/


I am a former student of Principia. I was raised in Christian Science my whole life, and my mom is one of the most respected CS nurses in New England. My father attended Principia College, but later left Christian Science. At the time I was graduating high school, he had lost his job, and told me Prin was the only affordable option because of the scholarships I received. After moving around and attending 4 different highs schools, part of me was relieved that I would be with people I knew–so I was obedient.

Early on in my freshman year, I went through an experience that would now be labeled as date-rape. I swept it under the rug until several people urged me to come forward. I waited until school ended that year, because I didn’t want negative visibility for me or the gentlemen involved.

That summer I attempted to process what had occurred, but after struggling from depression off and on throughout my life, I quickly fell into a dark place. The guy I had accused said many hurtful things to me, but when he called me a cunt, it completely broke my heart.

I started seeing a therapist and taking prescription anti-depressants. I was not planning on returning to Prin, but at the time it was my only option. The dean of students treated me like a heroine addict, and took my medication away from me. For a while, the resident counselor (with absolutely no medical background) was doling the pills out to me at night. Eventually the school told me I needed to stop taking them or leave.

Soon I fell into the adverse effects of withdrawal, far worse than anything I have ever experienced. The mental anguish was as painful as being stabbed. The dean of students told me I needed to go on medical leave, but it was a contentious time in my family and I felt I had nowhere to go. Eventually I tried to overdose on the sleeping pills I hid from the school. My roommate found me unconscious and called the school nurse. Luckily, after hours, I woke up. No one had called an ambulance, and no medical attention was given. It frightens me to think of how easily I things could’ve gone the other way—and I wonder why I wasn’t worth a 911 call.

I left at the end of the semester after the dean of students met with me and my father and told us that I could come back the next semester, without needing to reapply, and that my scholarship would still be in place.

I did as she said, but I was never admitted back into Prin, and was told I wasn’t allowed on campus. No reason was provided.

I remember the dean of students (at Principia) asking me to be more realistic when I said I might want to apply to a school like Boston College or Northeastern. I currently attend Northeastern University and work full-time in marketing. I am up for a second promotion, despite not having my bachelors yet.

Recently I met up with that same roommate, in NYC, when we were both visiting family, and we got into the topic of the school now allowing students to take medication. I became upset and said “well, where’s my apology”?! She told me it was my fault for attending the school, and that I just blame everyone else for my problems. It is this kind of ignorance and judgement of those who take medication, that make it really hard for me to be around Christian Scientists. What happened at Prin was deeply painful, but I suspect me not being CS made me unworthy of compassion.

I returned to work that Monday, feeling totally defeated, only to find I had been promoted to a full time employee “for far exceeding the expectations for an intern, and for an incredible work ethic.” Interesting that they left out my characteristic lack of accountability.

I don’t drink or do drugs, but I take medication every day for allergies, Birth control, etc. I don’t identify with any theology, but I am passionately vegan and advocate compassion for all living beings. In the eyes of Christian Science and Principia, I am morally inferior. In the eyes of everyone else, I am someone deserving of respect.

You know, it’s funny that I eventually got a heartfelt apology from the guy who assaulted me, but I never got a word of remorse from the school that almost killed me.

Freedom from Christian Science and a Path out of Anxiety

By Karen, submitted via email. Karen is a pseudonym. For more information about how to share your story, please visit https://exchristianscience.com/about-2/share-your-story/


In my decades as a Christian Scientist, I read Science and Health all the way through at least three times. I even tried to do what one of my mother’s friends did: read the entire book in one week (seven hundred pages in seven days). Yet in all my readings, my favorite chapter was always the one set apart from the rest of the book: the final chapter, “Fruitage.” I loved the personal narratives, which I could latch on to so much more easily than the formal prose. I loved the healings; one of my favorites was from the Civil War veteran who was healed of a broken jaw from taking a log in the face when sawing wood. Yet, as I grew into my thirties, I felt increasingly that I was at the same place many of the “Fruitage” writers were. I was ailing, hurting, discouraged, lost, and wondering what it was all about. I yearned for relief. I had been a student of Christian Science all my life, yet I was in the place of these people who discovered Christian Science. Darkly, I began to think of myself as a reverse Christian Scientist. What did that mean for me? Would I ever find healing?

After I left Christian Science and, awkwardly, entered medial care, I began to accumulate testimonies of my own kind. I found freedom, redemption, healing, comfort—concepts embraced by Christian Scientists—in the sphere of modern medicine.
Of all these, freedom is the one that means most to me. I spent fourteen years living in fear of heart disease. The symptoms began in 2001: My heart would race and beat fiercely. My chest would ache. My breathing would become shallow, my hands would tingle, and I would feel light-headed. I knew very little about my body, but I knew enough to be convinced I had a heart problem. (I want to note here that these symptoms can be serious, so definitely learn about them and get yourself checked out by a doctor if you experience them.)

Thus began over a decade of suffering. I experienced these symptoms with varying degrees of frequency and extremity. Thus began prayer, reading, and calls to four different practitioners over the years: calls in the early hours of the morning sometimes, sometimes calls when I was too afraid to even speak. The practitioners were patient and kind. One of them assured me, “Your heart is strong.” That helped me.
After the first two years, the spells lessened. But they never left. The fear never left. It often brought me to tears. I stopped driving on highways, and I approached bridges with trepidation. I was afraid of having an attack, losing control of my car, and harming myself or others. I dreaded being alone in my house (something I typically enjoyed) because I might have a fit and die with nobody to help me. I was even scared in long lines at the grocery store or at stoplights, lest I collapse and hold up people’s progress.

When I left Christian Science and started medical care, I anxiously awaited my first physical: What will they find? I did feel some reassurance that I would finally receive proper care, but I dreaded the inevitable looks of concern, the tests, the diagnosis.
My dread turned to relief. Since my start with medical care in 2015, I’ve had various tests, some as part of regular doctors’ visits and some stemming from two urgent care visits. Among those tests, I’ve had two EKGs, neither of which caused any concern.
My heart is fine. They say I have an occasional murmur, so I take the doctors’ advice to
avoid caffeine, to exercise and eat well, and to cope with stress. My heart really is strong, or at least it’s mostly normal. Now I know that with an assurance I never had before. (Even if I had a problem, I would now be in the care of professionals. And I wouldn’t be alone: Heart trouble is experienced by many people around the world; it’s part of the human condition, and we make the best of it that we can.)

What, then, were all these symptoms that I felt? I still had episodes of shallow breathing. I asked my primary care physician about it. Her first question was, “Do you feel a lot of stress in your life?” She asked about anxiety—a term I’d never heard spoken except in the context of nervousness, like I-am-so-anxious-about-my-math-test. This lovely, perceptive physician referred me to mental health services, where I found a therapist that illuminated my world. She explained anxiety to me. She recommended two books to me (see the resources below). The books introduced me to the nature of panic attacks. I remember sitting on a chair in my bedroom,
my mind blown wide open as I went down a checklist of panic attack symptoms. This changed my life.

Since autumn 2016, I have had four panic attacks. They are horrible, and at some point I always end up thinking I am going to die. (There’s still progress to be made!) But I hold on to the thought: This is probably a panic attack. I ride it out with the tools I have been given from therapy and books. I can enjoy being alone again. Waiting in lines or at stoplights is a normal experience again. And I’ve been driving on highways more. I’ve had many victories. I have freedom. The contributors to “Fruitage” in Science and Health sometimes remarked that they were grateful beyond words for Christian Science. I am grateful beyond words for leaving it.

Resources

And many more! Look around for what fits you best.

Interview with the Author of “Cult Survivor”

Cult Survivor by Chrystal Cole is the latest exCS memoir now available from Amazon. The ExCS site sat down with Chrystal to talk about her new book and why she is speaking up. ExChristianScience.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this post contains affiliate links.


Chrystal was born a fourth generation Christian Scientist. She believed in the belief system for 42 years, even as all of her friends left it. She 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’. This eBook shares her journey from childhood to parenthood and leaving the dangerous cult. Chrystal finally found a sense of peace when she turned her back on Christian Science and walked away. Her extended family is still in the religion, and she uses a pseudonym to protect their anonymity.


ExCS: What inspired you to write “Cult Survivor”?

Chrystal:

I think it was a series of things. When I first joined the Ex Christian Science Facebook group, people kept asking me: “Wow, you were a practitioner and now you’re an Ex Christian Scientist? How did you do that? What’s your story?”

I was getting the same question at my Quaker Meeting – “What was your spiritual journey that you were so devoted to Christian Science but now you’ve decided it’s not for you? How did you decide to become Quaker?”

And other people just kept asking me, in general, “what does it mean to be a Quaker?”

So I started thinking about my journey. I have this idea that I want to turn everything into a simple “Elevator Speech.” Meaning, turn it into a story that lasts about 40 seconds and covers the basics, so that it can be completely told during an elevator ride.

Well, I kept thinking how my story really cannot be told in an elevator speech. It needed to be told with all the complexity. I mean, it’s a 40+ year journey. It’s not simple like, “I grew up in Christian Science, discovered the Quaker Path and then switched because I liked it better. Oh, and PS: I was caught in 2 measles outbreaks.” It’s so much more than that.

Leaving Christian Science, for me, brought on a whole host of other changes. My dad’s death helped me clearly realize that Christian Science is NOT a science. Science says “gravity works because like attracts like. Gravity works because of centripetal force.” And things like that. Gravity doesn’t suddenly stop working because someone didn’t believe it correctly enough.

My dad was a good man, worthy of having a good, productive and healthy life. He prayed and believed in God all the time! He believed that he would have a Christian Science healing, right until he closed his eyes into the coma from which he never awoke. If anyone was worthy of a healing, it was my dad. Everyone loved him. This whole process showed me with absolute clarity that Christian Science does NOT work. It’s NOT a real science.

Christian Science does NOT work. It’s NOT a real science.

In order for me to process this new way of looking at the world, I needed to write my thoughts down. Writing helped me process all this information intellectually and emotionally. I needed to do this for my own journey towards mental health.

It took me months to write this story, and the whole time I was still striving to make it “Quaker Simple.”

 

ExCS: Has having family still “in” Christian Science impacted your decision to share your story?

Chrystal:

Absolutely. I worry every day that they will find the Ex-Christian Science blog and read any of the posts and realize it’s me, telling my story, and they will identify so much with enough of it (we all knew my dad, for instance), and then call me up and yell at me, and then turn their back on me.

I worry every day that they will find my book now, on Amazon, and that the Christian Science Committee on Publication will send out a letter to Reading Rooms and state Committees on Publication (these are individuals inside the church organization who do everything in their power to shut down publications that come out and say “Christian Science is bad.”

I worry that the letters will say, “let’s get on a mission to destroy this book, and its author” or something like that.

I am not sure that there will be any time where my family will like hearing that I wrote this book. If they come across it while they are still in Christian Science, I hope they will do what I did when I was a Christian Scientist, serving in my local Reading Room and in the mail came the book, “fathermothergod” by Lucia Greenhouse. I just ignored it and called my Practitioner to tell him how proud I was for not reading “an obnoxious book.”

Obnoxious Books. Sect. 12. A member of this Church shall not patronize a publishing house or bookstore that has for sale obnoxious books.  

The Manual of The Mother Church, Article VIII, Mary Baker Eddy

I wish I had read “fathermothergod” all those years ago when I saw it come to my Reading Room. I sure wanted to. With a title like that, I knew with absolute certainty that the author came from inside the Christian Science church. Someone from outside the church wouldn’t have come up with a great title like that.

So, to answer your question again, yes. I am afraid to share my story because my family is decidedly IN the religion. They talk to me about some aspect of Christian Science regularly. One even said to me, “it hurts me when you talk negatively about Christian Science, the religion I love so much.”

You know, the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt anyone. I love my family. I work so hard to make people feel safe around me. But I am also passionate about safety. I have seen too many die this year alone, thanks to being lifelong believers in Christian Science.

If something is a safety issue: I speak up. I have to. Something inside me tells me: Speak Up!

Being in Christian Science to the absolute exclusion of mental and physical health care is dangerous! I have seen so many people die and heard of so many people who die these horrible, tragic, unnecessary deaths! I feel like my own version of Rosa Parks – I’m tired of hearing about these deaths. Or the cripplings. The scars people have from their “love of Christian Science.” It’s a dangerous belief system and needs to be brought down.

 

ExCS: One of the most common critiques we (the ExCS site) get is a variation of “that is not Christian Science,” “that is not my experience with CS,” and “they are not practicing CS correctly and/or are taking things to an extreme.” Have you had push back from CS-sympathisers? What would you say to those who say you were doing CS all wrong?

Chrystal:

You know what? If ANYONE knew Christian Science, it was me. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “follow me only so far as I follow Jesus.” So I took that to mean that I should hold Jesus up as my highest example of Christian Science. Jesus turned to The Bible, such as it was, when he was preaching. So I turned to The Bible for everything.

I mean, I loved Christian Science. I was active with my Association. I knew all the stories to tell people and I knew they were having healings. I loved playing “the opposites game.” I do believe I actually understood all the contradictions. It made sense to me.

When I first got to the Ex Christian Science Facebook group, people kept writing that Christian Science is so full of contradictions. I didn’t see it. I was so bewildered by this comment. And it came up frequently! I finally threw up my hands and asked the group for examples

That’s when I think I finally started seeing through the illusion that Christian Science is a worthy practice for spirituality. I realized there ARE contradictions. There are so many contradictions!

No matter the topic of conversation, I could draw on a Bible story to share that would help elevate people’s thoughts. I had a story of when I was short on oil and was trying to bake a cake for my son’s birthday party. I upended two bottles of vegetable oil as they went “drip… drip … drip… drip…” in to the measuring cup. And I looked up and prayed. It sounded so much like that story, for me, of the woman who needed oil and said the words, “bring me yet another vessel.” My oil came out to be the perfect amount I needed. I thought about this story – the woman who had all that she needed, right there with her and didn’t need to go looking for more.

I dove in with all my heart deeply and sincerely into Christian Science. Christian Science consumed my every thought. I understood all the contradictions and gave away copies of “Science and Health” like they were ice cream on a hot summer day.

I believed that I had healings 500 times per day, because I had been taught, “every time we change a thought from a bad thought to a good thought, that’s a healing!” I believed it hook, line and sinker. I had a few friends who would wait with baited breath on my every word as I explained how a Bible story was still relevant today. I went to Association every year, without fail.

I had been taught, “every time we change a thought
from a bad thought to a good thought, that’s a healing!”

My ex Christian Science Teacher had me doing things for Association in a prominent way. One time, we did a skit and I was given the task of being “The Voice of God” over the microphone. I couldn’t make this stuff up. I felt so honored to have been asked to be “The Voice  of God.” Another time, I was reading the part of the apostle Andrew. My Teacher told me, “so many people started crying, you were so good at that role.”

Believe me, I fervently believed Christian Science and loved every moment of it. I loved being different from everyone else. I loved feeling like “I have the toolbox and can heal the entire world!”

I used to also have that “holier than thou” expression on my face when someone left Christian Science, like my own bio mom, for instance, who dropped out of the Christian Science nursing program before I was born. “She just never understood it,” I’d been taught. Well, I wasn’t going to be a loser like that. I was going to be Journal Listed as a Practitioner and really UNDERSTAND IT. And: I did. I understood it. I didn’t see any contradictions in Christian Science when I was in it. I was thoroughly brainwashed at that point in my life.

I didn’t see any contradictions in Christian Science. I was thoroughly brainwashed.

It took a LOT to propel me out of the belief system. Once I was out, I started learning other very painful, hard to read stories of other people who had gotten out much sooner than I had. And, those stories helped me uncover how much junk was in my head. Other folks’ life experiences showed me how brainwashed I had been.

I was so unhappy in Christian Science as time wore on. I was deeply unhappy. If Heaven is a place we can have here on Earth, as Christian Science had taught us, why did I feel like I was living in hell and being tortured? Something wasn’t adding up for me. I wanted to be happy. My life was so off balance. After I left, and went through real psychiatric treatment, I can now say my life is truly at a good place and I am happy.

If Heaven is a place we can have here on Earth, as Christian Science had taught us, why did I feel like I was living in hell and being tortured?

The more I get Christian Science out of my system, the more happy I feel. I say: “get it out!”

Do current, practicing Christian Scientists want to hear what I have to say?
No. They really don’t. I tried to push my experience on them, but it turned them off. My family turned their back on me in a very painful way when I was pushing hard about leaving Christian Science. I have found a balance now, and they are back in my life. I stay mostly silent, and I have also had to stand up and let them know, “stop bringing up Christian Science, if I can’t talk with you about why I am out, I don’t want to hear about it constantly every time we get together, either.”

There’s so much more to life than just a belief in Christian Science! My experience has shown me that people who choose to be absolutely devoted to Christian Science let it consume them completely. I don’t see balance in their lives. It’s hard to just sit there and let them give me an onslaught of their Christian Science chatter.

 

ExCS: Do you have any previous writing experience?

Chrystal:

I was an English major at Principia College. I have wanted to be a published author for a very long time. My high school Creative Writing teacher told me my stories were excellent and she looked forward to me publishing at some point. This was the first book I have ever published, which has helped me understand the publishing world just a bit more. My future books, under my own name, will be coming very soon. I’m so excited to finally be a published author!

I am currently working on a 2nd Edition of the book, which will have much more graphic content about my healings. By the way, I consider Christian Science healings to actually be “untreated traumas.” My next steps with Cult Survivor are to get it into paperback form, and then in an audible form. Those will be coming.

I consider Christian Science healings to actually be “untreated traumas.”

 

ExCS: Is there anything else you would like to share about your book?

Chrystal:

Yes – actually. First off, you can read the book on your computer monitor if you like. You don’t need to have a Kindle device to read it! It’s portable and is easy to read on your phone or electronic tablet or computer. I will be turning it into a paperback as soon as I am able, maybe by early next year. 

I do want my story to get “out there” to help propel people out of the Christian Science belief system. I need more people to get out and I hope that will help propel my family to get out too. They sure don’t want to listen to me telling them to get out! My passion to get them out comes across as anger. No one wants to be yelled at, so I’m still working on that.

Thank you, Ex Christian Science blog, for giving me space here over the years to share my journey. Having this forum has helped me process the crazy thinking! I couldn’t have left so completely and so quickly if I hadn’t written about my experience and also gotten feedback from readers of the blog.

Thank you, readers of this blog, for reading and commenting. It helps those who post know that they are not alone.

I am so grateful for the Ex Christian Science community! We all get the unique kind of crazy and how it is dangerous.


ExChristianScience.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, this post contains affiliate links.

Chrystal’s Story: My 2nd Lump (Part 3)

Chrystal's Story header image

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. 


My Second Lump (Part 3)

It took me a full year to get over the guilt of wanting to go to doctors. I felt like I had completely failed as a person. I felt like I had completely failed as a mom. I had always been taught that “Christian Science is the BEST care.” Hadn’t it (supposedly) kept me from dying from Pneumonia when I was an infant? And here I was about to embark on going to “the second best care.” What kind of mom would want the second best of anything for her kids? This was truly hard for me.

I had a broken heart.

Eventually, I found a dermatologist. The lipoma had grown to the point that it was now putting my arm to sleep for sometimes 45 minutes at a time. Sometimes I couldn’t move my neck at all. And I couldn’t lift up my arm. I asked to be put under, since the previous procedure (when the lump was much smaller) had hurt so badly. Once again, I was so scared, thinking “I might never wake up from this, and then because of vanity, my kids won’t have a mom.” As they were putting me to sleep, I thanked the hospital staff for taking care of me. I dreamed when I was put under. I remember dreaming that I was with a small group of Native Americans, and we were in the mouth of a cave. And they were working on their projects and crafts, and I was just watching them. It was such a lovely dream, and I enjoyed it. The next thing I knew, a nurse was asking me to breathe deeply, so I did, and then I coughed. The whole procedure was done. I breathed deeply a few more times, then I coughed some more.

Because I have keloids (heavy scarring tissue) on my back (from severe sun burns sustained because “I don’t believe in sun block”), the scar from my lipoma surgery is huge. It has probably been 5 years since I had the surgery now, and the scar continues to grow and I feel it literally tearing my skin. I consider this scar to be my scar from leaving Christian Science. It is literally the mark, to me, of leaving this belief system behind me. The literal scar that Christian Science left on my skin. (Oh! But didn’t Christian Science teach me that skin isn’t real?)

Just last week, I asked my husband to please oil the scar again (it’s in a place where I cannot reach all of it, and I still cannot properly move my shoulder thanks to bad cartilage damage there), and then bandage it so the oil wouldn’t mar my shirt. If I had taken care of this years ago, the scar wouldn’t be nearly as big. In January, 2016, I showed it to a friend who also left Christian Science, and after she gasped, she said, “I didn’t realize how big it would be.” Yeah. It’s not a small growth that was on there. It had grown for years before I got it taken care of. It did not come back this time, because I had specifically asked the doctor to check to see if there was more than 1, and to please be thorough, since I didn’t want to have to do this again. He was thorough and I am grateful. I keep learning about doctors, and I went to a doctor in August, 2016, to have him look at my shoulder, because I can still barely move my arm. He diagnosed me with a frozen shoulder and some other big words. I started physical therapy to rehabilitate my shoulder in September, 2016. It will be wonderful if I can gain full use of my arm again, and I am already making so much progress even though it’s only been a month! It’s been years since I was able to wear my seatbelt properly, raise my arm over shoulder height, put on my shirt without doing an awkward movement… There are so many basic things I haven’t been able to do. These movements are starting to come back now, thanks to someone working with my material body. Someone who did take anatomy in school and then more classes to learn how to really help people with their bones and muscles. It’s amazing how much progress that can be made when someone understands how to manipulate matter!

Maybe I can start playing violin again soon! It used to bring me so much happiness to play violin. I hope to find that again.

Chrystal’s Story: My Second Lump (Part 2)

Chrystal's Story header image

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. 


My Second Lump (Part 2)

The following is a flashback to when I was nearing the end of my branch church membership, with a problem that had spanned more than a decade of my life:

The growing lipoma on my back was now causing so much pain to my neck, that I couldn’t straighten my head for a few days at times. And, of course, being in Christian Science, I couldn’t take Advil to even relieve the pain. I remember walking around with tears in my eyes over the amount of pain I was in, and hiding in my house. I was raised to hide in my house when I was in pain. How can a community reach out to help you, when you’re hiding in your house? I remember a Mormon woman who lived in my neighborhood, and for some reason socially, she stopped by my house and we had a little visit, and I couldn’t straighten my head up that day. She so lovingly said to me, “that looks really painful.” I assured her I was fine, that it had happened before, and I would be fine soon. I was NOT fine! I couldn’t straighten my head, I had tears in my eyes, and if I tried to move my head in any way, I would cry out in incredible pain! I remember the love in her eyes. She was genuinely concerned for my well-being, and she was only a neighbor; I know now that if I ever needed someone to help me, and I called her, I know she would be there for me, even though I wouldn’t consider us “friends.” She was my neighbor and she has genuine love in her heart for humanity.

After a decade of praying with various practitioners (including my Teacher) about the lump, I remember feeling discouraged. I was so discouraged. I would rally myself and pray again. Because Christian Scientists are supposed to “yield not to discouragement.”

Individuals are consistent who, watching and praying, can “run, and not be weary; . . .walk, and not faint,” who gain good rapidly and hold their position, or attain slowly and yield not to discouragement. God requires perfection, but not until the battle between Spirit and flesh is fought and the victory won. – “Science and Health,” p. 254

Christian Scientists are taught that “discouragement makes the problem worse, and makes it harder to heal.” So I prayed. I payed practitioners to pray. I payed my Teacher to pray.  

I would see the 2 ladies at my second branch church who had the growths on them that were more pronounced, and I didn’t want to end up like that. Mine, at least, I could hide by wearing a patterned shirt. They couldn’t hide theirs any longer, no matter how they tried. I felt so sorry for them, to not be able to hide their problem any longer. And then I would chastise myself for thinking such things. I wanted to hug them and say, “I have a lump too, but I can hide mine,” but for someone to speak up & say, “I see your problem and I want to support you and share love with you” is verboten in the Christian Science culture. Speaking up about it makes it “more real.” Because by not speaking, it’s “not real.”

Our voice is given so much power in Christian Science. Apparently, just talking can do many things – it can make lumps grow, it can cause fevers, poison ivy, infectious diseases. It can ruin vacations, it can rain fire and brimstone on a bad church member. I am positive they believe words can kill, so they won’t speak unless it is cheerful, superficial, happy nonsense. I am wondering if I believe it is this sort of thing that drives people completely insane. (Denying our very existence, to our core. How can it keep us sane and normal if we deny 100% of our humanity?)

At some point, probably a year after my wonderful success with the “Church Alive” experience, I decided it was time to get this lump removed from my shoulder, by a medical doctor. It had gone on long enough. My arm would go to sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and I couldn’t wake it up. And that didn’t feel good to me. (It scares me a lot now that I am out of Christian Science and someone pointed out that this was pushing on a nerve, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to lose my whole arm!) I voluntarily pulled my name out of “The Christian Science Journal.” (This means I was no longer a Journal Listed Christian Science Practitioner. I wasn’t kicked out or anything; I chose to do this for my own reasons. I left on good terms and was told I could come back within 6 months if I wanted, if it was longer than that, I would have to apply from scratch again.)

Then, began the guilt. Oh, the guilt. And I had no one to talk to about it. I had to suffer with my guilt at having “failed.” I had failed to heal it. I had failed to have enough faith. I had failed to pray enough. I had failed all the Practitioners that had prayed for me over the last 5+ years.

I know all the words to victim blame myself, and I made liberal use of all of them. Then, of course, I probably entered the depression that had probably started but been bulldozed over by “Knowing the Truth” and “Getting on with things I had to do anyway.” So I dealt with depression and guilt with the only way I knew how: by denying them. For months. I think it took me about 8 months to get over the guilt, and I finally started trying to find a doctor. (At this point, I was now a Sunday School teacher at the Unity Church.)

Now, someone who grew up going to doctors, might know where to start when looking for a doctor. But this was all brand new to me. I didn’t know how to find a doctor. (The doctor who removed my first lump, wasn’t covered by our new insurance.) I didn’t know what kind of doctor I wanted. It took me many months to find one. And of course, you can’t just walk in and say, “remove this please.” They had to send me to another doctor for a sonogram to look at it. Then results had to be done up. Then I had to have a consultation. Then I had to go to the operation. I was put under for the procedure (that was my choice – because the pain of the much smaller lump had been unbearable to me, and I couldn’t go through that again). I think this was in 2011. Then I had so many follow up appointments. The lump was far bigger than I had anticipated, and than he had anticipated. I have keloids in my back with basically means, “aggressive scar tissue,” and this scar on my back continues to grow and cause me pain years later. I consider this scar to be my “scar of leaving Christian Science.” Maybe someday I will wear it proudly. At this point, I still hide it under clothing. (I know of people getting tattoos to symbolize leaving the Christian Science church. I didn’t have to get a tattoo. I have my very real scar on my material body.)

I wish that was the end of my story of leaving Christian Science. That would wrap it all up, neat and tidy. But, of course, a 44 year story and it doesn’t just end there. And it’s now 2016 as I type this.

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6 Weeks to a Quaker (the first go-round)

I grew up as a church goer, and when I don’t attend, it feels like I have a “void” in my life. So I tried a local Quaker church. It was about 10 miles away, but traffic made it take about 40 minutes to get there on a Sunday morning. I took my oldest son with me to the Meetings, and I enjoyed them immensely. Here were people who cared about the environment. One person was a beekeeper and I loved that! Several were gardeners, and some were activists or worked as volunteers either in Peace Corps or in Africa, setting up a school to teach children. I loved everything about this church. I made my homemade applesauce for potluck, and I was instantly accepted as one of these people.

After about 4 weeks of attending, I called up my family and told them, “I am a Quaker now!” I think my own family thinks I am changeable and whack-a-doo, so they took it in stride. I also called a gal from my Association who completely and lovingly supported me (she left our Association the following year & converted to Judaism), and I called our Teacher who asked me, “what’s appealing about the Quaker church?” I told her I liked sitting in the Silence, and how that brought me peace and calm for several days after in my life. After that, she told our Association (an Association is an annual meeting of the students taught by the Teacher, and guests the Teacher welcomes too) to try to meditate for 20 minutes every day.

My 6th Sunday in a row attending at The Quaker Meeting was potluck Sunday. I asked the lady next to me what it took to join the church. She told me, “well, you’re assigned some people to make sure you are spiritually growing.” I hadn’t yet felt like I was leaving Christian Science; I was just leaving the branch church, and I still wanted my own Bible and my copy of Science and Health. Her comment made me so uncomfortable, I couldn’t return to the church. I blamed the traffic. It was so far away, even though it really wasn’t; traffic just made it feel so much more far away. I started visiting other kinds of churches.

Rachel’s Story

PLEASE NOTE: The following post contains content that may make some readers uncomfortable. 

By Rachel, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. ‘Rachel’ is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.


I was a fifth generation Christian Scientist. Having grown up in a family involved with Christian Science for multiple generations, I can see patterns now, passed down through family stories; patterns from the very first family members to join Christian Science. The things that happened to me in my childhood were probably going to happen to me regardless. But the incidents would not have been handled in the manner that they were if not for the fact that our family were Christian Scientists.

I was sick so much as a kid with diseases I was not vaccinated against. I had every kind of measles that you can have, and the mumps. The ear infections were horrible and one of my most prominent memories of childhood. I don’t think my mom knew what an ear infection was. My dad did insist that I have the polio vaccine—I’m so grateful for that. And no one ever made me feel guilty for being sick, or berated me. Christian Science taught me how to do that all by myself. Continue reading “Rachel’s Story”

Born Perfect

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

“What would you do if you broke your leg?” The question every Christian Scientist kid has had to answer numerous times. My Sunday School teachers and my family gave me the script for it: “Well, I’ve never had that happen, but if we ever had a problem we couldn’t address with prayer, then we would go to the hospital.” The Christian Science brand of denial is enormously powerful; I was still giving this speech when I was eighteen years old and had never had a menstrual period or completed puberty, and had never been taken to a doctor for a diagnosis.

I was told that, “whatever is going on, we know” that I was “born perfect.” Every year at my birthday, there would be some Christian Scientist relative mumbling about “oh, well, dear, you know your mother didn’t get it ’til she was fourteen,” and then the next year, “the neighbor’s granddaughter didn’t get it ’til she was fifteen,” and then, “well, my friend knew someone who didn’t get it ’til she was sixteen.” I was sent to Principia Upper School when I was fifteen, which was a neat way to end the debate, as medical intervention was not allowed there. Then there were just the school breaks to negotiate; I never knew when a shame bomb would be dropped. At a holiday, chatting in groups in the living room after a family dinner, a relative would question me about my period and give some Christianly Scientific advice.

The theology I was held to account to was grindingly inconsistent, although having been raised in it I was rarely able to detect this fact, only able to feel the emotional upset and frustration caused by it. One grandmother made frequent oblique departures from Christian Science doctrine to hypothesize about how perhaps I’d never gotten my period because I was overweight. Once in a while my dad would ask if I wanted him to “do some work” for me, which always led me to uncontrollably wonder how long it had been since the last time he’d offered, and at what point that previous round of “work” had just dropped from his consciousness, the state of denial resumed. My internal state was that of private torment and prayer.

I was very occasionally told that, “It’s your choice if you want to go to a doctor,” regarding my ‘problem’—mostly after I was eighteen and I was expected to take care of myself—but it didn’t feel as though that was an option, really. It took me years away from the Christian Science church before I found going to a doctor comprehensible, and still, then, it was terrifying. I finally went to a doctor on my own when I was 25 and found out that I was born without ovaries. An “infantile uterus” seen on the ultrasound, the fallopian tubes just trailing off, two different lengths.

This is not a Christian Science tragedy. No one lost their child or their limb or the last thirty years of their life. But it’s ridiculous, is what it is. This is what’s ridiculous about Christian Science: for thirteen years, from about age twelve to twenty-five, I waited and prayed for my period to start. I waited and prayed for puberty to finish. I wondered if I was going to be able to have children. And I was sometimes made to feel that I was not doing enough, was not deserving enough, was not diligent enough in my studies or something, for my body to ovulate, when in fact there were no ovaries in my body.

If my parents had taken me to a gynecologist around the age of thirteen, or maybe fifteen, which is about the latest I think a non-Christian Scientist family would have waited under the circumstances, we would have been given the diagnosis: ovarian agenesis with accompanying primary amenorrhea; infertility. We would have been told that I had not been “born perfect.” I would have appreciated having that information very much. Because ages 12-25 were no goddamn picnic for me, I have to tell you.

Everything about my sexuality was frozen in early adolescence. Puberty seemed to have begun around age ten, and then ground to a strange halt. The more time passed, the more the dynamic became that of my adult woman’s body not belonging to me, for it stubbornly refused to develop. Instead it belonged to God, or Christian Science, perhaps. My developed body and adult sexuality would be released into my possession only if I was pure enough. It could be obtained by studying those two leather-bound books marked with blue chalk each week. I genuinely do not think my parents realized how messed up it is to put a teenager in this position.

As a decade passed, and I grew up without growing up hormonally, or entirely physically, this sense of my sexuality being on hold and not belonging to me became conflated with my perceptions of dating and relationships and the fact of my lesbianism. I find it very hard to put into words what it was like to be a gay Christian Scientist. There weren’t any words, for as long as I was a Christian Scientist. No one told me that I had to be this way instead of that way, or defined morality as exclusive to heterosexuality. I understand that must sound like a positive, but it might have possibly been more helpful than the complete silence, because I would at least have had a definition; something to react against is at least something.

Until I was able to break through the denial system of Christian Science and go in search of my diagnosis, I felt that nothing of the world of adult sexuality was meant for me—not dating, not intimacy, not being straight, not being gay, and of course not being a woman with boobs and a period. I remained almost completely divorced from my own sexuality and very out of touch with my own body until I began my relationship with my wife-to-be, within a few months of that first doctor’s appointment. We have been together for sixteen years now, and our union has led both of us steadily away from dysfunction in our relationships and in our lives, and me away from Christian Science.

I blame a belief system that tells parents that doctors make things worse.

By Michael, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor. Michael is a pseudonym, to ensure anonymity.

When I was born, I had two things. I had a condition called congenital talipes equinovarus, or ‘clubfoot’. I also had a pair of kind, loving parents who happened to be Christian Scientists. Christian Science is a fringe religion that rejects all doctors and medical care, and my parents were fervent believers.

I was born at a hospital, so I imagine that there must have been at least one doctor who saw my deformed feet and offered medical treatment. I don’t know what the doctor said, but I know that my parents refused treatment for me. Instead, they took me home and started praying. And praying. And praying. Prayer, as far as they knew, was the most effective treatment for the ‘illusion’ of deformity. My parents loved me, and they were determined to ‘know the truth’ about my feet until my feet reflected that truth.

I’m amazed that I learned to walk, given how radically deformed my feet were. My feet were turned sideways, toward each other, with the soles facing each other. When I started walking, the soles of my feet didn’t touch the ground at all. I was walking on what should have been the sides and tops of my feet. I fell down a lot.

For three years, my parents watched their little boy toddle around on his sideways feet. Their church told them that my feet would be healed, if only they were pray hard enough. I can only imagine how agonizing it must have been for them to pray and pray for a healing that never came. I wonder if maybe they blamed themselves for their failure to heal.

Eventually, around my fourth birthday, my parents decided to take me to a children’s hospital. The surgeons cut me open, severed and reattached my tendons, and moved some bones around. After the surgery, I spent a couple of months in a pair of full leg casts and a tiny wheelchair. The casts came off sometime around my fifth birthday. I graduated to leg braces and crutches, and eventually to normal everyday shoes.

As an ex-Christian Scientist looking back on my childhood, I always thought that, regarding my feet, I’d gotten off relatively lucky. Sure, my parents had delayed medical intervention for three years, but I did get help eventually. The surgeons did a great job, considering what they had to work with. I’ll never have a full range of motion in my feet, and I’ll certainly never be Fred Astaire, but I can walk and run like a normal person. Most people who see me don’t know that there’s anything wrong with me. What more could a guy with clubfoot ask for?

My rude awakening came one day when I was in my late twenties. I was spending the day walking around a museum with a friend of mine, and after a few hours, I asked my friend to stop for a minute so I could flex my sore feet. I explained that my feet get sore really easily, and I mentioned that I was born with clubfoot.

“Really?” she said. “I was born with clubfoot too!”

“Oh, cool!” I said. “I’ve never met anyone else like me! Do your feet get sore too?”

“No,” she said. “Right after I was born, I had braces, and the braces fixed my feet. I don’t have any lingering effects.”

It was a shock. As soon as I got home, I went to the internet, and learned that my friend’s experience was typical. I had thought that my feet were the best that modern medicine could give to a child with clubfoot. Now I realized that there had been a window of opportunity during which my feet could have been made normal with braces—completely, utterly normal—and that my parents had missed this opportunity.

I love my parents. They made a really bad decision, but I don’t blame them. I blame Christian Science. I blame a belief system that tells parents that suffering isn’t real, that doctors make things worse, and that the best way to help their child is to deny that he has any problems. I blame a belief system that leaves a young boy to teach himself to walk on sideways feet.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Everybody does it.”

By Marion, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I was 42… over forty years ago now. I was teaching at a university thirty miles from my home, and had four kids, aged nine to nineteen. The stress level was pretty high, and during the Christmas break I observed the unmistakable signs of breast cancer.

I remember quite vividly the reasoning I went through one night, taking the premises of Christian Science down to the basics. At its heart, they are that human life is illusory, and physical evidence is meaningless. That is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you seem to die. With four children, a husband, a teaching job I loved, and an appreciation of the beauty of this life, I decided that it did make a difference to me whether or not I continued to be here. I gave myself the time to ‘un-see’ it. If the evidence was still there at that time, I would go for surgery.

Just before Spring Break, I told the administration that I would be out for a time after the break and told them why. The response: ”Why didn’t you give us more notice?” I told them that I was a Christian Scientist and that I had hoped to solve the problem metaphysically. Talk about people looking at you funny. A substitute was found, and I was out for the break time and about a month after. Since the university and my home community were quite separate, almost no one in the home or church community knew about it.

The wake-up call for me was after I had chosen to have the mastectomy. Having acted on that decision, I confided to another church member that I had broken the faith’s directives, and that I felt that I should resign my membership. This is the response that angers me still: a whispered response, ”Oh, don’t worry about it. Everybody does it.”

I had been on the verge of risking my life. I believed these people were sincere and committed to what they professed. I should have known. Eddy was ‘committed’ until it became inconvenient for her. I may well have known about her dental work and morphine use even then, but still, the sense of betrayal was overpowering.

Christian Science Is Not Comfort

By Ashley, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I was a third generation Christian Scientist. I was all-believing and never could imagine not being a devout student. I served as Second Reader, substitute First Reader, was a Sunday School teacher, lecture committee Chair, secretary for the Board meetings, and more.

My profound challenge came at around the age of thirty. If it had been physical in nature, I have no doubt that I would have ridden it out with Christian Science treatment only, no matter what the consequences. But it wasn’t anything with physical symptoms. It was severe depression and anxiety to a level of anguish that I cannot describe. When the pain is physical, there’s only so far that can go, it has a lid on it at some point. When the anguish is mental there is no top-out level. There is no ‘thus far and no farther’ point. The suffering seemed to expand to wordless brand-new depths with each day. This mental anguish, on and on with no relief, I could not endure indefinitely. Thus began my halting and very gradual realization and wake-up call away from Christian Science.

Ten years later and after lots of help, intervention and treatments from medical psychiatry, I am able to live as a member of society again. My first big realization about Christian Science after entering the world of psychiatry and therapeutic care was how extremely cruel its basic tenets are, such as: no matter to what extent one may be suffering, one can only blame oneself. And, if you would just ‘get your thoughts right’ then you would stop suffering. Christian Science teaches that suffering is self-imposed and basically that ‘it’s your own fault,’ when you really take it down to the bottom line. The absolute opposite of ‘comfort’, though it calls itself ‘The Comforter’.

Christian Science is not comfort, it is something that is disturbingly austere, remote and unfeeling. It must be unfeeling in order to maintain the unreality of human suffering. Christian Science is among the coldest, most inhumane, compassionless, unhealthy approaches to life that has ever been foisted upon humanity. It took me much time and suffering to be able to distill that fact out and separate it from the teachings of my whole life. I hope I still have much progress to make, because I know Christian Science did damage that I will be working for the rest of my life to undo.