Why I’m doing this

It was two days before my thirteenth birthday when the first of my grandparents died spectacularly and unnecessarily, traumatizing the whole family. The story includes the classic Christian Science elements of not even his spouse knowing until… then not even his sons knowing until… not getting him to the hospital until… and he’s yelling Christian Science BS at his sons and wife while they’re trying to save him. I loved him most in the world, and the feeling was mutual, but in Christian Science culture it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for me to know what was going on.

When I found out he was dead, I also found out that he had been dying horribly and mysteriously for the past two days, one state away. I will never forget the crushing, screaming grief I felt; not because I’m stuck there, but because I have never felt any emotion approaching its strength since. It amazes me that I felt something so keenly once. It was felt for no one’s benefit, alone in my room, sobbing endlessly, endlessly. Because I should have been able to cry on his face in the hospital, at least. I don’t think anyone cried on his face, while he was dying.

Two years later, my other grandfather, just as beloved, had a massive stroke in the middle of the night after a year of warning signs. His practitioner had advised him to take a break from work but not to see a doctor. His family had pled with him in every way they could think of. Still, I cannot get my mind around my grandmother’s phone call to the local Christian Science nursing facility instead of 911, with her husband convulsing and speechless on the floor, his last words having been, “Something’s wrong.”

After refusing all medical treatment before and after the stroke, all that happened anyway was he kept having strokes until his son defied his father’s will to get him medical treatment. By then, all the damage had been done and my grandfather spent another decade trapped on earth taking all the pills he had been so afraid of and never getting his speech back and never walking at more than a slow crawl again, and it was a giant failure in the middle of our family. I didn’t visit him enough. At all. It is a great regret. I numbed myself to him even though he was a consistently dedicated, gentle, loving, witty, patient, formative mentor to me until the moment the stroke erased his personality.

I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t help my family.  I was too young, I couldn’t see through the CS fog.

Maybe I can help someone now.

Elizabeth

Content Editor & Community Coordinator
The Ex-Christian Scientist

A Reflection of Perfection

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I was raised in Christian Science in Canada. We were a rare species! I was a fourth generation Christian Scientist. I recalled this morning, after 38 years, a Sunday school lesson when I was about four years old. In the lesson, the very old teacher explained to me that I was like the reflection from a diamond ring— a reflection of perfection, but not actually there. I feel like I understand the source of a lot of grief over the years now. What a thing to say to a preschooler.

The root cause of many of my problems is the brainwashing I received as a child, and that’s something that I have to remind myself of constantly. I was lucky that I never had to face any serious illnesses as a child. Consequently, I don’t think I really understood radical reliance, although I guess that is what it was. As an adult, it just increasingly became clear to me that I couldn’t measure up to the impossible standards set by the religion. Then I did get sick, and that was the end of it for me. But I think the legacy of constant failure in Christian Science was the thing that hurt me the most as a child. It continues to haunt me as an adult because I often feel that I’m not trying hard enough, not working hard enough–just not enough.

As I was thinking about leaving the religion, I had been living with undiagnosed adult onset asthma for about a year. I was blue for that entire year—I couldn’t make it up a flight of stairs. Yet, I kept praying–waiting for my ‘thought to clear.’ My first puff of a rescue inhaler convinced me to leave Christian Science. The little blue inhaler that allowed me to function was a revelation, as was the fact that the doctor I saw was so matter-of-fact about it. It was the first time in my life that someone had acknowledged an ailment, and did not expect me to feel like I had brought it on myself for some unknown infraction.

The guilt that Christian Science requires children to live with is soul-destroying. Even without the physical effects, this guilt and fear becomes so often the defining feature of the person raised in Christian Science. And how to fight these things remains elusive to me. After a pretty trying week at work a couple of weeks ago, I told several people that I’d ‘given myself a migraine.’ I couldn’t just accept that it had been a particularly horrible week and that I was tired and stressed. Somehow, it had to be my own fault.

I’ve had many therapists over the years—my least favorite was the therapist who told me to wear an elastic band and just snap myself with it every time I felt bad about myself. I asked her if I could stop when the bone started to show. But the one I have now—wow. She just gets it. Christian Science is so weird that I think she has been intrigued and considers me a special challenge. She was the first person to make it clear to me that Christian Science and I weren’t the same thing. Also, she thinks Mary Baker Eddy was psychotic, and that consequently Christian Science attempts to replicate psychotic boundary-less thinking. But it has taken me a while to find someone like this.

I would encourage anyone who is comfortable with the process to talk to a therapist about Christian Science–and to keep looking until you find one who is willing and able to do the work to help you. A dispassionate listener who can see the damage, and help you to see it too, is unbelievably important; as is the understanding that the psychological mind games of Christian Science are, for many people, a form of religious abuse.