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.

Why can’t Nana keep up with us?

By a contributor to The Ex-Christian Scientist.


“Why can’t Nana keep up with us?” my child asked.

The question hung in the air.

“She’s older,” I replied. “She’s not as young and energetic as you are.”

This answer seemed to satisfy my child, who skipped further up the path, leaving me to wait for Nana.

But more questions follow:

“Why does Nana sleep in until noon?” … “She didn’t sleep well last night.”

“Why doesn’t Nana join us on our walk?” … “She has some work to do.”

These answers are not lies, but they are not the entire truth. How much truth does a child need? How much privacy does Nana?

Nana is a Christian Scientist, born into and raised in Christian Science for at least two generations. She knows no other religious path, no other solution for any health condition that has arisen.

One day, my child might notice other people’s Nanas are often spry and youthful. Then my child will be less satisfied with the answers. Other people go to doctors; Nana doesn’t. Or rather, Nana isn’t accustomed to it. But Nana recently faced some “health concerns.” With a bit of urging from her children, she sought medical treatment.

Nana is “in the system” now—and expresses heavy regret for doing it. They want to run tests and make diagnoses. This makes her uncomfortable. Denial is a much cozier place than a doctor’s office.

She has always relied on Christian Science for healing; she claims, “It has always worked.” Now that Christian Science doesn’t seem to be working so well, she has doubts—not about Christian Science, about “the system” which exists only to run tests, diagnose, and find fault. In turn, this means more things for Nana to work out and overcome through prayer. More Sentinel articles to read, more Journal articles to ponder. More time spent praying, less time spent with the grandchildren.

There are tears. Is she “a bad Christian Scientist” to go doctors for medical aid? Her children try to comfort her, to no avail, despite these statements by Christian Science’s founder:

  • If Christian Scientists ever fail to receive aid from other Scientists — their brethren upon whom they may call — God will still guide them into the use of temporary and eternal means. Step by step will those who trust in Him find that — “God is a refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.” Science & Health, p. 444
  • If, from an injury or from any cause, a Christian Scientist were seized with pain so violent that he could not treat himself mentally — and the Scientists had failed to relieve him — the sufferer could call a surgeon who would give him a hypodermic injection, then when the belief of pain was lulled, he could handle his own case mentally. Science & Health, p. 464
  • Healing physical sickness is the smallest part of Christian Science. It is the only bugle-call to thought and action, in the higher range of infinite goodness. The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin. Rudimental Divine Science

But to Nana, these human compromises apply to others, not to her. She’s been a good Christian Scientist all her life; why is it failing her now? She is spiritual, not material, yet her body is struggling to live up to the spiritual standards. Her body is wearing out after decades of ignored medical challenges and neglect.

There is a vicious cycle of fervent prayer, no healing, guilt for her failure to be healed, then more fervent prayer. She isolates herself from her church community; they never have these problems.

Nana’s most difficult barrier fear of the unknown. Fear of what might be, fear of a diagnosis that would lead to more tests — more forbidden knowledge of the (unreal) material self. Fear of failing Christian Science. Fear of being ostracized by the Christian Science community. “All are privileged to work out their own salvation according to their light” Ms. Eddy writes at the start of chapter 13, but that does not mean the community will support them on their medical path.

Nana has been raised with these beliefs from day one. She has practiced them for decades and raised her children with these views. Nana also knows that, “[when the] sick find these material expedients unsatisfactory, and they receive no help from them, these very failures [of material/medical aid] may open their blind eyes. In some way, sooner or later, all must rise superior to materiality, and suffering is oft the divine agent in this elevation. “All things work together for good to them that love God,” is the dictum of Scripture.” Turning to medicine in the long run is futile. She must demonstrate Christian Science.

One day, I’ll have to explain Nana’s actions to my child. I don’t know if I have the words. My child is not growing up in Christian Science. My child doesn’t know who Mary Baker Eddy is. Yet eventually I will have to explain Nana’s religious views. I hope I can do it in a respectful way.

Why did I leave Christian Science when Nana didn’t?

I watched people I loved suffer and die when they didn’t seek medical care. I couldn’t do that to my child or myself. But we must watch Nana put herself through this hell.

I don’t know. Until now, I have felt compelled to shelter my child from it even while I guard Nana’s beliefs. It is a fine line to walk. And I don’t want to walk it anymore.

I decided it was a totally toxic, dangerous mindset

By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.


I was born into a Christian Science home, but I began to have serious doubts after my mother died of untreated cancer when I was in my teens. I went to Principia College after that, and was further disturbed by the lack of empathy and negligence of the Principia administration in handling injury and illness on campus. By my senior year, I knew I hated Christian Science.

I spent a few years trying to be open-minded, and telling myself, “Maybe it is true, but I just don’t care. I don’t want the stress. I am cool with being mortal.” Then, after I had a big struggle convincing my Christian Science husband to get medical care for a serious illness, I decided it was a totally toxic, dangerous mindset. That was about ten years ago, but I’m still trying to get rid of the weird Christian Science stuff from my brain and work through how I feel about my parents’ well-meaning neglect. I think that is going to take a while.

If people were doing something different I internally judged them

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

I felt God’s hand was in everything that unfolded for me. I couldn’t take a step without praying about it, and all right decisions, activity, or relationships would have the appearance that fit perfectly with the moral, spiritual, and generally white-bread codes dictated by Christian Science.

If people were doing something different I internally judged them as heading in the wrong direction or being wrong. ’Reality’ in the human material world had to fall within the Christian Science parameters or it wasn’t real or wouldn’t contribute to spiritual progress in the Scientific plane of existence. When you are born into a cult like this it is not your fault. But it is hard to think differently. Christian Science programs thought at such a primal level.

I was hardcore for about forty-five to fifty years. My greatest sadness now, is that I brought my children up in Christian Science. My kids wised up before I did. My husband is not a Christian Scientist and has been very patient for over thirty years. But I had such a strong family influence growing up—third generation on both sides. And I didn’t really feel free to decide for myself until after my mother’s death. Now, I feel like I was let out of my cage. But daily, I have to give myself permission to think whatever I like.

So many Christian Scientists mimic each other. It really is a cult, as dangerous as the Jim Jones thing. I believe there is mind control going on. I never realized it before but that has to be how practitioners work. They kind of mentally rearrange your furniture upstairs.

I can just sit here and think it all better

By Heidi, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I just spent eleven days alone in the remotest parts of Big Bend National Park on a research project, and in my down time, I was reading ‘Fingerprints of God’ because while I am agnostic, I think there’s an awful lot of coincidence out there. It has been an interesting read.

I am really struggling at the moment. Prayer used to be a quiet, normal thing, a few conversations a day in my head, where I neatly tucked my fears and doubts and then went on to face the world with confidence. I really can’t quite talk to my husband about Christian Science. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to be raised in Christian Science; he was raised Baptist. So while he has ditched religion entirely, and he can pick apart a sermon with the best of them, it’s MY religion that he doesn’t know, but is picking at.

On top of a 200 foot mesa, with little more than a day pack, water, park radio (incoming stuff heard, outgoing calls apparently not going through) and a little GPS spot unit to save my ass in case of emergency, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh, cry, pray, curse, be comforted, or just say f*ck it and let park staff come find me. I am in over my head, I am surviving and learning, but I no longer have the convenient Christian Science ‘logic’ to compartmentalize my otherwise rational fears. ‘Chemicalization of thought,’ my ass.

Right now, I have a massive sinus infection which is going untreated other than cough syrup and a decongestant. I hope to change that tomorrow. I live in a place with zero cell service, so calling from home is out. I need to drive three miles to get a signal to call to make appointments. Bottom line, no wonder Christian Science is appealing: I don’t have to lift a finger, a phone, call a doctor or pharmacist. I can just sit here and think it all better. And if you trick yourself successfully, you’ll do it again next time. Odd epiphany, that.

A friend of mine pointed out that in lieu of prayer, I procrastinate. And then he pointed out that it is essentially the same thing: waiting for something, anything—’the right thing’—to happen. I was very upset by the conversation.

I don’t want to keep praying about something when a simple trip to the doctor will give things context. I don’t want to dismiss my own life’s experiences as unreal because this is the only life that I have. I am not willing to suffer years of discomfort because I was simply too afraid to go ask a professional whose life’s goal is to understand the human body. I’m done with fear. I’m OK with calculated risk. I will not endorse guilt due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control. We should each live our own lives according to our consciences and leave everyone else the hell out of it. Thus, I am never stepping foot into a Christian Science church ever again. It is a soulless, cold religion. A few gems of insight are not worth the whole package.

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.

I’m a recovering Christian Scientist: Lilly’s Thoughts

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

I’m a recovering Christian Scientist. There are many layers to shed, and I am thankful it is finally taking place, but sometimes it is so easy to slip back to my C.S. way of thinking, which includes lots of guilt, fear, denial and shame.

Christian Science taught me to keep every problem, every negative thought or feeling or sickness, quiet and hidden. This has resulted in years of hidden shame, guilt and a bad case of perfectionism mixed with high anxiety. So I’m ready to move on and finally enter reality.

Having kids has definitely been a huge wake-up call for me. I want them to feel safe and listened to when they have fears or pain. I never, ever want them to feel ashamed for feeling a certain way. I’m so glad that they have a chance at deciding early on what they want to believe.

Reshaping My Distorted Image of Doctors

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

I went to the doctor for the first time when I was fourteen years old. Months of caring for my mother as she succumbed to untreated breast cancer forged the courage my sister and I needed to break away from our parents’ radical reliance on Christian Science for healing and venture into the world of modern medicine. This was a huge step for us. We had never been to a doctor’s office for any childhood illness or injury.

My mother meticulously sheltered us from learning anything about medicine or even the basics of how our bodies functioned, in an attempt to protect us from sickness. This left a void of information that was replaced with fear of the unknown. I had no basis for evaluating whether a symptom I was experiencing was a life threatening problem or nothing to be concerned about.

The stories that had been told by my family and Sunday School teachers about Christian Scientists that had gone to the doctor were dismissive at best. Those Christian Scientists had been too fearful to address their problems with prayer. Going to the doctor was equitable to irrational behavior. There was always the old story that was paraded out about some family member who had gone to the doctor and taken medicine that had made them even more ill.

I imagine my sister and I looked out of place in the cheery, well lit waiting room of the doctor’s office on that first visit. Two wide-eyed, terrified children, sitting alone, clinging to our parental permission slips like we were headed to an execution. My mother had recently died and I was frightened that the doctor would find that I too had some terminal illness.

Beyond the fear, though, I felt profoundly determined. We had overcome so many barriers just for this wellness exam. The choice to go to a doctor was not only challenging due to the lack exposure to medicine, but also the generational lack of information on how to navigate health insurance and medical offices. We started from square one with learning the basics: that there are different types of doctors and only some doctors are in your insurance network. As children going to the doctor alone, we needed permission slips to receive any type of medical help. My sister and I drafted the permission slips the night before our appointment, and we felt fortunate that our father was willing to sign them.

The friendly receptionist gave us several long forms to fill out about our medical history. Most of it I had to leave blank. I had no medical history and neither did most of my family members. The doctor we saw was wonderful. She had a warm personality and seemed to recognize we were frightened. She did not make a fuss over the lack of medical history. Instead, she empathetically acknowledged that it must be very scary for us to visit the doctors for the first time. We received our vaccines and a clean bill of health.

This experience was the beginning of reshaping my distorted image of doctors. I found more guidance and comfort in that one visit than in every phone call I had ever made to a Christian Science practitioner. Over the years I have found, to my surprise, that the vast majority of my primary care doctors have not made me feel awkward about my non-traditional past. The biggest issue I still struggle with is remembering to reach out to my doctors for guidance on health problems. My childhood conditioned me to trivialize my injuries and illnesses and to cope without medical help. It’s hard to remember that I no longer need to suffer in silence.

 

I Had Prostate Cancer

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

 

I was ailing. My son noticed and insisted I have a physical. A PSA blood test indicated I had prostate cancer. I was out of Christian Science at this time, but not running to doctors. My son insisted they call him with the results.

We went for a conference, and radiation was recommended. At the time of the conference, my hands were shaking and I was falling often. I went to radiation for nine weeks, five days a week, and that cleared it up beautifully. I had a Christian Scientist friend with similar symptoms at the same time. He had a practitioner working and went to a Christian Science nursing facility, sat around reading, and died shortly after.

As we often heard on Wednesday, “I am extremely grateful for….” But in this case, I am so grateful that my son got me to the doctor!

I maintained appearances in order to please my parents

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

 

I stayed with Christian Science out of family loyalty and guilt for decades, eventually living a dual life—the one I lived in front of my parents and the one I lived when I was apart. I lived that double life out of fear and a superstitious belief that maybe Christian Scientists were right all along and if I stopped believing in it I would be cursed. But most of all, I maintained appearances in order to please my parents. There were a bunch of us kids, and I always felt that being a Christian Scientist was a requirement for being approved of and loved. I had a nagging feeling that I was loved less because I wasn’t a good Christian Scientist.

I “came out” in bits and pieces over the years, but the incident in which I truly showed them that I was not a part of their religion was at the ripe age of 42 when I invited them for Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. I asked my boyfriend to bring wine and instead of either not drinking in front of my parents or sneaking drinks in the kitchen, I offered them ginger ale and then loudly asked my boyfriend to pour me a glass of red. It seems like an insignificant thing, and most people I know would never understand what it took for me to do it. It took a lot of courage. It felt fantastic enjoying wine with my meal without guilt. I felt like a weight was lifted off of me.

I once wrote an article for the local paper after a major brewery swooped in to buy our local cottage brewery. I wanted to show the difference between a local brew and one from a large corporate-run company and interviewed people in the community, including a brewer. I got everyone to take a taste test. My mother, always a fan of my writing, read the article and said, “oh, but you didn’t taste the beers of course!” She said it like it was fact, even though in the article I included my thoughts on the taste of both beers. Denial was ever present.

For all the problems I had with my parent’s beliefs, they were right there for me when I went into premature labour at 23 weeks gestation. They visited me in the hospital and did not bat an eye at the IV drip or the nurses or doctors. They were kind and accepting of my needs for the medical world. When my son was born a week later, 24 weeks and 520 grams, they came to visit him, donned gowns, scrubbed up, and sat by his incubator. Sure, they prayed in their CS way, but they also accepted my beliefs, including giving my son his inhaler treatments when they babysat him.