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.

If I would only know the Truth about my sight, I would not need glasses

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

 

I guess the first and possibly the biggest way that Christian Science negatively affected my life was that I was born nearsighted, and because we never saw a doctor, no one acknowledged this until I was about ten. A teacher saw me squinting and asked me if I needed glasses. I said no, that it was the light coming from the window. She moved me around the classroom, and I blamed the board, the colour of the chalk, everything. Finally, she told me to go to the nurse and I told her I wasn’t allowed.

The teacher must have called my parents, because my mother immediately got our practitioner on the phone. This began about three years of me being told that if I would only know the Truth about my sight, I would not need glasses. There were many phone calls with the practitioner, even lengthy typed letters that I would skim and hide in the garbage when my mother wasn’t around. I remember distinctly how angry I felt reading the letters or listening to her soft voice droning on the phone. I did not want to work at a healing, I just wanted to have glasses so I could see. I knew in my very soul that prayer did not work for me and desperately wished I could get this point across to my relentlessly CS parents.

The other day, I came across a journal entry from when I was fourteen years old. In it, I wrote that after much begging my parents were going to let me get glasses. It had been a decade of blurred vision and headaches before they agreed. I had spent my life to that point afraid to look up, embarrassed to not recognize someone calling my name. I fell behind in certain subjects where the writing on the board was key to successful grades (math and science, for instance). Worse, there were things I was excellent at that I had to give up because of it. I was told by the music teacher that I had an excellent ear and played violin very well. She made me first violin in the orchestra. The problem was that I couldn’t see the music, and it wasn’t long before I fell behind and dropped out. I was a very good actress, but I couldn’t see the Director or follow cues or any of the things one would need to function properly on stage. To everyone’s dismay, I dropped out of acting as well.

I’d developed a complex in which I would start things, but not finish them because I was so sure of failure. I understand that adversity can push a person to greater heights. I wish I could say that that was the case with me, but it was not. My huge lack of coping skills led to very low self-esteem. I felt invisible and lived constantly in a fantasy world of my own instead of reaching out to the world around me. Long after I had left Christian Science behind, I began to realize that I never reached for the stars growing up because I could not see, so I was too afraid. I am still working on changing that.

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.

My mother’s response: “It’s like you’ve given up.”

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

 

My mother was convinced sun protection was unnecessary for her fair skinned blonde baby. The sun is made by God and we are made by God so…how can God hurt God? That wouldn’t make any sense, right?

So fast forward to my teens. I fell asleep on the beach in direct sunlight during a heatwave for a couple of hours. No sunscreen, start of the summer, totally white. Agony that night, next morning I looked like the swamp monster. I mean I still remember it now. The sight was horrific and I was actually in tears. Also, with no comprehension of why it had happened. I was in bed for a week physically unable to walk as my legs were too burnt to allow movement. My face was a mess with blisters everywhere and I should have been seeing a doctor.

A few days into this my door flies open and my enraged mother appears. Her idiot practitioner friend has been ‘working’ for me and I am not responding and just laying in bed, because I can’t actually walk. My mother’s response: “It’s like you’ve given up.” Door slams. Actually, I remember at some point into my confinement, a pink bottle of moisturiser appeared and was banged down out of my reach. I was told that if I really had to resort to medicine, I should use it. I left it where it was. No way was I going to mess up my miraculous week-long agonising healing with a bottle of moisturiser.

The only sympathy I had through this week was from my school. My symptoms were being reported to them each day and I eventually found out they were very concerned and said it must have been awful for me. I was kind of pathetically grateful to hear this. I got burned at the start of every summer. Not as bad as in this case, but I literally thought Christian Science would work each year and protect me. I hate 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.

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.

The Last Strawberry

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The Last Strawberry, Rita Swan


Totally devastating. Brought me to my knees.

– Elizabeth


Powerful and revealing. How could people who love their children not get them medical care? This books shows how.

– Ashley


Short, well-written, very touching, but at the same time it was difficult to read because of its subject matter which hit a bit too close to home. It stirred memories of my own time in Christian Science, and dealing with Christian Science practitioners, a class of ‘professionals’, if you want to call them that, who often and routinely cross personal and professional boundaries, at least in my own experience, and the experience of the author of this memoir.

– Jeremy


I’m disgusted by the behavior of the practitioners before and after Matthew’s death and by their petty rivalries. Hardly an ounce of charity in the lot. I’m also disgusted by the church’s fraudulent claim that it had healed another case of meningitis, when in fact the other child had the more benign form of the disease and had been treated in a hospital.

– Steve


An utterly heartbreaking but beautiful tribute to Rita’s son Matthew, who died while under Christian Science ‘care.’ This little book packs a powerful punch and clearly illustrates the utter coldness, denial, and futility of Christian Science.

– Madeleine