Old Habits Die Hard

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about experiences seeking medical care and interacting with medical professionals.


Back in 2000, I had this scaly patch on my neck. After watching it grow and covering it with makeup for two years a friend said, “that looks like skin cancer – you’d better get that looked at!” Sure enough, it was basal cell skin cancer. I had it cut out, and I have a huge scar now. If I’d taken care of it early I probably would have just had a little stitch.

– Hilary


I have been pestering my husband to help me get my basic vaccines (I have zero), and he doesn’t get it that I don’t know how to go to a doctor or what to DO there. A friend who knows the medical field inside and out has offered to set things up with me and come along to hold my hand.

– Heidi


My non-Christian-Scientist cousins were after me to get a colonoscopy (I’m fifty-seven) and it was way overdue. I did so, and wouldn’t you know, I had cancer. Luckily it was stage one, but the doctor said it was a slow grower and had been in me ten years. I had it removed with two operations last spring and summer. I am the fourth generation in my family to have this problem. My grandmother and father died grisly deaths under Christian Science ‘treatment’ of this very thing. The surgeon at Mayo Clinic that said if I had waited six more months it would have spread to other organs. They think they caught it all, but I am having follow-up tests this week and next.

– Anonymous


At the very end of my second pregnancy, I am starting to have serious health problems: blood pressure ticking up, signs of pre-eclampsia, etc. So apart from being scared and disappointed, every time I go to one of my appointments I also find myself extremely angry and defensive. My sister helped me figure out that this has to do with an entire childhood of being blamed for every sickness—every cold, upset stomach, or stubbed toe was entirely my fault and had to be fixed only by me (while simultaneously being unreal of course). So when my OB points out that my blood pressure is not in a good range, what I hear is, “what did you do wrong that made your blood pressure so high?” Ugh, old habits die hard, I guess!

– Hilary


Recently, an alarming rash erupted over large parts of my body. I went to the emergency room at the local hospital, and the doctor who treated me humourously diagnosed me as being a “very sensitive guy.” It was his way of informing me that I was having an overly severe allergic reaction to something. I was prescribed an immune system suppressant, and some Benadryl. The rash cleared within a day. I’m glad the old habits of waiting before I go to a doctor about something are beginning to fade finally.

– Jeremy

I knew that we had no ability to heal our physical or financial problems using Christian Science

By an anonymous Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

I grew up with my ailing radically reliant Christian Scientist mother and my grandmother—whose house it was—who didn’t believe a word of Christian Science, but never said anything to keep the peace. When I was about thirteen my grandmother started suffering from dementia, which by the time I was sixteen had progressed to late stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of my mother’s beliefs, and her conviction that if she called a doctor, her mother would be taken into care and the house sold from under us to pay for it, most of this time period was handled using ‘Science’. I found this time very hard to deal with. Living with an elderly Alzheimer’s sufferer is not a picnic. My grandmother was doubly incontinent and hopelessly confused and distressed most of the time. But, she was physically robust and would rampage around the house in the middle of the night pulling things apart and raving about lost children who she believed to be trapped inside the furniture.

She had no memory of me as a teenager, and would often not recognise me at all, precipitating hysterics when I walked into a room. She was also a terrible fire risk, and we had to start turning the gas off at the main spigot when we left her alone, or went to bed. My mother meanwhile could barely cope physically, let alone mentally. So yes, dealing with this as a teenager was bad enough, but of course to really inject some misery into a situation you need Christian Science.

I knew that we had no ability to heal our physical or financial problems using Christian Science, but sanity seemed like the last bastion, and it had fallen. I would read all this garbage about ‘Divine Mind’ and intelligence, and practitioners would lecture us on it. But the situation got worse and worse. I couldn’t fathom what we were doing wrong that even this simple expression of God’s perfection had failed. With no frame of reference as to what was happening and no diagnosis, I began to see my grandmother not as a poor sick woman who loved me, but as a person who through their own weakness had been possessed by some kind of demon. I wondered how long until it affected me or my mother too.

Needless to say, eventually my grandmother’s condition got so bad the world of medicine was involved, and they did more good in a few days than all the meaningless Christian Science mumbo jumbo had done in years. Nevertheless, it was not long until my grandmother was taken into hospital where she died shortly thereafter, being properly cared for and finally having some peace and dignity. And the government didn’t sequester her house and force us onto the street.

Childhood fascination with medicine & desire to fit in

The following is a collection of contributions from members of the Ex-Christian Science collective about childhood health and safety issues they faced growing up in Christian Science. 

 

Once I was at a friend’s house, and the mom handed me a Flintstones vitamin at dinner and I FREAKED. OUT. I jumped out of my seat and ran to hand it back to her with a breathless “I’maChristianScientist!” She looked at me so confused and said, “It’s just a vitamin.” And I launched into a mangled six-year-old’s explanation of Christian Science. I feel like they didn’t have me over again after that.

– Elizabeth


The problem with not being allowed to have something that everyone else in the general population takes for granted, and more so being told it is wrong, is that it leads to trying it anyway and sometimes in the wrong way. I was very curious about medicine and actually went so far as to steal a little tin of Bayer Aspirin. I locked my little brother and myself in the bathroom and made him try one first. Of course they tasted bitter and horrible and we spat them out. To this day I don’t remember how I disposed of them. Worse was stealing a bottle of pills from a drugstore in the days when many drugs were on the shelf. I waited until my grandfather was in another aisle and whipped it into my pocket. They were tiny brown pills, god knows what. I took them to school and told my friends I had to take them. I was desperate to fit in.

– Tessa



Until now, only my wife has known this embarrassing truth: at age 37 when I was first properly under the care of a doctor and was put on a few month-to-month prescriptions, I switched to Target pharmacy because they had red prescription bottles, and I had them all arranged artfully on my bedside table.

– Anonymous



When I was six or seven, I got a pre-made Easter basket, and deep inside was a bottle of ‘Vaseline medicated lotion.’ Do you remember how it used to say that? I can’t imagine what the ‘medication’ was; anyway it was instantly my most prized, secret possession until my dad caught me showing it off to my cousin and made a huge scene and took it away. My non-Christian Scientist cousin must have thought we were complete nitwits.

– Anonymous

I am grateful for her kindness and pragmatism.

By Stacey, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

My mom calls a Christian Science practitioner daily. She serves as my mother’s therapist. Fortunately, the CSP is a woman of reason and has encouraged my mom to not be so upset by this or that.

My mom has never met this woman, as she lives several states away. Of course, my mom credits every medically treated recovery her non-Christian Scientist family has—and that is everyone in the family—to her practitioner’s ‘work’! We don’t argue with her. Since the CSP serves more as a therapist/friend and is a very practical person, she is willing to help my mom no matter what the situation.

My mom was in the hospital a couple of years ago and in the ICU for the first few days. We didn’t think she was going to make it, but the treatment she was getting in the ICU pulled her through. When she was moved to a regular room in the hospital and able to think more clearly, she called her practitioner who supported her by praying for mankind, not for my mom specifically. My mom considers her recovery from this very serious issue a Christian Science healing and gives credit to the practitioner.

I don’t think her practitioner would ever admit to helping a patient who is on meds. My sister and I called the CSP at one point to let her know that my mom vitally needed her daily meds and to encourage my mom not to give them up. We believe that the practitioner did do this at our request. She probably didn’t know our mom was on meds until we told her. I am grateful for her kindness and pragmatism.

I was/am healthcare proxy for my Christian Scientist parents

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

 

I was healthcare proxy for my Christian Scientist dad, and I am healthcare proxy for my Christian Scientist mom. The guilt is excruciating, and a big part of why I’ve reached out for the support of this group. It’s something only we can truly understand.

Throughout the parental situations I’ve encountered, my parents have all been conscious and able to make their own decisions, so I haven’t felt like I could force the medical issue. That hasn’t lessened the guilt I feel for not somehow forcing them to get medical care. Thankfully, my dad’s passing was relatively quick and painless.

Christian Scientists make decisions they feel are right for them, but they don’t understand how they are harming the younger generations. It’s not just young children who suffer because of their parents’ choices.