Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place

This is Part of Elizabeth’s story about ‘Believing Christian Science’.


It’s 1993, and I’m nineteen years old. I am a Christian Scientist–something that is very important to me. I live with my family, and I’m driving to my college class. I am looking at the road ahead of me, and the familiar traffic light is green, which it never is, and I’m pleasantly surprised but sure it will turn red before I get to it. For some reason there is plenty of time today; I’m at the intersection and it’s just turned yellow. I maintain my speed just under the limit of 50 mph. I’m not wearing my seat belt.

Everything is always in its right place.

I see the black car then. It had been stopped at the intersection, but it starts to turn in front of me. “Why is he turning, what is he doing?” I stomp on the brakes but this won’t happen, I will not be in a car accident, God will stop this, and I scream “ahhhhhhhOOH” as I’m thrown forward and my head cracks the windshield, but I don’t even realize what has happened to me until afterwards, at that instant, all I know is impact, a jerk, a smack!

When I wake I look in the rearview mirror and see my forehead growing visibly, all purply-blue and rounded like a china doll’s forehead, with one scary wet reddish mark in the middle, off-center to the left. My vision is affected, trails stream behind everything I look at. Now I am aware that my knees hurt. My ribs hurt. It feels like my body is coming back to life from somewhere far away. Continue reading “Elizabeth’s Story: Everything is always in its right place”

Isolating ourselves with stagnant ideas because they feel comfortable…

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

Christian Science’s system of denial is like an army tank that we can climb up and into and then roll through our lives crushing anyone and anything—illness, pain, personal failings, dysfunctional relationships—that makes us feel any unpleasant emotions.

Naturally, when someone contemplates leaving Christian Science, pretty much the first step is trying to climb down out of that powerful tank that’s been encasing them. And guess what’s waiting outside? A flood of unpleasant emotions which that tank of a belief structure has been keeping away: often suppressed symptoms of disease, fear and anxiety, regret, uncertainty (oh, that’s a huge one Christian Scientists don’t like). Someone who isn’t capable of breaking free from Christian Science yet, will view that heightened awareness as proof that Christian Science has legitimately been protecting them all along. In their perception, it’s ‘error’ they’re now feeling; mortal mind invading their consciousness.

But we’ve pushed through it, those of us in the ex-Christian Scientist community. We are embracing the uncertainty that the Christian Science tank was shielding us from. We have set ourselves to the tasks of responding to the emotional cues our loved ones send us, even if we feel unsure; asking for help from the medical field when we feel symptoms in our bodies which we do not understand; staying connected to the diverse people of the world and their best, newest ideas, even though life feels uncertain, rather than isolating ourselves with stagnant ideas because they feel comfortable.

1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story

The following is by Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor, and was originally published as a guest post at Kindism.org on February 1, 2015. It is reprinted with permission, and has been slightly modified for The Ex-Christian Scientist.


Did Principia hide conditions from authorities during the fall 1989 Upper School measles outbreak? What were your experiences with Christian Science nursing while at Prin during the measles outbreak? How did they diagnose it, since they’re trained to see disease and contagion as unreal?


This measles epidemic hit at the beginning of my first year at Principia Upper School, in fall of 1989.  I was fifteen, and it was the first time I had attended a boarding school or been away from my family. The student population was almost entirely unvaccinated due to Christian Science beliefs. The first quarter, I was paired with another sophomore named A___. She was a most unusual combination of kind, unconcerned with appearances, and popular. And she was totally into Christian Science, or appeared to be on the outside. A tranquil understanding of the philosophy, is how I would describe it, although it sounds strange to say it that way now as ex-Christian Scientist, but that is how I remember perceiving her. A___ tells me, “I’m not going to get sick, you’re not going to get sick.” That kind of worked, and I remember thinking, “ok, of course we’re not going to get sick.”

Then one Sunday after church, A___ laid down and didn’t get back up. She just laid there with her eyes closed, skin blotching up, listening to Christian Science tapes. I was scared. Still, nobody said anything, but frequently housemoms–the women employed by Principia to live in the dorms with us, one per wing, and act as our guardians, would walk by and look in the door at A___ without comment to either of us. Eventually a housemom came and took A___ away. The dorm got really quiet. Lots of kids came down with it the same weekend that A___ did. I’m happy to presume I felt this way for my own reasons, but I definitely felt that I was expected not to get it, in the same way I would be expected not to sneak off campus or expected not to skip my homework.

The housemoms never said ‘measles’, only the kids spoke of it: “some kids have measles”, “this one has it now”, or “so and so’s roommate was gone when she came back from practice.” But no one in the administration talked about it. They would just tell you reassuringly that they were “taking good care of” your roommate (anyone who got spots disappeared shortly thereafter). The housemoms did not say anything about your symptoms, they would just appear at your bedside after you’d been down for the count for a few hours to a day, and they’d say, “Come with me, honey. Is there anything you want to bring?” There was no communication from the administration otherwise. Continue reading “1989 Measles at Principia Upper School: Elizabeth’s Story”

Our concept of god is a flawed and limited…

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

The phase of belief I’ve been moving around in for the last few years is a god-is-math mentality. So, very precisely, it’s not that everything happens for a nice inspiring reason, but that everything. happens. Every kaleidoscopic variation of experience occurs simultaneously, as a unified mathematical expression. Time is a construct of man’s consciousness, which is itself a creative interpretation of the geometry of the universe. Our concept of god, as well as our world outlook, is a flawed and limited interpretation of the part of this massive mathematical equation we are each able to perceive, infused with a drama of our own making—individually and then again societally/culturally.

There is no good or evil, but there is every variety of circumstance to move us to tears, set our souls on fire, stun us into apathy, break our noble spirits, confound our strongest convictions, awake the psychopaths within, transmute our failings into strengths, inspire a heroic and sacrificial effort; in short, everything required to make us hate the world and to make us love the world.

Inside this theory, free will is not the reality, although the nature of our conscious awareness does allow for a lot of flexibility in how we perceive our will, or lives, or destinies. This is why Christian Science can seem amazingly effective until it isn’t; until it bumps up against the underlying math, the facts of your life.

The mortals at school would think that they were seeing an injury.

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When I was five years old, I fell on my face onto concrete while running and destroyed my upper lip. My mom did a nice job of hiding her terror from me and calming herself and me down. There was lots and lots of blood which wouldn’t stop. My mouth and nose were cleaned with water and a washcloth, no dressings were used and I don’t know that anyone other than a medical professional would have been capable of dressing it.

I was told I would not be going to school for a few days, not because I had been injured, but because the mortals at school would think that they were seeing an injury, and we had to protect the healing, which had already occurred, because in Divine Science, the injury never occurred. I never fell from God’s arms. We sang the hymn, “Everlasting arms of love, are beneath, around, above.” My face hurt a lot from my chin to my nose and eyes to my forehead and the top of my head.

I was not supposed to look in the mirror because that would reinforce the material picture, and I was praised repeatedly for not looking in the mirror. Meanwhile I was sneaking into the bathroom to stare at myself every chance I got, because holy crap the top of my mouth was missing! I was absolutely transfixed at my horrible appearance. It was thrilling. Not the injury, but the looking; the possessing of the information regarding my injury, illicitly. I think in that climate where injury was not properly acknowledged, it became an absolute high to observe and acknowledge my own damage.

For a long time I had this experience filed under a legitimate Christian Science healing. My mother and I wrote a joint testimony about it which was published in the Christian Science Sentinel, and this made quite an impression on me. But in retrospect, the evidence contrary to a Christian Science healing is much stronger:

  • It took a normal amount of time to heal. It’s indisputable that my lip and mouth needed stitches and it sure is nice that things healed up as well as they did.
  • My upper lip changes appearance in childhood photos after this incident. Luckily it works for me and my upper lip is still cute in a different way.
  • The frenulum of the upper gum was ripped and did not repair. Mine just hangs there and my upper lip is not connected to my gums. It’s the thin connector way up top above and in front of your front teeth; you can find it with your tongue easily.

This incident is at the root of my personal version of the ‘I’m a fraud’ worries all humans have to varying degrees. And possibly the beginning of my doubts about Christian Science, but I suppressed them deeply.

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 wife will nudge me, “hmm, are you doing your prayerful work?”

By Elizabeth, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group Contributor.

My wife and I have a little joke because she noticed early on that when there is any kind of crisis, from a blown tire to a major financial snafu, my initial reaction is always silent, calm and expressionless. I’m not normally like that, and I worry plenty when it’s more of an ongoing problem, but in the moment, my first reaction to crisis is still to think (pray?) my way out it. For example, say I oversleep. First reaction after waking? None. So my wife will nudge me, “hmm, are you doing your prayerful work?”

I think that Christian Science harbors and deepens psychological problems, which we all have to some extent. I have a very laid-back approach to life, and adding a Christian Science mindset to this has resulted in my problem, which is severe inertia with taking care of the physical matters in life, the realities of life. I became so skilled at adapting to circumstances, coping with pain and discomfort mentally, believing that we can just think away problems, and frankly, overusing my denial mechanism.

About ten years ago my sister was visiting, and we were walking back to my apartment from the grocery store. There was very slick ice, and I fell and broke my arm dramatically. I had to have surgery to repair it, the break was extremely obvious. My sister and I walk in the door and start asking my wife what we should do.

She says, “ARE YOU BOTH CRAZY?? CALL AN AMBULANCE!!”

Our reaction was something along the lines of, “really? Are you sure?”

She’s like, “YES OH MY GOD!! GOOD GOD IN HEAVEN WHAT HAPPENED TO IT??!” My sister and I still marvel over this. We really did think maybe it would just go away… or something? Neither of us was a Christian Scientist anymore, but when you’re in a crisis like that those deep tendencies surface I guess!

The best suggestion I have for partnering with someone to support you in dealing with medical issues when they arise is to have an agreement in place with someone you’re close to on a daily basis. My wife knows that if I show a symptom, and then get quiet (in the short or long-term) she needs to interrogate me.

So for example, if I mention that my throat is sore, my wife will begin asking daily questions about how my symptoms are progressing, what my thoughts are about those symptoms, and how to handle the illness. She’ll inevitably uncover the crazy (“well, I’ve just been thinking to myself, I know I caught this cold because I volunteered to hold the sick baby last week at my nursery job, so I’ve been maintaining that no harm can come from doing good.”) I know it’s nuts when I hear it in my head, but at the same time it makes sense to me on a gut level, and I don’t confront the fact that I’m still trying to use Christian Science until I say it out loud. Then she’ll proceed with, “Honey, you have a tendency toward strep throat. Can I look at your throat? Okay, I don’t like the way your throat looks. It’s time to go to the doctor. Pick up your phone and call the office. Nope, I’ll pause the movie, let’s just do it right now.”

I’m getting to where I can do this for myself now. She jumps in when she sees I’ve gone off the rails.

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