My arrival into the world must have been a big disappointment to my mother. Not only did she now have a child - something she never wanted to have happen to her - but I was also born with a leg deformity called PFFD (Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency). There would always be "one leg shorter than the other" and, naturally, my mother was in deep shock. I gather that she was depressed for several years and she actively blamed my father for my problem, even though my condition is not genetic. I was mostly cared for by my maternal grandmother until the age of five and I did not realise this until many years later. As I grew older, my grief was indescribable whenever I was separated from her. Whenever I stayed with her during school holidays, I was aware of her love for the Gospel. We would talk about Heaven and meeting Jesus. This gave me much comfort because I had serious worries about death - having witnessed an aunt sobbing that she did not want to die. My grandmother and I would sing many hymns together at bedtime - despite my mother's disapproval and desire for me to think only in a Christian Science way - and I felt a measure of safety and comfort. In an attempt to help my mother "cheer up" and gain some positive thinking, my grandfather, who was separated from my grandmother, had given my mother a copy of Science & Health by Mary Baker Eddy. I was about four years old at this time. He had met many Christian Scientists and was attracted to the people. In later years, he regretted ever giving the book to my mother because of the sadness it subsequently caused within the family.
It was the perfect cover for my mother - she would never have to see a doctor again - particularly with reference to her mental state, which was in question. She used Christian Science as one of the reasons for her divorce (my mother was not happy that my father could not "heal" himself of his chronic asthma) and focussed her deep and not unnatural desire for my healing on Christian Science. I became aware from about the age of six that I was different from other children because I had a religion that I had to study and the time it took to read it kept me away from my friends who were out playing! I was told that we had the superior way in Christian Science because we had the tools for healing. Any other religion, I was told, had got it wrong and their "old theology" would do them no good. I believed that Mary Baker Eddy was the revelator of divine Truth, and believers in sin and Heaven and hell were on a lower stage from us Christian Scientists; people would have to come up to our level of belief. What arrogance! I knew I was different (not just because I was disabled), and it became more and more difficult to keep friends. After all, they wanted to play when mother wanted to study with me. I found it boring listening to all the readings of Mary Baker Eddy and I used to switch off into my dream world and made sure that I heard just enough to make any appropriate replies!
My mother never called a doctor and I can well remember lying in bed screaming and sobbing in pain with frequent earaches. I suffered from asthma and many coughs and colds but had no medical help. I was taken for dental treatment, but, on one occasion, I can remember my being put through the extraction of several teeth without any pain relief, neither gas nor injection. I can remember my mother telling me off for my lack of self-control and because I was not remembering the "Truth" properly. I think I was about eight years old. I felt I was a failure and was so scared because of all the blood pouring from my mouth. Mother was unmoved and I learned that self-control was imperative. My father insisted I had an X-ray when I fell on the grass and it was believed that I had a broken arm. I can remember my parents arguing over me whilst I was still on the grass and I think that it caused a major rift in my parent's marriage in that my father had to shout and insist that I went to the hospital. (I did attend artificial limb centres with my mother all through childhood, but, of course, they were offering vital walking aids and mother did not and could not object.) Going back to the arm - it was put in a sling and nothing could be diagnosed. After several days we went back to the hospital, they said there was a small break, and I believe mother refused them permission for it to be plastered because she thought I had been healed on the basis that I was able to use my arm a little. School friends could not work out why it was in a sling, and then I did not wear one and they assumed that I was pretending.... I put it down to their ignorance of the religion we studied! Mother hailed it as a Christian Science healing and had it printed in the Christian Science Sentinel. I was forced to sign as to its validity, even though I was still a child. The words were not my own and I was not really sure as to how Christian Science had really helped me. All I could think of was that my father was very upset and I just wanted to have my arm plastered as the doctor suggested and to be like all the other children in such a situation.
As to my leg deformity, well, mother really wanted a healing for this. After all, it did not give a good impression, she felt, of our dedication to Christian Science. We visited several Christian Science practitioners and each time I became disappointed because they could not heal me. Mother had phases where she was so sure the "Truth" would work; that she would not allow me to wear my artificial limb and she would push me around in a pushchair right up until I was about nine or ten. And every time nothing happened. I alternated between guilt and secret bitterness. I envied other children their legs and their freedom to run and look pretty in skirts. People would stare (they did so more in those days) and I became very self-conscious and developed low self-esteem. I really wanted to be healed (which child wouldn't?) and so thought that if I worked and worked at the study of Christian Science then it would surely work for me. Every night I would read, study, and repeat the Christian Science words and many a night I slept with a ruler by my bed. In the morning I would wake up and be sure that I had it all right and be convinced that there would be even a little growth. I would measure, and then, disbelieving the ruler, would check again. I obviously did not have the healing part right and had to know the so-called "Truth" harder. I must surely have missed a bit out or had I not said Mrs Eddy's words fervently enough? At the back of my mind, I thought I was a big disappointment because I could not manage any healings. I was warned that people at Church would expect results. For all of my school years, my mother would make me walk for miles and, being disabled, this resulted in my suffering extreme fatigue. However, it was always suggested that, as God's child, I could conquer anything and I could prove this to the world by walking. It would prove "dominion over my material body." My secondary school classrooms were often up three flights of stairs and I was not only slow and late for lessons, but I was embarrassed and exhausted - neither of which I was supposed to experience! I was therefore entreated to study Christian Science harder to realise my "freedom from all ills." I think, on reflection, that I deceived myself into believing that my leg condition did not exist. It was easier to live in a dream world and I really believed that eventually, my leg would grow to prove my perfect reality and my "oneness" with God. The inconveniences and feelings that I experienced were after all the "illusion." I had, I was told, to "work out of them."
By the time I was about ten or eleven, mother decided that Christian Science was everything and my parents began a bitter and painful divorce. This period of my life is really another story, but suffice it to say that my parents lived in half each of their small house, each coming and going with their own lives. The rooms we lived in were always locked. My mother would leave me alone in the house at night, locked in my bedroom in case "the wicked, violent man" came to get me (my father). He could never have hurt a fly, but I believed it - after all, he did not have the so-called "precious truths" that we as Christian Scientists held. It transpired when we talked in later years that he had no idea I was in the house those nights mother went to the church. I was a thoroughly programmed, compliant, quiet daughter who lay there in silence until mother returned and unlocked the door. And all because Christian Science was the only religion to follow! In an attempt to save his marriage, my father did try to study it. He went to the services and even employed a practitioner. As far as my mother was concerned, everyone else had it wrong! Mother believed Mary Baker Eddy and her teachings were the truth and anyone who objected to mother's decisions was anti-Christian Science and hostile to the "Truth." I became more and more alienated from my cousins and aunts and friends - none of whom could understand Christian Science and the way we were living. I was forced to join the Christian Science Church membership at the age of twelve. I begged mother to wait until I was twenty because I thought it would make me look even odder in the eyes of my peers. The pen was put in my hand and I could not refuse. I think mother thought it would improve our status within the Christian Science Church and she honestly believed that there was no other way to follow in order to improve our lives and standing within the Christian Science movement.
I was always withdrawn from school assemblies and scripture lessons. I was never immunised and I always had extra Christian Science classes whenever the school timetable required scripture lessons. I was forced to write to the Church of England and ask for the details of my godparents to be erased from my baptismal records. I had to obtain permission from my mother and a Christian Science practitioner to receive dental treatment. I have problems with my teeth to this day as a result of dental neglect. We never celebrated Easter, and Christmas was never a really happy time for us. My mother, I felt, regarded such "distractions" as taking our thoughts away from spiritual progress in Christian Science. I don't think anyone could have studied Christian Science as dedicatedly as my mother could. She denied herself many of the pleasures, comforts and outings of life and lived a life of total commitment to Christian Science and its teachings.
My pet cat never received vital veterinary treatment and it limped around for ages and then developed other distressing conditions. Mother never perceived this and other situations as real because "in reality" everything was perfect and we just had to know and believe in the words of Science & Health to enlighten us as to perfection. I came home from school one day and the cat had disappeared. I was never told what happened.
I later became a member of the local Christian Science church and worked on one or two committees. I was totally programmed by then and nothing in my life seemed real - probably because I had little contact with anyone who was not connected with Christian Science. We also had a lodger in the house who was a Christian Science practitioner. I found his presence very disturbing and I felt that he exercised a lot of control over mother. At about this time, my grandmother died and I vividly remembered her words to me about Heaven and about how we should love Jesus. Even though I was surrounded by Christian Science, a thread of the Gospel story stuck with me and gave me comfort over my fears of death. I felt that we would meet in heaven because we both loved Jesus and even though I was in Christian Science, I knew I believed in Him because I read about Him in the Bible. What I didn't realise was that we were only ever reading selected passages from the Bible and that, often, the verses were out of context. Jesus was still not a reality to me.
But God is good! In order to train to be a teacher, I had to leave home and mother decided on Weymouth, Dorset, England - probably because there was a Christian Science Church nearby! On my very first day in College, the very first friend I made was a Christian and I attended the meetings of the Christian Union because I felt we all had the same basis of belief. I had a boyfriend who was a Christian but after a while the relationship ended because he said that my faith was not of God and that we had no future together. I was deeply hurt, because up until then I had honestly believed that I was there to help the Christians along because my beliefs were one stage "up" and I really believed that as these Christians were Bible believing, then we could get along OK. What a lot I had to learn!
I had no idea of the amount of prayer that went on for me by all my Christian friends, many of whom I know to this day! I had had many doubts for a long time, partly because the course we were on, opened my mind to thinking of things from different angles. My biggest problem was trying to decide whether or not Christian Science was Christian. I was surrounded by Christians who said that it was not. This had never occurred to me before and I wanted to understand their reasoning. What was different about their "rules"? I was also bound by all sorts of fears - particularly of death. I cannot describe the feeling of peace which flowed over me after the visiting Christian preacher had prayed with me after a Christian Union meeting. I was moved by his message and I knew that I needed Jesus' love and peace. I was so tangled up in my mind that I could not think clearly but I knew I needed Jesus. People said that I radiated joy and I felt as though I had been lifted out of something and set out in a new world. Thanks to many Christian friends, some Christian doctrine was explained to me. I initially felt as though I was in a foreign church - linguistically, nothing made sense! I cannot say that all the influences of Christian Science mind control left my life immediately at least that is how it felt. I suffered many nagging doubts that I would "return" because of the inevitability of mind control, and I had many periods of what I can only describe as depression and feelings of insecurity. I found a Baptist church near to where I was working in my first teaching post and I asked the Pastor to pray for me. I still felt things were wrong in my life and I had no guidance on how to correct them. That night, after his prayers, I returned to my accommodation and an evil spirit visited me and screamed at me that "I should not have done it! I should not have done it!" I was twitching and jerking. There was a cloud over my head and I was very scared. I remember replying, "But I have!" and the cloud floated away from me and I slept peacefully. When I spoke to the Pastor about this because I was quite shocked, he did not really know what to say and I was still left with the feeling that I needed counselling. I felt that my thinking was in a different mode from everyone else - possibly because I was still coming out of this very mind-controlling environment and I had not had much contact with everyday people.
I was baptised after about two years and this, for me, was the major foundation in my Christian life. It was at this time that my mother ceased trying to actively "re-convert me." She was very disappointed and I was warned that "however many years of benefit I had received in Christian Science, after this period of time, I would experience dire need and deterioration in my life to the extent that I would need it again."
I cannot think of much relevant to add to this testimony from baptismal time to this. What I do know is that the Lord Jesus Christ has led me and my family through many dangers and turmoils and that He has blessed us very much. A text which has meant everything to me is, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Mark 13 v31.) My fears of death have been destroyed and I know that all those who believe on Him will be saved. There is no doubt that my mother watched our lives very carefully and, in the name of Christian Science and while under the influence of it, tried to systematically destroy my marriage and the peace of my home. She actively tried to turn our children to Christian Science but I thank God that He has shielded them and led them to a saving knowledge and faith in Him. The year 2001 was made special for me as my son was baptised by total immersion. The Lord our God in the midst of us is mighty!
My mother died in June 2002 after suffering from a terminal illness. In the last months we prayed especially that even though she had had over forty years of no medical aid whatsoever - she was never registered with a doctor in that time - that the Lord Jesus would reveal Himself to her in her mental turmoil and physical agony. Also, that she would in some way see that Christian Science had failed and that she must turn to only one Leader... the Lord Jesus Christ.
Suffering in Christian Science
The actual suffering endured because of Christian Science is rarely discussed. It is indescribable to the onlooker and the sufferer can endure total misery - probably being unable to vocalise his/her pain. What makes someone silently watch as his/her anatomy disintegrates/swells/aches unnaturally? What goes through the mind? Is he/she ever scared? Does he/she wish to talk to someone about it? How can the onlooker know what to expect - the progress of untreated diseases are rarely described. I will never know. All I can write here is what happened to us as a family and you will hopefully get the picture as to how radical reliance on Christian Science can be so dangerous.
Radical reliance on Christian Science for healing means that there is no compromise with one's beliefs, no turning back to old ways to seek medical help from a doctor, no admission to one's friends or family that something is wrong, no comfort from anyone - because no-one must know what is happening. If anyone knows, then one is open to all sorts of "worldly" thoughts and these natural, normal caring thoughts and words of comfort make a reality of the suffering and impede the healing by "giving it a reality". Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science writes in Science and Health on page 167 "Only through radical reliance on Truth can scientific healing power be realized". This is what my mother both wanted and needed - healing power. On page 448 Mary Baker Eddy writes, "If the student adheres strictly to the teachings of Christian Science and ventures not to break its rules, he cannot fail of success in healing". My mother tried exactly that and her silence became the only option as she struggled to heal herself of breast cancer.
What do you do when your breast must be hurting so much from the first stages of breast cancer? Should you keep it clean and with what? How do you hide the flickers of pain across your face? If anyone suspects, questions will be asked. Nobody must find out. All one must do is read and study Christian Science and then the healing will come. Christian Science "mental work" will effect the cure. However, everyday you feel more and more unwell. Why is the world so strange? Why don't people react the way you would think they would? Why won't the pain go away? Night times must be the worst to endure. What is happening to my body which Christian Science teaches is an illusion? Is it my fault that Christian Science isn't working yet? There must be more corrective mental work to be done. So little spare time for anything else, must realise a healing.... I presume these must be some of the thoughts in my mother's mind - somewhere.
As outsiders looking into my mother's life, we couldn't see too much happening. There was a visible weight loss, difficulty in comprehension and poor memory, which resulted in more and more reminder notes all around her home but one Saturday afternoon, January 2001, we received a desperate telephone call from my mother that changed our lives forever.
It became obvious that the overspill of suffering could no longer be hidden by my mother - she became hallucinatory. This was a huge shock for us, as self-control had always been my mother's mainstay. A few days later, she fell at home and exercised her rights of refusal to go to hospital. There she was, pitifully thin and obviously ill - but in her mind, her perception of the situation was that she was fine and we, along with the ambulance crew, were fussing over "nothing". No-one from the Christian Science Church offered any practical help when I telephoned them and asked for assistance, which I thought my mother would prefer and so Social Services entered the stage!
These good people must have wondered whatever was going on - relations worrying, malnourished mother refusing any assistance etc. Finally, a meal a day was accepted as being sensible and naturally, any other needs would be arranged by me - the only daughter!
How could I best help her? Having left Christian Science many years ago, I'd forgotten how difficult it was to talk and discuss practicalities with her! Indeed, my mother refused to talk about "negative things" as this would be admitting to the world that she had a problem.
Another serious fall later, when the ambulance crew insisted on taking her to hospital, and then discovering that she had a wound indicating breast cancer, I imagined that my mother would like to be cared for by her own kind. I set about finding a Christian Science "Nursing" Home (as they were once called, I believe they are known as care homes now). You may imagine my horror to find that this care was only palliative - no oxygen, no option for pain relief. (Indeed, I was told that the client would have to cry out aloud if they couldn't bear the pain anymore, before they would be bundled into an ambulance and taken to the local hospital). How distressing could that be for the patient, loaded with guilt and for the relations,too. Christian Science mental treatment from a Christian Science practitioner would cease the minute that medical care began. (Many years ago, I had been an assistant in a Christian Science care home - I had no idea of what the inmates were enduring - it never entered my head that they were suffering. I was shocked when I was permitted to meet a member of our local church who was being cared for in this home. I couldn't believe that she looked so ill and her husband so distressed. It was a brush with reality but as I was deeply immersed in Christian Science at that time, I denied to myself what I saw and went back to work below stairs.)
In my mother's case, her chosen Christian Science practitioner lived in the north of UK and never visited - she received letters and telephone calls but he had no idea of her actual plight. My mother, about this time, refused all medication - no tamoxifen, no pain relief - nothing.
My mother became very agitated at receiving local rest home care and had obviously heard enough to make her feel totally confused and stressed. To her way of thinking, all this diagnosis etc. had come about because of my calling an ambulance and so her hostility developed with great intensity. People offering her "pain relief" were quite nonsensical to her. What does pain relief mean to the totally ignorant? Does it mean a tablet? She had had no experience of medical care for forty-five years and was not even registered with a doctor. Current developments in the health care world had not reached her thinking or her world at all! She insisted on returning home - a first floor flat, with no easy access to the front door. Home, where the atmosphere was of her own making with no intrusions from "the enemy".
The local Christian Science nurse was asked to visit her but my mother wouldn't even allow this practical form of care for washing etc. Do not be confused, a Christian Science nurse is nothing like a State Registered nurse. The former would only undertake palliative care - their training is quite different.
At first, a regular routine appeared to be established. A lunch-time meal was delivered five days a week and we did the extra necessary shopping/paperwork etc. My mother's mental state gradually became more and more confused concerning anything appertaining to the outside world. However, if she felt that Christian Science was "telling her to do something", then she would raise super-human efforts to achieve what she perceived as needing to be done. Housework became more and more obsessional in content - even the carpet pile had to be straightened uniformly! All chores became tasks whereby she was preparing her home to high perfectionist standards. Items were positioned in exactly the right place. Christian Science literature, with marked articles to read, was placed everywhere around the home and we were forced to watch...and wait.
Every day for nearly one year, we would wake and wonder what nightmare that day would bring. My mother continued to develop into two personalities. There was the Christian Science- natured person who answered to one of her Christian names and the softer, gentler personality who could be reasoned with and who appeared to quite enjoy everyday things - radio, etc. who answered to her other Christian name.
One day, the local hospital telephoned me to express concern at one of the x-ray results taken when my mother was in hospital. It could be seen that there was a fracture to the cheekbone and would we please make an appointment at the hospital? When I telephoned my mother, I was fortunate to be speaking to her non Christian Science personality and she agreed that it would be sensible to make an appointment -which I did. One hour later, my mother's Christian Science personality had erupted into fury that I had even bothered her with this and she definitely was not attending hospital! This is but one example of the unpredictability of my mother's thinking, which we had to learn to live with.
Her behaviour became more bizarre and anti-social and it was painful for relations to witness this. We attempted to make what we assumed would be her last birthday, a most enjoyable one. However, it disintegrated into a nightmare, culminating in "losing her" in some public gardens/her refusal of family transport and insistence on going by bus - so frail, a fall was quite likely!/her refusal to eat as a family.
She must have felt she was progressively becoming more unwell but even this made no difference - just further venturing into "corrective"thinking. An emergency alarm around her neck was returned to me - despite the social worker stating that other Christian Scientists sometimes wore one. We were told by my mother that no-one was as good at Christian Science as she was! Physically, she looked emaciated,flushed,tired, walking was slow and painful and she was bent double. She walked shielding her right arm from being bumped and was in obvious discomfort. Her Christian Science practitioner spoke from time to time with her on the telephone and her only visitors were her family. I asked the nurse to cease visiting as we could not countenance an approx.Â£30 call out charge solely for her to enjoy a cup of tea at our expense. I realise that my mother wanted no-one caring for her physical needs and we felt the charge to be exorbitant.
One day, my daughter and I took my mother to the local post office and after she struggled out of the car in obvious discomfort, we agreed she would meet us in a few minutes. My daughter and I sat and waited for ages and then we thought we had better check how and where my mother was. Imagine our amazement to see her emerge after queueing in the post office and enter the pharmacy! She went in there and sat for ages, made a few purchases and sat down again. She had forgotten where she was and my daughter went to bring her back to the car.
Something happened that morning and my mother's perceptions on reality declined rapidly. When we parked outside her home, she did not recognise it but was persuaded to enter and she could see her own furniture, obviously.
From that day on, we endured many distressing telephone calls, day or night, from my mother - begging me to take her back to her home. She became obsessed that I had switched her home into another identical flat in another area. She would phone the police, local government offices, social services and the local Christian Science Church /Reading Room. I find it still painful to think about this episode, even 3 years on. She had no peace by this time, even in her own home.
One other unfortunate incident to be noted at this time was that as she was painfully walking home from a local walk, someone was watching her as an obvious victim. As she put her front door key in the lock, a young man pounced on her and pushed her into her hallway. Mercifully a next door neighbour saw what was happening and was able to chase him away and call the police. This experience was crushing to my mother and a cruel invasion of her idealised "spiritually perfect" world.
I have no faith in our British legal system as the man concerned is perceived by us to have "got away with it" entirely.
At the beginning of 2004, and this family having suffered huge stress and distress at the situation, the final act was beginning...
Every day I would wake up and wonder whether this would be the day when something, I had no idea what, would happen. I was totally stressed after trying to hold down full-time work, running my home, caring for my family and trying to keep life "normal" and yet being prepared for whatever the nightmare would bring me next. I knew something would happen.... I rang my mother, as usual and there was no answer. After a while, knowing how poorly she was, we went to her flat. No answer and upon entering, no mother!
We looked everywhere, knowing she could not have got far. After a frantic search of the area, we tried the local hospital on an off-chance. No result - where could such a sick person be?? And then it transpired that she had been admitted two minutes prior to midnight - logged as the previous day! To this day I have no idea how she got there - except it would appear that she arrived by taxi!! She thought someone had called a taxi for her - presumably as she was walking the streets in the middle of the night.
It became apparent that my mother had packed all the clothes she could carry and I believe she was desperate to leave her home which she still believed to be the wrong place. (She was convinced I had made a mistake). By this time she was convinced that there were many people living in her flat and I believe she had decided that living solely in the kitchen ,because the sitting room was "crowded with guests having a meal", was no longer an option. Thankfully, the hospital took her valuables when she was admitted - including a cheque signed and dated and made out to the Christian Science Church. Did she think they would do anything for her? Would money procure the healing??
This poor, sick woman lay on her bed in the ward and we believe she must have suffered some kind of breakdown - perhaps she realised she was not getting better. A consultant looked at her and then said to me that she may live about 3 months approx and how very sorry he was. His compassion comforted me as he said he knew what kind of a year we had suffered. At last the nightmare became manageable because now she was bed-ridden and had to receive care. I could calm down, knowing that someone could do something for her, at last.
My mother's last few months on this earth were awful - nursing her was not easy. We were distressed that she could not walk/move her legs properly.Our son, who had been abroad for his studies, returned to see, not his grandmother, but a physical wreck. We wept.