Anxiety · Legalism

The Postpartum Legalist: Part 1

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 2 Corinthians 10:4

To read about my experience in walking away from legalism, read here.

It always started with a sick feeling in my stomach. Kind of the same nervous way you would feel on the first day of school. It would rise into my throat and I would struggle to swallow.

“Mom, I think I’m going to throw up!”

She’d calmly tell me that feelings aren’t facts. I wasn’t likely to throw up even if I felt like it.

“Think of eating the biggest piece of pizza,” she’d say.

“Cake? Cookies? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

Every time this happened, we would name a list of food. If I still had an appetite, I was less likely to truly be sick. This always brought a calming assurance and got me grounded in reality. I wasn’t going to throw up. It was just a panic attack.

Looking back, I realize I have been having them from a young age. And yes, a lot of them revolved around the fear of throwing up. I remember a small period of time in kindergarten when I would refuse to swallow my food in fear of it coming back up. Every time another kid in class threw up, I complained of chest pains.

It always revolved around puking.

Amazingly enough, I’m the hair holding, puke cleaner upper in our house. I have a stomach of steel and very few things make me sick.

Even as a young adult, I would sit in church services and check for the nearest exit just in case.

I don’t have stomach issues. I don’t have any strange food allergy that makes me nauseous. Goodness, I only had mild morning sickness during pregnancy!

But even as a young adult, I was still obsessed with this fear of puking.

Anxiety takes those normal fears and amplifies them by a thousand. It clutches tightly to them, making it feel impossible to remove oneself from them.

Once our home got hit with the stomach virus of 2011 (which we dubbed “the plague”), I got over my fear. As silly as it sounds, it was quite a victory! I praised God for it! I figured I had the anxiety thing all figured out. I was saved, living for Jesus and right with God – I guessed that I probably wouldn’t struggle with it any more. I knew that feelings weren’t facts. I knew enough Bible to calm me on a bad day. I was so strong that I believed mental illness was more often than not a sin issue, not a physical one.

There wasn’t much grace for me to give to people who struggled with mental illness. My own parents both struggle and for years, I thought they just didn’t want to deal with life. I did not understand what they had gone through. When other people would share their experiences, I’d roll my eyes and think, “well, maybe if you got right with God or trusted Him more, you wouldn’t have that problem.”

Or, I’d do them a solid and question their salvation for them.

Clearly, I had some lessons to learn.

This begins the series of my journey with the worst anxiety I have ever dealt with in my life. I thought I understood anxiety and how to cope with my strange emetophobic obsession. However, time would pass and my third baby would be born, bringing in fun hormones and all my notions into question.

Combined with my own spiritual immaturity and ignorance, my days turned into a horror show. I was walking in terror with my worst companion: the anxious thoughts which consumed me.

I was afraid of living. I was afraid of dying. I was afraid of moving some days.

Sadly, I was even afraid of God.

The same thing I had said about others who struggled with mental illness was the same merciless garbage I preached to myself.
You must not be right with God. Maybe you’re not really even saved. People who are right with God don’t deal with this.

It was the scariest place I have been in a long time, but I believe it was Holy Spirit ordained. There were some truths I needed to see, things I needed to understand. This experience pushed me to seek Truth and demand answers, to go boldly to the throne of grace with my fear. Jesus held me tightly through each step and each blow that hit emotionally. He reassured me that I was His with each panic attack as I’d calm down, remembering the moment I first called on His name.

All of this had been building in me for quite some time, as I do believe it’s just in my DNA to be anxious. (As I shared, it’s kind of a family trait!) I was also developing a lot of beliefs about God that were shallow, small, and simplistic. I was quite ignorant of the Word of God, though I would’ve proudly argued otherwise.

Quite simply, this story begins after I delivered our third baby. This was my story as a postpartum legalist.

Bad mix.

Continue reading here.

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