Changing your lifestyle to be more inclusive to all other individuals you share this planet with, will sometimes make you stressed and depressed.
You cannot expect to learn about how mother cows are separated from their babies right after giving birth and move on with your life like everything is the same.
Once you hear pigs screaming as they watch their friends being stabbed right in front of their eyes, you cannot go back. You can only go forward.
If you fear how going vegan will affect your mental health, worry not as I know what steps you can take to minimize the chances of (additional) depression and sadness.
You see, 6 years ago when I decided to go vegan I was suffering from clinical depression. I was highly suicidal and self-harm was a part of my daily to-do list. It was really hard to now learn about the horrors from death facilities that I was keeping alive.
For two years I was angry at the whole world. I saw people as bad and there just wasn’t any joy in me. Everything I did during my days was to help other animals, and if I was having too much fun, I had to step back and remind myself that I am not here to be entertained but to rescue others.
That is not the way to live a life, trust me.
After countless nights when I would cry myself to sleep, thinking of all the babies who are currently being slaughtered so that a human can eat their corpse, I forced myself to change. I promised to put myself first and to upgrade my approach to activism.
Not only I became more peaceful after that decision but I became a better vegan advocate.
You see, I always say that you can’t help anyone if you are dead. This is very obvious but so many of you forget that.
Listen, other individuals will be killed whether you personally are suffering or not, so why not choose to be your best self when advocating for their rights?
Wouldn’t it be better and healthier if you showed up with a peaceful mind and a healthy heart? Wouldn’t people be more drawn to the vegan lifestyle if they knew you can be joyful and happy even when you are living differently than the majority of humans on the planet?
I stand behind my opinion that we are a priority before anyone else and this belief only makes me a better activist.
Here is how to take care of your mental health when you go vegan:
- Practice putting your needs before those of others.
Are you getting enough sleep? How often do you move your body in a way that brings you pleasure? Do you practice meditation and mindfulness?
Only when we are healthy and feeling good in our skin and in our mind can we be bulletproof to those who will try and attack us for eating plant-based. I have seen many people break under pressure from other humans who force their unethical way of eating on those who are not strong enough to continue being vegan.
Some vegans need more support than others and having a strong self-care routine (that you adore) is a way of making your skin a bit thicker.
- Find professional help if needed.
If we continue talking about mental health, I want to encourage each and every single one of you to seek professional help if you feel you need one.
I have never been ashamed of talking about how at 18 I first sought psychiatric help and got on antidepressants. I then fell into the whole anti-medicine movement that is a natural step for someone who is a New Ager but got pulled out of it in 2017 when I stopped having faith.
In late 2018 I found my current psychiatrist, started going to therapy and went on a journey to find the right medicine for my condition. I did that because I have been dealing with different mental illnesses my whole life and I know I am not at my best if I am neglecting myself.
I don’t want to believe that if my mental health gets worse I will go back to eating pigs and fish, but many people have done that. Some have been pushed so far into their pain that nothing matters anymore, not even the values they previously held.
I take mental health very, very seriously.
Do not be ashamed of going to therapy, having a psychiatrist, taking pills or even getting hospitalized. It takes courage and bravery to seek help when it would be so much easier to just pretend you are fine and risk losing your life in that one moment of impulsivity when pain strikes even harder.
- Set boundaries with those around you.
We would all like to believe that our families are not like other families, but we are all so fucking similar.
It is very likely that you will lose people who are important to you by going vegan and simply holding a mirror that exposes what they still continue to fund. Maybe you will be lucky, but maybe you won’t.
My father went vegan soon after I did but my best friend of 20 years couldn’t bear the new me and we parted ways. I was able to look past her homophobia but she couldn’t look past me not wanting to eat the cake she baked because it wasn’t vegan. I’m still figuring out which one of us was more fucked up.
You must take a stand for what you know is the right thing to do and not allow others to bully or shame you.
Sit your friends and family down, explain why this change is important to you and ask them for respect. Explain that you are open to questions, but that you will not debate them or allow any hateful attitude simply for eating plants.
If you don’t make it clear that you’re not here for their jokes and bullying, they will be more likely to treat you differently. But if you set boundaries, you are holding the strings in your hands. Plus, if they turn out to be assholes, you have every right to leave the room, ignore them and/or not engage in any conversations – even if it is not about food.
We are talking about your values here. Honor them and honor yourself.
One thing that I found to be very disturbing among some vegan influencers who are known for their activism, is how they belittle those of us who talk about self-care.
It speaks volumes about a person once they declare that anyone who is prioritizing their mental health is not vegan enough or doesn’t care about animals in slaughterhouses. I immediately unfollow them as it is clear to me that they have no idea how it feels to live with a mental illness.
If they did, they would be aware of the pain and wouldn’t think little of those who struggle.
But as much as I talk about how to take care of your mental health when you go vegan, I don’t see suffering from an illness as an obstacle.
You can go vegan even if you are not completely healthy, you just do it more mindfully and slowly. Just think of how your illness is not an issue when it comes to seeing people of other race or gender as equal to you. If you can do that, you can also go vegan.