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Is Anxiety Affecting your Veganism? I’ve Been There Too.

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Anxiety is a condition affecting millions of children and adults in North America alone. As an individual living with mixed diagnoses of my own, anxiety being one of my most intense, I found that my own experiences with mental health served as my most intense challenge before fully leaping into the vegan lifestyle after I left college. I knew it was delicious and easy; I had two passionately vegan roommates who communicated ethical veganism with great clarity and appealed to my tastebuds in the kitchen. But I felt limited in my choices by my own large, dark, overshadowing questions that in reality, had some far simpler answers. Initially, it was difficult to deal with anxiety and be vegan as well, but Yours Nutrition really helped me to cope and the more research I did into it, the more solutions I found to try and manage this as easily as possible. I never knew that products such as full spectrum extract existed, but I am glad that I know now, as dealing with anxiety doesn’t have to be as intense as it used to be.

It always boiled down to anxiety and fear of failure. That was the problem I faced for four years as a vegetarian, well aware of the atrocities committed by the egg and dairy industries, as well as wool and animal captivity and the endless amounts of terror that exist outside of the slaughterhouse. I carried the weight of sadness and cruelty with me, yet I did not feel I was brave enough to make the change that would ultimately free me. I found myself thinking I was too weak to do it, and the shame that comes with anxiety held me back from moving forward. I was afraid of what might happen if I did something wrong or made a mistake, and so I didn’t think it was a risk worth taking for the good of my mental health. Oh, and how wrong I was! My friend told me that they dealt with something similar and decided to turn to marijuana to gain some perspective on the anxiety, acquiring their marijuana through an online dispensary canada.

Mind you, I don’t like using mental illness as an excuse. It’s not an excuse, per se, as it doesn’t negate the fact that I contributed greatly to unjust acts as a consumer during those times as any other non-vegan does, but it was a challenge. It was painful, and I hope that others who find themselves limited by their own mental illness can read what I have to say and think, “I can do this, too! I am powerful and strong and kinder than the world will allow me to believe, and I can absolutely do this.”

I don’t think my situation was really all that unique. I don’t think that it would be unfair for me to say that there is a wealth of potential vegans who think that their minds are limiting them and holding them back from making a choice that they very much would like to make. The biggest question that I had myself, and that I hear from others in the same situation? What if I mess up?

Well, what if? What happens when, after two months of you kicking off your vegan lifestyle, you succumb in a moment of short-sightedness? Is accidentally eating a bit of dairy cheese going to kick you off into some kind of frenzy, where you’re in the fridge and taking on your roommate’s entire block of gouda while falling into some kind of dairy stupor? No. Probably not, unless you have a history of binge eating, in which case, I suppose it’s a possibility. And even if you do eat the whole block of gouda, or the dairy bite wasn’t out of accident, but out of curiosity, what then? Well, you’ve fucked up. It’s happened to people before and it’ll happen again. The time you spend feeling guilty and upset and in pain is better used picking yourself back up and getting back on track. You’re not suddenly “not a vegan” according to the vegan police, you’re human and you’re strong enough to move past it – I promise. It doesn’t negate the hard work you’ve been putting in, so long as you take the measures necessary to move past it and take preventative measures.

How can we prevent ourselves from those flubs in our convictions that might send us into a mental tizzy? I’ll always suggest having a snack or meal-making ingredients on hand when visiting other folk’s houses for long stretches, especially around the holidays. Families can be difficult, and are probably the first line of offense against keeping up your vegan preference for a whole host of reasons. Once upon a time, I thought keeping my veganism on the down-low from my family was a fantastic idea to keep the holiday peace, but it just resulted in me feeling hungry and miserable. Instead, my mom and I have great fun exchanging recipes, and she’s an even better vegan baker than I am! I know when I head home, there’s going to be fun to be had in the kitchen, and I feel zero temptation from the non vegan snacks in my parent’s pantries. I’m exceptionally lucky to also have an extended family who is always excited to accomodate (my cousin makes a mean vegan eggplant parm, and my aunt stocks up on my very own snacking supply when I visit). But I know that isn’t the reality for lots of people. Offer to bring a dish yourself, or better yet, do as I do and challenge your meat-eating uncle to a cook-off.

Being out in public can also feel overwhelming at first, so familiarize yourself with the restaurants in your area with excellent vegan options, and keep a small snack with you to keep your head clear and your blood sugar happy. These aren’t bad tips for mentally abled folks either!

I found that veganism has become a source of strength for me as I move through life as a young woman fighting mental illness. It’s been a great way for me to examine the suffering in the world, and instead of feeling overpowered by it and helpless, it makes me feel so good knowing that I can actually do something to help right these wrongs. As a person who knows suffering well, I very badly wanted a way to help alleviate the suffering of others, and veganism has been the biggest tool in my mental-health toolbox.
Lauren-Elizabeth McGrath is currently working on her first book, Sick Vegan, an exploration of mental illness while staying strong with the ethical vegan lifestyle.

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