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Dealing with the sadness and frustration of being a vegan

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Last weekend, I met a brand new vegan who had just made one of the biggest changes of his entire life only weeks before we stumbled across one another. The relief he felt was written all over his face, and it became clear to me that perhaps this man had never met another vegan in the flesh, at least within the context of being a vegan himself. After making small talk about some of our favorite places to grab a bite and eat out in DC, he brought up a much heavier topic, one that activists of all kinds need to consider for our own well being and the well being of our chosen movements.

“I can’t get past the sadness,” he told me, “It’s overwhelming sometimes. I feel like I’m being consumed by it, and it doesn’t help that reminders are absolutely everywhere – in eateries, in what my housemates cook, and on television. I feel powerless and sad almost constantly, and I don’t know how to get away with it.” What he described is a feeling I know all too well, and I’m sure many readers have experienced. It’s not a problem that just disappears for many of us, and a conscious effort has to be made to keep our happiness in check. What’s worked for myself and countless activists in the past may also work for you, too, and make your animal activism a movement born out of confidence.

Remember, you’re on the right side of history.

This is the big one, folks. It’s painful watching television ads about Arby’s “having the meats” and watching the hypocrisy all around you, but I strongly believe we are heading towards a vegan future if our activism continues to be built on education and grassroots efforts. Even if we don’t see a mass majority of veganism in our own lifetime, the seeds we plant today will be what brings veganism to the forefront in the future. How peculiar will it be hundreds of years from now when we make it into textbooks?! In our culture, we don’t look behind us in history and praise suffering and death.

Network, network, network!

Support groups aren’t just for people with illnesses! If you live in an area with a low vegan population, simply hopping on Facebook or researching online forums brings a lot of comfort. Meeting vegans from all over the world can be encouraging, and better yet, might give you some eventual vacation ideas. Many groups are tailored to sharing recipes, chatting about the stressors of vegan life, and debating the work of theorists and vegan journalists in a (hopefully) civilized manner. Personally, it’s my favorite way to cheer up, and having friends all over the United States and beyond is exciting. Venting about the day to day to sympathetic ears is therapeutic, and the suggestions as to how to deal with social situations, mental health, and effective activism flow freely. Follow some humorous vegans like Vegan Sidekick who are both super funny, and excellent with their arguments!

Engage in self care and give yourself breaks.

As hard as it may be, take some time every day to do something that doesn’t revolve around thinking about veganism, like picking up a light novel instead of going right for the heavy theory book that you’ve been pouring over. Call your mom and chat about whatever crazy antics the family has been getting into lately! Hell, weave some friendship bracelets, pour a glass of wine, and call it a day. Activism is hard heart-work, and sometimes puts us in a position where we can’t break away from it, and this is to our detriment as individuals and as a movement. Take a breather, and re-engage the next day with a clear head and a rested mind.

It’s gonna be okay- better than okay! Vegan restaurants are popping up all over the place every single day. The number of vegans in the world can only go up from here, and what was once a niche movement has taken over, as 2016 has been declared #yearofthevegan. Keep fighting the good fight.

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  • phoenixrising

    I cannot tell you how much this helped me. Currently, I am not a vegan (I’ve been phasing out all animal products slowly in the last year or so, and would technically be classified as a lacto-vegetarian), and despite wanting to make the switch I kept holding back. I was scared of what it would do to my social life, as people already treat me weird just being a vegetarian and I don’t know any vegans in my city. My family doesn’t really know how to accommodate my vegetarianism, let alone veganism. But this article is so empowering, and for the first time in my life I feel like I can actually do this. So, thank you!

    • Alisha Maxwell

      I know how you feel about being “weird enough.” I’ve been vegetarian for 3 years now. I have a 3 year old and 1 year old, both little vegetarians too… But the criticisms Ive faced with not raising little meat eaters, the comments from well meaning damily and friends, the pressures to keep dairy in our diets when dairy is THE reason why I’m pushing for veganism is just so overwhelming.

      I’m able to make many other changes in the products I/We use ie: not purchasing items made from wool, leathers, silk, buying second hand. I talk about reducing plastics and living less of a disposable life… I don’t know that it’s making a difference, but it does make me feel a little less sad that my little family hasn’t eliminated all non human dairy yet.

      *if anyone knows of a kid friendly alternative to yogurt? we already do frozen bananas with a blender.

    • vegan truth seeker

      been there, done that… 🙂
      although I became a vegetarian literally overnight… and then gradually became a vegan.

      There was even a time when I hid the fact I was a vegetarian because I constantly had to justify my choice as if it was something to be ashamed of or as if I was doing something wrong…

      those times are gone 🙂

      Presently I’m a proud and loud ethical vegan and have a ‘tough skin’ now and so I pity the person who dares to defy or question my lifestyle 🙂

      We’re doing the right thing contrary to animal abusers!
      Think of us as those who don’t smoke in a crowd where everyone is smoking and pointing their fingers at us as if we were the ones doing the wrong thing!

      I suggest you watch the following documentaries:
      – ‘earthlings’ (available on you tube);
      – cowspiracy.

      I recommend you go to you tube and watch:
      – gary, the best vegan speech ever;
      – 101 reasons to go vegan;
      – erin janus veganism (an activist exposing the animal industry).

      Show these documentaries and videos to your family and friends and I promise that if they don’t go vegan at least they’ll stop bothering you and start respecting your choice; and if they don’t, stop wasting your time with them… not everyone is supposed to stay in our life and that’s perfectly okay…

      Surround yourself with people who support you and respect your choices…

      and be damn proud to be in the path to become an ethical vegan :))

  • Jimmyc

    If going vegan brings you down, may I suggest the serenity prayer; change the things I can, accept the things I can’t, and be wise enough to know the difference. Remember, even one small step toward vegan is a POSITIVE action. Any push back from friends or relatives can be parried by smiling and saying “animals are nice, and should not be harmed”. Then walk away. Good luck.

    • soliel67

      That is brilliant. That last statement. Just perfect. Serenity prayer, too.

  • Susanne

    Thank you! This is very helpful and comforting.

  • Daniel Martín

    Thank you, Lauren.

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