How Veganism Cured My Thoughts
I used to be plagued by negative self-talk, and, for the majority of my life, I assumed that it was because of mental illness. I took every opportunity possible to bash myself with my thoughts and tear my self-esteem down, causing violent depression and anxiety. I came across veganism for the first time when I was 18 years old, through a documentary called Earthlings. If you’re interested in watching this movie I highly recommend it, just be aware that there are depictions of violence and abuse. It is difficult to get through without pausing, reflecting, and releasing emotions. It can be viewed online for free at this link: http://www.nationearth.com.
Once I was faced with the truth of what was actually going on to the farm animals on this planet, I knew I had to make a change. Converting to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is one of the single most effective things you can do—veganism is direct action!
It was challenging at first, since I wasn’t financially independent and lived on campus, so I had to work with what was available to me. I started first by eliminating meat from my diet, which proved simple enough, though was a lot to adjust to. I didn’t understand nutrition on a holistic level, so cutting my main source of protein left me feeling tired. I didn’t yet understand that it’s helpful to replace the animal-based sources of protein with plant-based sources (nuts, seeds, grains, beans). Plus, I didn’t incorporate a lot of vegetables or fruits in my diet, so overall, I ended up eating mostly bread, cheese, eggs, and some veggies here and there. Not the best! I struggled for a few years, learning a new taste pallet and habits. I went through a lot of frozen meals and potato chips, transforming into a rather unhealthy vegan.
It wasn’t until I was about 21 that I began to learn more about organics, and the importance of fresh, healthy foods. Unless you go to a health-food market, it’s nearly impossible to get on track with a vegan/organic lifestyle—not to say this isn’t impossible, it’s just so much easier when there is food created and marketed towards your needs.
At 21, I was financially independent. I lived by myself in an apartment in Washington, DC and had a pretty good income from working at a dog daycare, so I chose to invest in my health. I ended up spending a lot of money of food! This, coupled with what I mentioned about health food stores, is a large reason why veganism seems inaccessible. Though, I believe, it’s the responsibility of people who can by these foods to continue to stimulate that market, so hopefully the prices become more accessible over time.
The US government is currently subsidizing unhealthy, processed, and chemical-laded foods making them the affordable options. The FDA and the government are in each other’s back pockets—the food industry is a big source of money and control. You can’t trust the government to help with this, you have to make better choices to the best of your ability until things change, and they are changing! This is so evident today as you walk through any grocery store and see aisles peppered with almond milk, tofu, and organic foods. We as consumers have the power.
Back to my story; I am 21 and dabbling in health foods. I started to discover what my body liked, what made it feel good, and what robbed it of energy. I ate a lot of tofu, kale, and portabella mushrooms. I stayed pretty clean, except there was one product I just couldn’t seem to kick: cheese. After a long, emotional, and sometimes chaotic day, it seemed that I compulsively would order a pizza even if I morally didn’t want to. Perhaps it was a guilt-tripping or self-harm tool, who knows. At the time, I felt like I had no option, or my body would just keep telling me it wanted it and I wouldn’t be able to sleep.
I would devour an entire pizza, feel sick and disgusted with myself, and finally be able to pass out. After lots of cycles of doing this ritual at the end of the day (making myself ill with animal products), I did a little more research, and found that cheese is actually addictive.
There are chemicals present in cheese that give us a comforting, pain-killing high—this is so that the baby cow feels good and feels encouraged to keep drinking it and learns how to nurse. Cow’s milk is meant for baby cows, that’s what nature intended. Eventually, the calf is weened, and learns to develop an adult diet. There is no other species on Earth that drinks the milk of another species, or drinks it after adulthood.
In my opinion, dairy is not in alignment with health, or the planet (especially at such a massive, industrialized scale). In fact, animal agriculture is the #1 worst influence on the environment (more than all cars combined), and while I don’t know the exact ranking, it has an incredibly negative impact on our health and wellbeing in terms of obesity and disease. While it may have been a part of our evolutionary history, we have enough intelligence and plant-based foods available to view it objectively and make our own decisions.
One of the toughest parts about being vegan for me is constantly battling against society. There simply aren’t options for me at most restaurants, and it makes socializing and get-togethers more challenging. At this point, most people are now addicted to cow’s milk, in whatever form it comes. They use it for emotional comfort, and when taken away, it is almost like withdrawal. If you have trouble giving cheese up, know that it’s going to be a cleansing process, and there will be times where you feel straight-up awful until your body rewires itself neuro-chemically.
Once I learned all this, I did more research on the poor lives that dairy cows live. I was motivated to really make a commitment to changing my lifestyle. It wasn’t easy—no one in my life was vegan, and my family thought I was crazy. I didn’t have much support.
I started to feel better than I had in my entire life. There were energies I was tapping into that I had never experience before. Spiritually, I had been studying energy healing, and noticed how it was so much easier to channel positive energy through my body when I went through the day on a plant-based diet. I felt so clear and connected to the source, like I had been buried under my diet all those years and could finally see the light and experience a more raw, vulnerable happiness.
This went on for a few years. I made a few mistakes here and there, though I honestly kept it 95% vegan for the next 2 years. I was growing, learning, and healing on top of all this, and it all flowed together so I didn’t necessarily see how much it was affecting me until I fell off the wagon at 23.
At 23, I was tired of living in the city. It was taking a huge toll on my soul and sanity. I went through several life changes. I had moved, given up my job, my DC friends and lifestyle, and everything I knew. I was following my heart though I felt incredibly lost and ungrounded. I went where I had friends who would let me stay with them while I figured things out.
I was so stressed that I completely dropped my care and passion for veganism, and ate whatever I wanted.
Quickly, I began to feel incredibly sick, and disgusted with myself. I hated myself—something I hadn’t felt in years. Deep, deep anger and pain were now infused into my body. I thought it was just the frustrations I was experiencing with not being able to find a new job or being confused about the direction I was heading.
I eventually reached out, and was able to move in with my family. Growing up, my grandmother would cook me mashed potatoes, eggs, lamb chops—the works. I knew it was going to be difficult to integrate into this environment, with all the emotional memories, plus I wouldn’t be financially independent upon arrival as I still needed to find a new job. So, I ended up adapting to the diet they were on, and man was I depressed!
I realized I needed to get back to my normal lifestyle, so asked for help getting the groceries I needed. Immediately I felt better. After a few months of being on my regular diet again, it was still incredibly difficult and tempting to be surrounded by animal products while in a vulnerable space (especially when it is being offered to me). One night, after a particular challenging day, I decided to make myself a plate of sharp cheddar and crackers with a glass of milk (comfort foods from my earlier years).
After eating the animal products, I remember sitting down and hearing all the thoughts in my head, “You’re disgusting,” “You’re fat and ugly,” “You’re a terrible human being, you should just kill yourself,” etc. while also feeling emotionally and physically terrible.
These are thoughts that I hadn’t head in years, after so much self-love work and metacognition. I made the connection that, all this time, when I thought I had a mental illness, I was actually just suffering from consuming animal products.
It affected my biochemistry so strongly that my thoughts actually changed entirely, and I had thought it was me! Buddhists believe that by consuming meat, you are consuming all of the anger, pain, and trauma that the animal went through and putting it into your own energy field. This really resonated with me, knowing the condition and abuse that animals raised for meat, milk, and eggs are put through—all of that karma goes straight into the “food,” and is consumed. It’s then no surprise why there is rampant emotional instability and health problems in the US.
After this experience, I have been 99% vegan (besides a few times unintentionally) for the last year. I'm now 24 years old, I love my health and my vegan life-style, I feel good, and most importantly, I love myself.