It crept up on me slowly. Being vegetarian from the time I was 13, and vegan at 40, I was used to being different. And I was OK with it. Proud actually. I was living my life, and what others did was their business. I was a happy herbivore!
And then the creep started happening. I decided to educate myself more about animal agriculture, become an activist, maybe even write a book to help others go vegan. All good stuff, right?
But the more I became immersed, watching and reading everything I could get my hands on, the more horrified I became. I felt compelled to scream from the rooftops, telling everyone about the horrors I had uncovered. Surely if they only knew how cruel the meat and dairy industry were, they would go vegan overnight!
Well, that didn’t happen. And I started feeling that if animals were the victims, which they are, then people who ate them were the perpetrators.
I oscillated between being angry at the world and feeling deeply sad for the animals who were suffering and dying. I was desperate to try to help them all.
But how does one person help a hundred billion animals? I was panicked yet paralyzed at the same time. And I increasingly felt alone in a painful world. My desperation turned to helplessness and hopelessness. This is despair.
I was at the bottom of a dark pit, and I needed to climb out—for my own sake, for the relationships in my life, and for the animals who needed me.
I tried lots of things—reading books about vegan despair, counselling with a vegan therapist, meditation, talking to others who “get” me, working on acceptance.
And it’s helping. But it’s a daily effort. I will always feel sad for the animals who suffer, and challenged by living as a vegan in a non-vegan world. But I now have tools in my vegan despair toolkit. I use them every day.
I’m still an activist, but now it looks different. Rather than screaming from the rooftops, I try to be an example of love and compassion. Rather than criticizing the world, I try to show people how easy it is to eat plant-based. My loving actions are my new activism.
If despair is something you deal with, please get the support and help you need—for your own health and well-being, and for the animals who need us to be strong and active on their behalf. Here are some suggestions that helped me:
- Read Beyond Beliefs by Dr. Melanie Joy. This book saved me.
- Avoid over-exposing yourself to images and information that trigger despair.
- Seek out a vegan therapist who truly understands your unique situation.
- Practice self-compassion. Accept yourself as one person doing your best. Love yourself more, and you will love others more.
- Work on your relationships by being open and honest about your struggles, rather than trying to change the people in your life.
- Work on acceptance of others wherever they are on their journey. See yourself as a leader, teacher and an example, rather than a judge.
- Practice meditation, which helps you observe, accept and release your feelings.
- Seek out positive experiences, like spending time with animals, making amazing vegan meals for your family, and joining a vegan community group.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself, and remember that we all deserve compassion: the animals, the people in our life, and certainly ourselves.
Carol Miller is a proud Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. She spends her time balancing many passions, including writing TV commercials for charities, enthusiastically helping people go and stay vegan, preparing delicious plant-based meals, and studying vegan nutrition. Carol lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and their rescue dog, Mandy. She can be found on Instagram and reached by email.