Every so often I wonder if I have a depressive personality, then I realize I am just vegan, and I go through the constant hurt of seeing how animals are exploited and killed everyday. Dr. Melanie Joy, author of Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, explains that the awakening we go through is similar to Secondary Traumatic Stress. As inspired as I am by amazing advocates like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, John Robbins, my teacher Sharon Gannon and my own vegan friends, there are days I would read about something horrible and I would just lose it. There are days I do not feel like being a joyful vegan, "being so radiant that others ask me why" as a fellow vegan put it. There are days I do not feel so compassionate or forgiving towards those who participate in the abuse. There are days I would read about a teenager putting her cat on a microwave or an old man beating his dog to death with a pipe, I would read about these atrocious stories at the brink of tears, and I have to pull myself together because I need to go teach a yoga class. There are days I just want to scream Fuck It. But I don't. I know the positive things to say to a depressed vegan. I've said those things myself. The world is awakening. People are changing. You were once asleep and you chose to wake up. Never lose hope. I wholeheartedly believe those to be true, but sometimes I want to sit in the full magnitude of my pain. Because this is how I am feeling. Because I still care. Because I really am not that detached. Because 95% of the time I am doing a pretty good job coping and assimilating in this omnivorous world. I brush off the thoughtless jokes because they are precisely that. Most people are thoughtless but not intentionally cruel. I do not say anything when people eat products of cruelty in front of me. Because even if it pains me, the timing is not right. 95% of the time I can represent veganism well. But 5% of the time I just want to feel that it is okay not to be so strong. There are just those days.
The pain that I feel when it gets too much is the price I pay for awakening to animal cruelty. Yes, it is true that my life pre-vegan did not give me the pain of others. (It was mostly my own pain). But I also did not have a strong sense of purpose. The intensity of my feelings emerged when I stopped becoming desensitized, when I stopped feeling empty. Even if it is just too much, I know that all I need to do is sit with it, observe it, let it go. It will pass.
Veganism has brought tremendous gifts to me. It gave me the opportunity to love animals the way I never thought I could. It gave me a sense of connection knowing that my actions matter. It gave me my life's purpose and my life's vocation. It gave me my community, my tribe, the family I chose according to shared values and the same way of seeing the world. It gave me the chance to meet the kindest people in the world with the biggest hearts and they are lifelong friends.
So yes, there are days when it gets to be too much. But it is temporary. I will feel better. The anger will subside. Before I know it, I will be having great vegan food with great vegan friends. And those temporary negative emotions are a small price to pay in exchange for the sense of peace and purpose I have, with the company of vibrant souls walking this journey with me.
To every animal rights activist in the world, remember this: "The world is awakening. People are changing. You were once asleep and you chose to wake up. Never lose hope." These words are not only reassuring, they are also true. Keep love and compassion alive in your heart. We will win this fight for the animals.