Hey. Let me tell you a story of why and how I become a vegetarian and why I had to stop because of my mental health problems.
Since I was a little kid I was never really a big fan of meat.
My parents had to force me to eat it and I still eat only chicken meat. I am very grateful they did this as I got the usual portion of nutrients a kid needs.
I’m strongly against vegetarians or vegans parents pushing their beliefs on their children.
Of course, you can argue that it is the same as what all of the other non-vegetarian parents do – pushing their meat-eating habits onto their children – but c’mon.
As a parent you shouldn’t deprive your kid of anything there is that the food industry offers. It is everyone’s own business. But let them choose when they are old enough to understand the decision they’re making.
As I was growing up I was more and more aware of the meat taste and how I don’t like how it makes me feel. I always described it as a “I’m not in a mood for meat“.
There was a day I would eat chicken without a blink and then there was a day when I would stare at the piece of chicken and dissect it in small particles until I would find some vein, blood, or tendon and I would refuse to eat it all together.
Pork, beef, or any other type of meat was never an option for me – not unless I was aware of it. Sometimes my parents would tell me that the meat is chicken so I would at least give it a shot.
Tricky but this tactic would not end successfully most of the time.
My parents would always get upset with how picky I am but after some time they got used to it and didn’t try to fight it anymore.
In my 15 I started high school far away from home and I lived in a girls dormitory. There was no vegetarian food option in the dorms’ canteen – well to be fair there was no option at all we got one food and you eat it or you’re hungry.
It was easy for me to ask them not to serve meat on my plate and instead they would always give me more potatoes, rice, or vegetable instead.
What was the biggest struggle for me was the reactions I received.
It was aways always the same. If someone noticed I don’t eat meat they would ask “are you a vegetarian?” in such an obnoxious way I immediately felt small and felt the need to defend myself like I was doing something wrong.
I would answer “no I just don’t like meat” in a small voice.
Response would be well-known phases I’m sure all of you who practice some sort of diet such as ” I can’t imagine that” “wow I can’t imagine my life without meat” “really? not even a chicken?” and many other bullshit.
After such a pleasant conversation, I always ended up questioning myself as to why I can’t force myself to eat that piece of meat and what the hell was wrong with me.
I didn’t like talking about my meal habits at all as I always came across the same negative reaction.
Vegetarian was like a dirty word, something I shouldn’t want to be associated with.
Until my breaking point. Again I was always leaning toward vegetarianism but I was never really pushed by the line to actually call myself that until one day.
I always helped out in the kitchen.
One day I was making chicken soup and as I was holding the small body, chicken ribs in the palm of my hand and all I could think of was how it feels exactly the same when I’m holding my dog in my hands.
I have a Maltese dog. Very small and cutest ever and the size of his ribs are the same as the ribs of the dead chicken I was about to boil in hot water and eat.
I suddenly become very nauseous and I knew I won’t eat the soup. I couldn’t even taste it for seasoning. I was sick even thinking about it. From that moment I just couldn’t put any piece of meat in my mouth.
I accepted the fact that I don’t like meat and I shouldn’t feel bad about my preferences.
I was finally 100% confident in calling myself vegetarian and answering the silly questions with higher confidence than ever. I didn’t like the taste.
I didn’t like the preparation of dead animal parts in my hands – so what?
I made this decision of skipping meat completely at my 17- almost 18 years.
It got much easier when I moved to the Czech republic and start living at a new university dormitory. Part of our dorm is canteen and they always offer 6+ meals to choose from and aways 1-2 meals are vegetarian.
I suddenly didn’t feel like such an outsider anymore. I got to meet many other people who were vegetarians or vegans and it made me feel more ” normal” than when I was in high school.
People at uni didn’t find it as strange and were more understanding.
I practiced my vegetarianism for 3-4 years until I was 21. My crucial moment was one horrible night that changed everything for me.
I’ll try to explain what went on with me and my health problems as shortest a possible but there are still a few things I just need to say and are important to my story as a vegetarian. I want you to understand why I chose to eat meat once again and that vegetarianism is not for me anymore.
There is also a very personal subject of my mental health in the next paragraphs.
Contains many trigger warnings and it’s probably the most personal segment I’ll ever write.
I woke up one-night feeling strong chest pain. I couldn’t breathe. I was all alone in my room and I was petrified with fear I’ll die at that moment.
It was seriously the worst night of my life and I kept reliving it every day after that.
Few minutes passed by and I was finally able to breathe but the chest pain didn’t go away.
Actually, it didn’t go away for the next 6 months.
I was in pain ever since.
My chest hurt with every breath I took. I couldn’t lie down. I couldn’t sleep as these pain attacks kept repeating every night.
I was strongly sleep deprived as I spend most of my nights wild awake focusing on my breathing. I kept trying to fall asleep sitting straight as I couldn’t lie down because the pain would increase.
I visited several emergencies and doctors. I took many strong painkillers. Took a lot of medical tests but all of the results were the same.
There was nothing wrong with me except I was not ok.
I stopped eating. Communicating. I couldn’t visit school anymore as I was hyperventilating most of the time of the day and couldn’t breathe at all during the night. I was crying literally all the time as a way to release at least a bit of the pain and frustration from the situation I was stuck in. I keep fainting randomly and no one knew how to help me.
The worst part was that almost no one from my close friends or family believed my problems.
I felt so guilty for asking for help so many times.
I felt like I’m bothering everyone with my crying but I just couldn’t stop it. I tried not to talk about any of it. No one believed me anyway.
I was all alone and I was losing my mind. I was going crazy.
I took 2 rehabilitation as they assumed my problem was called Tietze syndrome – meaning basically that my ribs were damaged and were causing me pain when breathing or moving.
I took messages, radiotherapy, laser therapy, electro therapy but none of this helped so I tried many other alternative forms of treatment. I visited several therapists. I tried healing through chakras. Meditation. Swimming. Yoga. Creams and herbs. Sleeping tea. Hugging trees.
Unfortunately with no positive result.
With every failed treatment I felt even worse and friends and family gave up on me completely.
I swear to God every “get over it” “it’s all in your head” “don’t think about it” “you just have to fight it” “some people have it worse than you” crap shorten my life in half.
I was very weak.
This went on from the end of January till august when I finally got the help I so desperately needed.
7 months without proper sleep, food, on painkillers, and in constant misery.
This was the worst time of my life and it was the time I decided to eat meat again. Again I was very weak – most movement I was able to do was move to the bathroom and even this made me so tired I needed to lie down.
I was at home one day as I was having my first rehabilitation at my hometown and my dad brought home this very good smelling sausage. This was the first meat I ate after 4 years.
From then I tried to slowly add meat into my daily meals.
I wasn’t eating much but I tried my best to get as many nutrients I could take.
Honestly, I was expecting to have digestion problems from such sudden meat consumption but nothing happened.
I wasn’t cured thought.
I was still in pain but I felt stronger. Finally, I could walk 2 steps without feeling like fainting again.
After several more breakdowns, I finally decided to visit a specialist I needed – a psychiatrist.
To sum it all up – all this time I was suffering from panic disorder and severe depression but not one of the hundred doctors could figure that out.
I wrote more about my psychiatric therapy in my What to expect from psychiatrist visit
I started taking antidepressants and I never felt better.
So don’t worry I’m ok now. But it blows my mind away how easy it was to get help when I overcome mental health stigma.
I refused to go to a psychiatrist.
I was sure I don’t need that kind of help. I’m not crazy and I could never bring such shame on my family.
Even though a family member committed suicide before but mental health is not something you talk about at family dinner.
Or at all.
I remember this day when I almost visited a psychiatrist after a few very bad nights.
I was standing in front of the psychiatrist’s door when this woman came by and she was talking to herself. Looking straight down and shivering her hands.
I turned around immediately and went home. I’m not that bad as this woman and we simply can’t be needing the same help. I was “strong” and “I’ll deal with it myself“.
I was full of crap.
If only I could go in that door back then I would be getting better like 2 months earlier.
2 more months of being a normal and healthy human being.
Thank God I visited my psychiatrist.
If you’ll think less of me now – well you should seriously rethink your life values.
I hit rock bottom.
Felt guilt. Shame. You have no idea how proud I am of myself for not killing myself even though it seemed as the only solution to how to ease the pain most of the nights.
Unless you were at the same hell you have no right to judge me and if you were then I am so sorry this happened to you.
I’m still eating meat. Even though there is still part of me that hates the fact that I’m eating animals, and all their muscles and veins.
But – there is a much bigger part of me that wants to be healthy and never ever go back to the nightmare I lived.
If my body requires meat I’m gonna give it to it.
I understand there might be strong vegetarian/vegans reading this article who would disagree with me and consider me a traitor to whole vegetarian/vegan belief.
But unless you go to sleep fearing you won’t wake up, your daily accomplishment is that you take a shower, eat food and simply stay alive you just don’t know what it’s like.
If you do understand what I’m talking about then again I’m so sorry.
It’s still very hard for me to talk about it but I find it easier to type it down than to actually speak up about it but it’s so so so important to talk about mental health and to destroy mental health stigma.
I would love to hear your story of how you fought depression and other mental illnesses.
Let’s talk about it
I put myself first now with everything I have. With everything it takes.
If you don’t eat meat – good for you. If you do eat meat – good for you.
Do whatever suits you. Don’t take anyone’s crap. In the end, you’re all you got.
Take care of yourself
Thank you so much for your attention
I am glad you got help. I understand the feelings. Because I have Celiacs, I struggled with anxiety for a while, so I understand the feeling. For me it eventually cleared up because I changed to gluten free.
that’s great i’m so happy for you
Yippee, mental health and meat. I am so glad you got help. It is hard but it is crucial that you get help. I wish it was as easy as saying you have diabetes, it is actually a lot closer to that then thirty years ago when I finally got up the nerve to go. The best decision of my life and I had to fight with everyone to do it. Once they see you healthy and smiling then they jump on the bandwagon. Meat is huge as well. Many friends at college found out they had thinning bones, thinning hair or jaundice from not knowing what they were doing in becoming a vegan. It is too hard. Peace and do a little dance for winning at both. Lisa
Thank you for your like on my post. Drew me here to read a little about you. thank you for writting down your MH issues and depression. Please accept some Care Hugs, thoughts and Love. My head is all over the place lately so I will come back soon to digest all you have written. Im glad you survived and can write down your own thoughts. It will help others like us with MH issues. Mine are different because I am different. But Mental health is the same and causes the same issues whatever the reason. Fairy Blessings and Light to keep you safe this night xxxooxx
Very nice story. Indeed I also passed bad times and crisis in my youth and was also forced to eat meat because of my school and my surrounding. I’m not a strict protagonist of 100% vegetarian nutrition for everyone. I prefer everybody to eat according to his personal needs.
That sounds horrible. I’m sorry you went through it.
You may want to look into b-12 supplements, despite consuming small amounts of meat. Even with a regular serum level, you can be deficient in your cells and tissues. Actually, if you’ve got a relatively common gene defect (MTHFR), you can have a high lab value with very little bioavailability.
I think my anxiety is better with b-12 than before I started taking it but my levels wouldn’t likely be as low as yours could have gotten on a vegetarian diet.
Thank you for your suggestions I appreciate that. I’m taking B vitamins supplements now too
You’re welcome. If you don’t notice much difference there, try the methyl-b12 and methyl-folate. Hope you keep feeling better and better!
I’m very vegetarian- was raised that way for religious reasons, but even if I hadn’t been, I would still be vegetarian for various other reasons. Regardless, I admire your strength and ability to make the right choice for yourself. Glad the anti-depressants are helping, and I hope you continue to keep feeling better!
It’s too bad it took you so long to get help, and I’m so glad you finally found it in antidepressants and good psychiatric care. I hope you are doing much better. Eating meat or not should still be a choice for you and has nothing to do with your illness.
My son is bi-polar and suffers anxiety I have severe depression for 40 years. Medication and talk therapy are the only way we survived.
I send you hugs.
That’s a pretty amazing story, it’s great you get the help you needed but it’s disturbing that these issues are badly treated for so long.
thank you for your coment
As i said i got stronger after i start eating meat – that’s the connection.
yes i am taking antidepressants.
I am still taking them it’s been 8 months since i start taking them and mental illness is not something you can cure with one pill – it takes long term medication.
I did not go back to vegaterianism as i’m still on medications.
Yes several doctors recommended meat eating.
I am not OK now – i’m recovering
I am still eatin meat because i feel stronger and it is part of my therapy suggested by several profesionals.
I hope i ansvered all of your questions. 🙂
I’ve been vegetarian for many years with no prob — but we each need to listen to our own bodies. if one is going to eat meat, make sure the animals were treated well & that people don’t throw it away
Good da-Al, you’ve said it all. If they are clean they are good for consumption, but if not. The question is how will you see if it is totally clean because the outside can be clean and the inside can cause problem. Example is pork, you know that when lemon juice it poured on a pork it will generate some worms which are usually found in toilet.
Check to see..
I read more about the MTHFR and noted, mostly folic acids show good influence to the well being of concerned persons. They seem to lower the risk of vascular diseases or lower the risk of Alzheimer later as well it is recommended to supply food during pregnancy. Only really proven relations to depression I could hardly find. Some cases described anxiety or depression. .but sure that this comes from the genetic disfunction? Maybe you also search for other reasons in daily life, causing you depressions. Very private and you needn’t answer of cause : what kind of Med’s did they recommend?
I understand completely how you felt!
I also have an invisible illness and a lot of people dismiss it as me being dramatic or wanting to get out of work or something 🙁 which if furthest from the truth.
I also totally related to you when you said ‘I’m not as bad as this woman, therefore we simply don’t need the same help’ (I’m paraphrasing so sorry if it’s not word for word.
I find myself comparing myself to others a lot, and then I come to the conclusion that I don’t have it as bad as them, and then I practically torture myself for being so whiny when I’m in pain (mentally and physically)
I’m glad you got help.
And as for people judging your life choices on whether your veggie or not – jeeezz! If eating meat makes you better, go for it. If not eating meat makes you better, go for it. You do you girl 💖
Mental Health is still such a taboo issue to talk about these days so I admire you for speaking out. You must be a very strong person.
Iam from India and I have never tasted meat in my life and am doing perfectly well..but I appreciate your efforts of being what you wanted to be. Moreover when we ignore things we like we tend to question ourselves and that effects mental health.
U really did suffer in high school, on this vegetarian matter.
Yea, you know your self and you know what you need to take. Go for your heart and what makes you better.
Hi I’m of the belief of trying to keep balance, which can be hard. I became vegetarian all the way to Macrobiotic then I noticed it was just too strict with my diet. Also being full time student and full time work I wasn’t able to keep it up. The Right Way. So now I try to eat GF, filler free (mostly unprocessed foods.) with a very small amount of meat. And about psychiatrists go with the belief they will help you.I think talking out things helps. Find the person that clicks with you -really important. Someone said B vitamins ..it’s true . Also Vitamin D is important often overlooked.
What a story. Such turn of events!!😮😮 You write very well and I hope you remain healthy forever!!😁 Kudos for dealing with it the way you did!!💕
Thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing this story, Natalia.
Some people’s bodies simply need meat. Other have a genetic structure that allows them to be vegetarian. Maybe you are of the first kind.
It is true that it is necessary to kill in order to have meat, but out planet’s entire life cycle depends on one species eating another. There is research evidence that plants have feelings. And your immune system kills billions of little beings every day to stop infections.
Death and life are an endless cycle, and it is OK to be part of it.
The old hunter-gatherers killed to eat, but did so with love, respect and caring for other life forms. We can do the same.
As for mental health: you don’t need to be crazy to need those services. They are useful when you are stuck in a problem, because the solutions you impose keep it going.
As soon as you mentioned chest pains, I thought: “panic attack!” If you’d contacted me then, I could have put you on the path of getting rid of the problem.
Email me privately, and I’ll send you a copy of my book on anxiety.
I became a vegitarian for six years. I got very sick and had to go back to eating meat. It was hard to eat at first but then I started feeling much better and went back to normal. Dont feel bad about it, it is just the way our bodies are made. 😊
Have you tried to open yourself to a possibility of falling in love in addition to all those meds? This idea may sound crazy, but hey, arent’ we all crazy in our own unique ways? 🙂
In the end , whatever food makes your body function efficiently is what matters most.
I’m so glad you were able to find out what was wrong and to do what was necessary to take care of yourself.
I knew a vegetarian who got burned really bad in a fire, and, when she was in the hospital, the doctors added meat to her diet. She said she ate it all because she wanted to get better, but I don’t think she ate it after she left the hospital. We often talk about food as medicine, so it’s not surprising to me that food helped you better.
Thank you so much for sharing this story. I hope it helps others.
I’m glad you got help and you’re doing what is best for you. I don’t think less of you in fact, I think you’re a strong woman to share something so personal. Thanks for the warning signs. Shared on G+ . Followed you. My sites are http://crystalsphotobloggingsite.wordpress.com and http://daisymae2017.wordpress.com
Thanks for your encouragement and courage.
I wanted to take a look at Gravatar but I didn’t find a way to rotate a profile pic… surely I’m interested into your blog as well.
Dear Regards 😉
Lovely Natalie, yes, there is no right or wrong…no labelling needed. You found what balances for you. It takes great courage to write and share like this. Wrapping you in <3 Xx
So lovely to read ur writeup..gave me strength
Thank you for visiting ThusNSuch. Interesting post and thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your bravery in talking about mental health.
Thankyou for your courage to talk about these issues (I am vegetarian, by the way.) All the best to you.
Wonderful and brave post Natalia. Everyone is affected by mental illness. If they don’t have one then one of their family or friends will do. No one has a right to judge, but many people are in denial about their own or their loved ones illness.
I too stopped being a vegetarian for health reasons. As a vegetarian my health started to decline and I developed intolerances to all kinds of foods. The foods I could eat became less and less. I never had these issues before and as I started to eat meat again the intolerances slowly decreased.
Freedom comes from choice.
It sounds like a terrible ordeal. I give you alot of credit for challenging the mental health stigma. May you have good health going forward. <3
“don’t take anyones crap” couldn’t relate more.I’ve dealt with similar struggles,except I’m vegan now.Lots of love,keep fighting and blogging<3
What a great story! My husband is vegetarian but myself and my daughter aren’t. However, we all agree that if an animal has died for you, then at least eat it all so it won’t have died in vain.
OK first of all, I feel it is important for me to say that I believe you. I have mental health problems and having that first person actually say that to me lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.
I am vegan and am adamant the this has nothing to do with either my physical or my mental health, but hey, that is just me and we are all different.
I would also never ever force my kids (I have two, 18 & 17) to eat my diet. I always buy meat for them. Although I won’t lie, I am happy as my youngest says he wants to cut meat from his diet. I will support him in that.
I think that we have to respect and understand eachother’s choices and also never ever be ashamed of someone who has mental illness. Reading that part of your piece made me very sad. There is no shame in being mentally ill. The more we talk about it, the less stigma and shame surround it.
Thank you for sharing your story.c
I absolutely understand your post. I was no-fat vegan for one year. I stopped sleeping and I had diarrhea for one year. Everything I would eat be out in 5 minutes after last piece was swallowed. I was constantly hungry, I could not sleep at night…my brain wanted to be vegan, but my body was resisting it. The brake through point for me was one Friday when I had to go in restroom 18 times in one day. I stopped in a week, started eating some fish and a little meat. Deep inside I think I may want to give veganism another try, but how horrible I felt is still too fresh. I am glad you found strength and solution for yourself. Meat has melatonin and probably this is what you were missing being vegan.
This was a really interesting read for me. I’m very into how food and our mental states are linked together and your post just proves it.
Brave to write about this. Really happy for you that you found what you needed.
Very honest article. Glad you found what works for you in the end. I was a vegan for a year (except I ate fish, so I guess that’s a pescatarian, but no other animal products). I miss it sometimes. Hope this is a great year for you with a positive view! Thanks for the article. Ivan 🙂
What a scary time that must have been for you. I’m glad you received the treatment you needed.
I have been contemplating going vegan, but I have heard alot of horror stories. I just limit the amount of meat I eat. Thanks for the post. I have alot to think about.
Nice thoughts, Natalia! Fortunately, I do eat whatever I please, and what pleases my body. I used to over-eat. That was a big problem since I love food. But making an effort to cut down has not been too difficult.
Thanks for your thoughts!!
Great post Natalie – thanks for your link to it .i wonder if your vegetarian diet was low in fat ? Just a thought as I know the LCHF movement impresses just how important fats are to the brain .
Hey, hope you are doing well.
I invite you to read a post of mine where I am gathering links of warriors facing mental health challenges 1st hand to educate people, to raise awareness and acceptance.
I need help from you in fighting stigma.
Here is the link to post..
Your participation can change life of someone.
Thank you 🙂
Good heartfelt post. Glad you pushed through this and are getting better. As to Vegetarianism, our 2 sons and their wives are Vegetarians. Christmas dinner is not quite the same, but we do not question their choices and we do our best to cook the food they need. In the process, we have come to enjoy more Veggie dishes and eat a little less meat. Everyone is different and we all just need to respect their choices, as they should respect ours.
Glad you are better. You’re not a traitor to the vegan world. Vegans kill me with that foolishness. The most important thing is that you you are improving. Keep fighting.
Try to meditate. just focus on breathing in and out while taking meditation. Do not over think. Do not spend time on social media too much.. You will be ok.
Don’t overthink, and I pray that you always be stable.
Great, loved the transformation
Very good read and really touching. I am a vegan (since about a year) and have been a vegetarian throughout with a perfect health. But I also agree to your point – if it’s not right for you, you don’t have to do it. I wish it would have worked for you but then nothing is above your own life. Wish you a very happy and healthy life ahead!!
Great and moving post. Thank you for sharing. All the best to you.
True sharing from the heart. There are many who will be able to relate to your situation. Life is full of balance – including our food intake and all the things that accompany that. We all become out of balance at times. I applaud you for sharing your feelings about working through the pain and and not giving up. Each person is special and he or she must determine what is best for each specific body. God didn’t make us from a cookie cutter. Blessings to you in the days ahead.
Thanks for sharing what must have been a most terrifying point in your life. Sometimes it helps to “just lay it all out there!”
I have liked your honest and poignant life account and I am very happy you have come through. I am vegetarian, almost vegan, but do respect everyone’s choices. My husband eats meat and respects my eating habits too.
When I or he cook we prepare vegan meals and he adds meat to his dish. Just as simple as that. Wish you all the best, whatever choices you have in life, and hope you never come through such painful life experience again. By the way, thank you so much for taking a look at my blog. I really appreciate this! 😘
Thanks for your like of my post on the Carla and Derek Christian wedding. I love to see wedding videos; they stir my heart. Btw, I
am seven weeks meat free. I had to make a decision, which made he think about how I would not be hungry. On the day that I began this journey, I loaded up on carbs; it kept me from becoming hungry. I have reduced my carb intake, and have added fruit at night. I could go on, but if I can do it, anybody can do it. The thing that caused me to make this change of life was the thoughts that I had of eating something that could have been looking at me before it was slaughtered.
Thank you for being so brutally honest about your experience. I have just done the same and it is hard putting yourself out there but I think more of us need to do it so there is not this stigmatism that still exists. Whatever you eat – choose happiness! x
Thanks for sharing your story. I believe it should be a personal choice if one wants to eat meat or not. I gave up eating meat for the same reasons as yours but everyone else in my family is a non-vegetarian. Yes, vegetarians are prone to Vitamin B12 deficiency, so one needs to take proper supplements. Finally, each of us has to be responsible for his or her health.
Don’t be ashamed that you are doing what you need to do to be well and whole.
saying a prayer for you.
Proud of you for posting this! It takes strength.
Here’s a story I wrote on mental health and the stigma surrounding it.
It’s probably easier today to be a vegetarian than ever but it’s still not easy when it comes to eating the right things to achieve balance. Your body does seem to know what it needs but how to get it without meat requires some real study of nutrition. Good luck with finding your balance. I’m sure you will.
So many people never make the connection that the food they put in their body can have a direct impact on their mental health. I found making my diet healthier helped me get through post natal depression after my daughter was born (she’s now 16 almost 17) I did have bigger issues than my diet, but a good foundation allows you to battle your demons harder.
Good luck on your journey. XO
I’m so glad you are doing better now. My husband and I were vegetarians for a short time to lower his cholesterol. We both felt better, lost weight and had more energy. We still ate meat when we were at other people’s houses, though, when they served it, we just didn’t eat it at our home. But then our second daughter learned how to speak and made it very clear that her quality of life was suffering for lack of meat. She is nine years old now and continues to be an avid bacon eater. 🙂
Unrelated to food, I am bipolar 2 (manic-depressive) and have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). So I am well acquainted with insomnia, depression, panic attacks, and eyes sore from crying. I’ve spent years in counseling, trying different medications and visiting psychiatrists. Between them, diet, exercise and God, my life continues to improve, even though it isn’t always easy, it is always worth it. Blessings.
I am sorry about your health problems but glad you overcame them. There is nothing shameful about mental health problems – it is a simply a chemical imbalance in the brain. People judge because they can’t “see” it. That is their problem, not yours. You are a brave strong lady to overcome what you went through. Your story serves to inspire others.
Yes we all have to make our own decisions. I prefer vegetarian but eat only fish as meat. Red meat is a health risk. Some doctors prescribe it as it is a source of iron and iron is important in the system as long as you don’t have too much of it. However green leafy vegetables are a source of iron, and chia seeds which my doctor recommends are very high in iron content. A person who is totally vegetarian needs to have vitamin B12 supplements. As we grow there are hormonal changes in the body and I suspect that was the reason for some of your problems. Panic attacks are common and are treatable as you’ve found out. I had them after a bout of sickness and studied books on what causes them and how we can cure ourselves mentally with a little help from medicine for a while. I presume you have a health care plan which takes pathology every year to find out what your system lacks. In Australia our doctors do regular checks on the health of their patients and I’m sure you are doing that too. I am very confident you will find your health problem solution and have a happy life.
I was a partner in a vegetarian restaurant for a while, and I’ll tell you a secret – whenever I could I stopped off at McDonald’s for a Big Mac! I’m sure you know this, but just in case – every vegetarian meal must be balanced: it must contain a root, a fruit, and a shoot. I reinforce this point because, particularly when young, many aspiring vegetarians try to survive on ‘part meals’ from their family table – avoiding the roast chicken and just having the cabbage and potatoes, for example, and that doesn’t work. Anyway, thank you for dropping by my blog – y’all come back now, y’hear?
Natalia, being able to write out your thoughts and journey, is very strong of you already. You do not need to worry nor care about what others think, as long as it works out for you. I am happy that you made the change at least to attempt to “fix” problems. Take Care~
I’m glad you’re doing what you need to do. I’m a vegetarian myself, but it’s not the magic cure for all the world’s ills. Life, unfortunately, involves some compromises we’re none of us happy with. There’s not much purity to be had, I’m sorry to say. Do the best you can. It’s all anyone can ask.
I am not a vegetarian — but it is important to eat a lot of vegetables — I eat meat but when I do I try to stick with chicken and fish — fish is very healthy– that is the reason people in ASIAN countries live so long — they eat fish every day is what I heard. It is not unusual for them to live past the age of 100. They say fish is the reason. Also stay away from red meat and pork as much as possible — I like that but only once in a while — Good luck — thanks for visiting my site
Yes, this is an interesting post and, as others have said, I appreciate your honesty. However, it isn’t clear in your article how vegetarianism was responsible for your panic attacks. I’m insanely curious and enjoy learning about new links between diet and illness so your post caught my eye.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 28 years, I’m now 64 and literally have the body, strength and health of a 30 year old. I have known many vegetarians over the years–living and working on 4 continents.–including many vegetarian Hindu friends from India. On the other hand, I have met a few females who were told by their doctors that they needed to begin eating meat again to replace iron that their bodies were losing–making them anemic. I think anemia messes with our brain chemicals in a negative way which could explain the attacks you were having. Just wondering if there was more to your specific diagnosis.
I’m also no-judgmental about what eat so I do my food thing and don’t judge what others do. Being healthy–mentally, physically and emotionally is of course what’s most important. Thanks for sharing!
I am so glad you shared this. This is amazing and I am so sorry all the pain you have went through. I am so glad that you are feeling better and raising this type of awareness. It is really stuff people need to hear about. Keep sharing! <3
As old man now and cardiac patient bacon, pepperoni, fatty meat no longer part of diet. Sausage and kielbasa rare treats. I do like vegetable pizza now.
We grow a variety of vegetables but the thinking is they are meant to
enhance meat and potatos,
Very interesting presentation ( and thank you for visiting my blog). I have started to stop eating meat when I turned 40, I don’t like labels though, I just felt it wasn’t for me for various reasons anymore, personal, empathy and environmental. I do not like to lecture people; I came to this point after many years. I do suffer from anxiety and I’ve had some rare but very quiet forms of panic attacks ( well, quiet from the outside, from the inside it was total computer crash). That said, I have been told to keep an eye on any changes, even if I would consider my diet as very good. Anyhoo, your article caught my eye, very inspiring.
You speak very soundly about the mind body connection! This knowledge is something we all need to share. I also agree with you about the message coming in a non-judgemental manner. Why would anyone bother to listen to our experience, wisdom or hope, if we are critical of their point of view. You are a very wise young lady! I am sorry you had to suffer as long as you did. I am thrilled you finally got the help you needed! The roads we travel are bumpy, but we can move and grow given the space and support we need. I wish you all the health and happiness possible! 🙂
I am glad you were able to reach out and get help. When you find the right psychiatrist they able to diagnose and prescribe not only to keep us from being miserable but also to feel better. Unmedicated I do not always want to show up and be part of my own life
Ty for sharing
It takes massive internal strength to overcome mental stigmatization. Weldone.
Hey, mental health is just…mental. I struggled with depression for years and spend mega bucks on shrinks and psychotherapy. My husband said I was so shrunk I was Sanforized – a term that may not register with you if you are under 40. In an event, what worked was meds. I suffer from a chemical imbalance – and no amount of psychtherapy can deal with that. Glad you found your way. Bravo for you.
Thanks for this post. I am glad you are doing better. Keep on.
I am so trying to become vegan or become a vegetrian… it is so hard for me. I have been working out now for 2 weeks straight, and eating healthier, but my mentality wont let me go without meat just yet. Guess i have to keep pushing. Glad that it worked out for you so i know there is some hope for me.
I appreciate the way you started a blog to deal with your issues. Writing and posting will give you a sense of empowerment. My own blog is full of complaints against those who would deny me power over my own life. I hope you come visit me again. Thanks for the like.
Thanks for dropping by my blog today.
Just want you to realise that everyone in this world is unique and everyone is entitled to live their life the way they want…….(as long as it doesn’t affect someone else…… as in people who push their religious views on people who follow a different religion, for example).
It doesn’t matter what diet you follow as long as you ensure you have sufficient knowledge to take some extra calcium and vitamins if you don’t eat all the food groups. I am dairy and grain intolerant, but nearly 30 years of study and research on diet and nutrition, together with formal studies in Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy have given me sufficient knowledge to leave out the foods I am allergic or intolerant to, and still stay nourished.
I use alternative medicine as well as orthodox western medicine and the integration of the two, works very well side by side.
Leaving out meat (and I don’t eat a lot) can use severe B12 and iron deficiencies and it’s imperative to take supplementation because once the lack of B12 causes nerve damage, it can’t be fixed. I have tried vegetarian, fish only, soy and numerous styles of eating over the last 35 years and finally found an answer in The Paleo Diet (plus some vitamins & calcium supplementation), but its not for everyone.
I do believe Vegan can be a little too restrictive, but do respect anyone who follows this way of eating.
Lack of certain vitamins and minerals can affect your mental capacity too.
When my strict vegetarian, or the rare vegan, visits for a meal, I make sure there are suitable vegetarian/vegan foods for them to enjoy and since I’m just as happy without meat occasionally, I make this social occasion an opportunity to leave off meat for myself too, so my friends don’t have to endure the smell of meat cooking.
Many people don’t know how to react to anyone who is different, so take the opportunity to verbally attack or bully anyone who lives their life differently.
Feel proud of who you are and don’t ever feel you have to explain your choices in life to anyone. Some of the greatest minds and scientists in the world have been eccentric, or shunned for their intelligence and different way of thinking. Some of the most eccentric, or even people with mental problems, have been the inventors or discoverers of innovative methods of healing and science.
With diet you only have to be well informed and educated in nutrition to follow whichever diet you please.
What beautiful bare honesty. I was a vegetarian for 13 years but it did a number on my health, too, so I resumed eating meat. I know it’s hard to think of the animals. I just have to bless them with each meal and it helps me to feel better about it if I visualize myself going back in time and hugging the animal, wish it a quick and painless death and thank it for giving its life for our family to be sustained another day. I hope you are well these days.
Psychosomatic problems are horrible, aren’t they? I have emetophobia, so I sometimes feel like I’m about to throw up for now reason at all. I’m so scared of vomiting, that I end up thinking it’s about to happen. I think I got a grasp of my fear, despite still feeling it. So I even could earn some pounds.
When it comes to vegetarianism, I’m willing to try it when I am employed again, so that I can buy the vegetables and fruit that I need. I don’t plan on going fully vegan, so eggs and milk would still be okay. But that’s more for health reasons than moral reasons; in nature, animals kill each other for food all the time, so I’m not very sensible to that. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about animals, but that eating animals to sate hunger seems acceptable, at least for me.
Thank you for sharing your story. I was a vegan/vegetarian for about 5 years? And I went back to meat for health reasons too. I’m glad I’m not alone in that aspect! Hope you’re still doing well.
I had an experience so similar to yours it is eerie. I appreciate that you shared this. I don’t feel so odd odd or alone now. (So glad you are feeling better!)
Thank you for reading and liking a post on my blog. I’d be pleased if you continue to follow it. I just read and enjoyed this post of yours. I can tell you this about me: I’ve had depression most of my life (lm 74) and on medication for it for the last 21 years. I haven’t eaten meat in about 30 years,but I do eat fish. I was vegetarian at first, but I missed fish too much. I’ll keep reading your blog; hope you’ll read mine. Marjorie from Oregon USA
Excellent account. I have vegans and vegetarians in the family
Thats a great blog nat…well…health is more imortant..tho m both a lover of veg n meat😀
Hello, Natalia. I think that you’re very strong for writing this and that you can help many people who struggle similarly as you did. It is important they hear about how you managed to find the right tools and help, and how long it can last to receive what you need, due to different reasons, from denial to lack of support and suggestions.
I’m not sure how diet figures into it but our bodies certainly tell us if we listen. There are many signs which we can either choose to obey or dismiss.
I’m so glad that you are doing much better. Thank you for writing this!
You’ve written a really insightful and readable post. Thank you for your courage and candour in what you’ve written. It provides inspiration and encouragement for others facing difficulties to seek help. Your strength is admired. Thank you.
Depression is very serious and it’s sad that even family and friends may not support those who need it. I can relate to some of what you mentioned. Congrats to you for getting through your struggles and becoming a stronger person! No shame at all in receiving mental help–ever! Thank you so much for sharing your story <3
Glad you liked my post on the World Cup
Just read what you had to say on the subject(s) of mental health and vegetarianism. I’m a vegetarian myself and I don’t judge you. You’re a strong person and I admire you for going through what you have, and for coming out on top. Also admire your openness. Some people have to go on journeys that no one could even start to know about, unless they’ve been there themselves. Wishing you well in your life, and enjoy your food. . .whatever it may be!
SO glad you have found your way back to health, Natalia. Also glad you have shared your journey here–sure to be an encouragement to others and offering them hope! P.S. Thank you for becoming a follower of my blog, From the Inside Out. I pray you’ll find the posts meaningful whenever you’re able to stop by!
You write English very well for a Slovak. I enjoyed it very much. Congratulations on telling the world to go to hell and doing what needed to get done. But I’m curious: What did the psychiatrist say to you that turned it around? Was it just eat meat?
Going to a psychiatrist is nothing to be ashamed of. More people go than ever before. Many of those who don’t go probably should.
I went to a psychologist over some relatively minor problems but problems that mounted to a great deal of depression. I kept losing things. I kept getting lost. I couldn’t leave my apartment because I kept forgetting things. I once kept track and I went four straight months where I had to return to my apartment every day for something I forgot. It was maddening. Harmless but maddening to the point where I didn’t think I deserved my life anymore. I was embarrassed and ashamed.
My psychologist basically said I was working too much, which was true. I had to slow down. I loved my job as a sportswriter and threw all my effort into it. My personal life suffered. Then I got lucky. I got a promotion where I wasn’t working as many hours, had fewer deadlines and less pressure. My life went back to normal. I still lose things. I’m still kicking myself for losing my tape recorder on my trip back from the Republic of Georgia last month. But I lose things at the rate of a normal person, not somebody manically depressed.
Good luck. I’ve been to Slovakia and love your meat dishes.
(And thanks for liking my blog.)
John Henderson, Dog-Eared Passport, http://www.johnhendersontravel.com
Well written and so honest.
Good for you! You got help, you did what was best for you and now you have shared your knowledge with others so that they, too, can get help. I commend you for your strength and honesty.
While I hate eating animals, I also need it for my health condition – and I’m bi-polar and lack of direct protein worsens the symptoms. The bottom line is that each individual must do what is best for their own health.
Panic disorder is very real and it is usually caused by some form of trauma even if a person may not be aware of that. I developed panic disorder after a sickness when I could see no solution to my illness but a clever doctor fixed the problem and gave me a book to read which showed me how to deal with a temporary chemical imbalance in the brain as a result of that sickness. My wife went through a time of panic disorder and doctors were unable to locate the cause until a more skilful doctor recognized it as a thyroid problem and treated it so that she recovered in six months and has been clear of panic attacks for thirty years now. Have they checked your thyroid and para thyroid? Anyway I leaned when I managed a large hospital that panic attacks are very common so you should not feel you are alone with the problem.
Seven months! Oh, my. By me it was two months and horrible. I could not sleep, breathing very hard, I am a lifelong dedicated carnivore [with a few exceptions]. We decided the cause may have been an allergic reaction to fragments from cut dry grass.
A chapter I love from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Micracle, called “You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day” talks about how eating meat can be a healthy way to accept death. For myself, I try to only eat meat from sources that treat animals humanely–mostly from small local farmers at the farmer’s market. On the labels at the grocery store, I look for the “humanely raised” label before I look for the “organic” label. It’s more expensive, but that means you eat less of it and appreciate it more. You don’t need a lot of meat. Just a few ounces every other day or so.
Thanks for taking time away from your writing to visit my blog!
So sorry you were going through it:( glad you feel better now!
Glad you’re feeling better. I went through panic attacks years ago and thought I was having a heart attack. I know exactly what you mean about trying to sleep sitting up. And no one understanding.
Interesting article. Anand Bose from Kerala
People who judge are small minded. Mental health is real and important to address. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad you didn’t give up on yourself.
I have been a vegetarian for 17 years. It works for me. I feel healthier than I did before. I personally can not imagine eating an animal again. HOWEVER, just as much as I don’t like being judged I would NEVER judge someone else for eating meat. We have to do what works best for our lifestyles. If you love animals, don’t feel bad for eating meat if you need it, find another way to help other animals.
I don’t see the point in all of this judgement in our society. We have to do what is best for each of us and should support each other.
Plus, it isn’t easy being veggie. The hours my husband and I spend looking for places to eat or grocery stores who carry any kind of decent options for veggies (my husband is a major meat eater) is crazy! But, it works for me, it doesn’t for everyone…be true to yourself always and listen to your body no matter what!
The mind and body are one. Healing is good and there shoukd never be any stigma attached. Glad you found help.
I feel compelled (in a good way) to stand up and support you, to let you know that you’re not alone. Something similar happened to me, only it was autoimmune disease targeting my brain and resulting in irritability along with the depression that made me return to omnivorism. I was relying on foods like wheat and dairy that were tearing my brain apart inside, while my body was screaming for carb-free protein and fats. I finally decided it was better karma to eat the fish or chicken or beef than it was to make my life (and the lives of others around me) a living hell, which I probably was. I now eat humanely-raised, clean whole foods, without gluten or dairy. There’s no shame in eating that which promotes good health for your body and gives it what it needs. So happy for you that you found your way to healing 👏🏼👏🏼💓
Hello from a fellow neurotic, and I mean that in the kindest way. I’m happy to see that you have found a path that seems to suit your nature, and I agree that whatever works is the way to go, and if people don’t like it, they can go pester someone else. Mental illness is a horrible secret to keep, and it doesn’t stay secret for long before it pops out in the most awkward ways. I look forward to reading more of your exploits, and invite you to share in mine. I’m a bit behind in writing these days, as I’m looking for YET another job, but will get back to it eventually. Best of luck, and take good care of yourself, because, as you seem to have found out, you know yourself best after all.
Also, l am not terribly fond of meat, prefer fresh fish, but what l really love is peanut butter and lettuce sandwiches! Inexpensive, nutritious, and no cooking, because a have anxiety in a kitchen,. which is sometimes a problem as l prepare meals for people as part of my job.
Reblogged this on AJ. Adsett and commented:
Thought provoking with echoing gongs from tolling bells.
Natalia – I found this a really interesting read. There are many angles, many options, but as you quite rightly say, it is all down to the individual, and our personal choice.
I used to be vegan, and am now vegetarian, (or still vegan, depending on circumstances), but have learned that where I live now I also have to accommodate the kindness of other people who are doing the best they can to help, even though they do not really understand as it is not within their culture so much, especially this being a high-meat area due to the way of life here. Actually, there is a certain kind of vegetarianism here that IS recognized, and even has an annual festival – but it is considered more religion based, and also excludes eggs, onion, garlic, alchohol, or anything like that that has a strong smell. But that’s another story!
By standing my ground firmly and checking everything for every single ingredient or refusing food kindly offered to me that is considered “meat-free”, but to someone vegetarian for ethical reasons would be unacceptable, only leads to detriment to my own nutritional intake and well-being. So I do the best I can. I think the most important thing is that we learn to listen to our own bodies. No two people are alike, so how can one diet suit all?
If you still feel bad about the animals you are eating, then try to eat from sources that are humanely raising their animals. In my mother’s day, sheep skipped happily and cows had a good old munch on green grass – none of the intensive farming of today. So aim for (I hate this expression, but) “happy” chicken and maybe that will help ease your conscience.
Thanks, too, for sharing this. It is an extremely brave move to open up such personal information, and if you were once afraid to merely admit you didn’t eat meat, then it must really have been nerve-wracking to open up to all the “who knows who is reading this” out there. Even though comments are only words, if someone writes a strong disagreement, it can still be hurtful if your mental state is feeling vulnerable. Well done!
I also struggle with mental health issues, mine are associated with childhood trauma. As a child I could never talk about my family situation for fear of the consequences (my father was a very dangerous man) and so I didn’t receive therapy and I couldn’t form close bonds for fear of discovery. I was suicidal as a teenager. It wasn’t until my 30s that I sought therapy and although I had made some progress over the years therapy really helped me gain my independence. So I commend you for taking the initiative and doing the work. It’s not easy but well worth it. PTSD can manifest in the body resulting in various physical symptoms. Some as debilitating as those you’ve described. Trauma doesn’t always have to be associated with extremes such as war, trauma can effect anyone.
To be continued
Before I continue I will preface in saying that I agree that there a lot of factors that go into selecting the diet that works best for an individual.
Also everything below pertains to Vegetarianism as I was never vegan
Like you I became a vegetarian in childhood. I was 12. Like you I faced obstacles, prejudice, and general ignorance. Like you I now include some meat in my diet but for different reasons.
I grew up in small town in the Southern United States. Meat was the main part of every meal. Restaurants and grocery stores offered very few alternatives at that time (90s). I didn’t have internet access until I was 18 years old. Unlike you I enjoyed eating meat and I ate a lot. My diet was unbalanced and I quickly became overweight. By the time I was 12 I was desperately unhealthy. I purchased a book on yoga at the bookstore which included a small section on Vegetarianism/nutrition. I decided to go all in. My mom didn’t support my decision and so I had to cook my own meals and make due with what we had at home food wise. She was only willing to buy one small bag of veggies per shop in addition to her usual. I lost weight and my health improved. I went from overweight to athletic in a few years and broke the cycle of obesity in my family. When I started university I studied Nutrition and Dietetics and was able to better balance my diet. I never took supplements or ate really expensive health foods. My vitamin panels always came back optimal. My cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides also well into the optimal range (a marked improvement). As a matter of personal tastes my diet was very much influenced by Japanese cuisine.
A vegetarian diet does provide everything the body needs including protein, iron, and B12 but like any diet it can be unhealthy/unbalanced.
Additional dietary restrictions and certain health conditions (particularly those involving digestion) can make it harder to achieve balance
Some common mistakes people make when becoming vegetarian
Failure to research (consulting a Nutritionist is obviously ideal, doctors are not a good substitute as they receive very little education in Nutrition)
Going extreme (moderation is key)
Failure to include lentils, legumes, healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, and plain nuts and seeds, whole grains, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens (which are part of any healthy diet period)
Not eating enough variety (same food day after day)
Eating too few calories (a lot of vegetarian foods are low in calories)
Trying to eat like a meat eater. I don’t have a problem with soy personally but it is a common food allergy and for some causes all sorts of problems. Meat substitutes can be expensive and heavily processed as well. Also eating the protein as the primary part of the meal is just unbalanced.
Eating the same old, processed food as before just without meat
It is well established now that a plant based diet is better for humans. It’s not a fade. People have been vegetarians for centuries.
Based on what you said in the post
concerning your guilt over eating
pickiness with food
your health problems
your struggles with anxiety and panic attacks
and your inability to eat
I would consider the possibility of an eating disorder
Eating disorders can occur in anyone regardless of age, gender, or body type/weight
There are many types of eating disorders and not all people with EDs are the same. I can’t go into detail here but I recommend that you bring up your issues with food with your therapist and doctor in the very near future if you have not already. I also can’t stress highly enough if he you decide to make dietary changes in the future that you consult a nutritionist first and that you get blood panels done to check for allergies and/or deficiencies. Get a panel done before you make the change so you can make comparisons
Eating Disorders can be triggered and/or exacerbated by
a tendency toward perfectionism/overachieving
changes in diet which may be undertaken for the right reasons initially
anxiety and/or other mental health conditions
change such as going away to university
Most parents honestly know very little about Nutrition and I think the high rates of type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in children prove that. I do think on becoming a parent one should make an effort to educate themselves and feed their child a healthy/balanced diet. Most parents do not do this it pains me to say. Most children grow up eating a heavily processed diet and they come to accept feeling bad as normal because it is all they have ever known. I do not agree with you that children should not be raised vegetarian, they can be raised vegetarian and this can dramatically improve their health if the diet is balanced. I am also not saying that children must be raised vegetarian. In your culture it is more common to eat meat, in others that is not the norm and thus eating meat could result in discrimination just as easily.
I am so glad you got help, dear! Your life is very, very precious <3
I’m proud of you
Dear Natalia, I cannot imagine that anybody would judge you for your choices. You did what you needed to do. You are actually lucky that the anti-depressants work, as allegedly they only work in one out of ten cases.
I only had positive effects from changing to a vegetarian diet when I was 28 (that was in the early 80s). My extremely low blood pressure got more or less normal, and my problematic metabolism started to function normally. But then food intake is a very personal matter and very different for each individual. Can it be that you are blood type 0? When I read about your symptoms I also thought about a severe lack of vitamin B12, because depression and anxiety attacks belong to the symptoms. When we started to eat completely vegan this year, I started to get the symptoms, but I was observant, so I started to take B12 in tablet form. I am still in general a vegetarian, although we stopped the vegan thing, but in between it does happen that we eat fish.
I was lucky that I hardly ever had ugly scenes with non-vegetarians. It rarely happened that I met these “I could never …” types. When I did, I just said that they did not have to, did they – that was a sure discussion killer, what were they supposed to say after that?
I have no experiences with MH myself, but my mother was bipolar. I wish she had gone to a psychiatrist earlier, but no, she was not crazy … the stigma was still very strong in her generation. So she wasted 20 years on severe depressions, of which the longest lasted two years. So I am glad that you did not wait any longer and took the necessary step. The first thing is, of course, that one does not deny needing help – that was what my mother did. It was terrible to watch, but one cannot force an adult.
I wish you all the best, Natalia, and I am sure that your article was helpful for other people, who maybe do not dare to talk about their problems so openly! The reactions show that there are a lot of understanding people, does it not? 🙂