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