A year ago today, if you would have told me that the thought of things like cheese and eggs would turn my stomach and that I’d be off insulin, all my diabetes medications, that I would have lost a bunch of weight, that I’d be wearing a jean size 5 sizes smaller, and that I’d be in search of a good raw foods cafe in Vancouver, I would have probably called you insane, I might have even thought you were trying to sell me something, a magic pill. I didn’t take a magic pill, but sometimes it feels like it.
A year ago I was having severe foot pain, a doctor told me that because of my diabetes I had pretty severe problems in the bones in my feet, I had arthritis in both of my feet. Arthritis. I was 30 at the time, and I was working out between 4 and 5 hours a day, I was eating a very low fat very “healthy” high protein low fat diet, and I had arthritis. I always thought foot pain was just because I was overweight, and it was normal, it turns out if you have foot pain you should really get it checked out.
I went on some more medications to help with the arthritis. Around the same time I started to feel more and more depressed. Every day I would find myself in a mess of tears, I would have severe panic attacks, I started to hate myself more and more every day. I resented my diabetes, I hated that I could not lose weight, I hated that I was 30 and facing not being able to walk very much at all. I would sob for hours.
My husband hates thinking about this time in our lives, it was nothing short of horrible. The diabetes made the depression worse – diabetes and depression go hand in hand, and high blood sugar and depression are a really bad mix. There were a few days last July that I just couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed, I’d just lay there, I’d sob until I had nothing left and wait for all the pain to pass. I felt completely alone, I had my husband who tried so hard to comfort me, and I had a couple of close friends that were there for me. My husband had to alert a few people, because he was so scared of how depressed I was becoming, and he was afraid that I might hurt myself. I don’t know if I wanted to die, as much as I felt like I had no other choice, that I was going to die young. If that’s not depressing, I don’t know what is.
I spent about 3 weeks completely miserable, I stopped working out, I started eating whatever the hell I wanted, I did not leave the house. I would just lay and watch hours of movies and past seasons of tv shows. I wanted to disappear from my life all together. I stopped caring, I started to believe that this was my life. I remember calling my very good friend Grace and telling her that I just didn’t know how I was going to make it anymore, and her telling me that she knew that somewhere in me was someone who believed that I was worthy of so much more.
On about what was one of the darkest of these days, I started to look up all 9 of the medications I was currently on to see if any of them were not working well together. It was then, that I found out that the arthritis medication that the doctor put me on was a medication that had recently been “black listed” and that several people on the medication had committed or attempted to commit suicide while on it. I stared at the computer screen and just sobbed. I quickly called the number on the screen and talked to someone who told me that the medication had severe effects on the brain and that it was going to more than likely be pulled from production. It was only to be used in very severe life threatening kind of cases. And here I was, 30 on this medication, completely depressed and hurting, all because of problems in my feet because of obesity and diabetes.
I didn’t blame the doctor, doctors prescribe medication, that’s what they do. And when we go to the doctor, that is generally what we go for, we’re not looking for an answer, we’re looking for a fix, something to be put on to make the pain, or the symptoms all magically go away. We never really ask how we can be healed from something.
It was a short time after that, that I decided I did not want to be on any medications, any longer. I had enough of chemicals being in my body to mask all the problems I had. I was 30, I was obese, I had severe diabetes, I had arthritis in my feet, and I had also recently had a bad open infected wound on my leg that was turning into something that could very well result in me losing part of my calf. My life wasn’t my own anymore, my life was in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies.
It was all around the time when a dear friend suggested that I pick up a few natural healing books, and when I discovered a book that very simply explained why going on a plant based diet would not just help me, but cure me.
I went plant based over night. There was no easing into anything, there was no trying to go vegetarian first, and then on a dietary vegan diet. There was meat, eggs, cheese one day, and NONE the next. I didn’t care how much I’d want those things, I didn’t even think about if I’d miss them, I just did it, because really, I was running out of time.
I can’t tell you the amount of e-mail from people who are in the same situation I was in, or headed there who say things like “I could never” “That’s just too much work “I’m trying but it’s so hard” or “I’ll miss X too much!” (usually, cheese). And sometimes I get upset over it. I get upset because for a moment I wish I could give people a small glimpse of who I was a year ago, I wish that people could feel all of it. I wish that all the pain, hurt, and torment of having a disease could hit them all at once, for a fleeting moment, so that they would understand what they are choosing, by choosing to continue the lifestyle that they are addicted to. A lifestyle that really has no place in our lives, that is not needed, and that is easily avoided, if the choice is made.
Often I think that the words “can’t” and “won’t” are mixed up way too much. It is often not that we “can’t” do something, it’s simply that we “won’t”, and we choose that. Every thing you eat and put into your body is a choice, granted it’s your choice, but it’s one that I think deserves ownership. Before you go and say “I could never do that” or “I can’t just stop eating X”, own it , say that you are “choosing” not to eat better, that you are choosing to do things that are unhealthy for your body, that you won’t live a more healthy life giving life. If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, I feel like we’ve come far enough in our blogging relationship for me to just say it like it is. I have tremendous hope in you, I have tremendous faith in your strength, but really I can’t do it for you, you have to make the choice that your life is worth living.
Not to long ago, I didn’t know that my life was worth living. I thought that feeling miserable was just part of my existence as a human being, it was my destiny, or just the way it was supposed to be. I then discovered that all of that was nonsense. It wasn’t the way I was supposed to live, for the most part I decided how I was going to feel, and how I would live.
This past year I’ve discovered something unexpected in this journey to becoming vegan, I’ve discovered worth. I’ve discovered that I’m worth all that it takes. And more so, I discovered that there are a lot of things worth fighting for, not just my life, but the lives of others, innocent lives. Going vegan I understand what it really means to protect the Earth we live on, before I could offer some good lip service, but never realized that my animal eating habits did far more harm to the Earth than my light bulbs. Before going vegan I thought I was passionate about social justice, about helping children who were starving across the globe, but never realized that my animal eating ways hurt millions of people.
I’ve discovered that in respecting and honoring all life, I have so much more respect and honor for my own. I did not set out with this in mind. I set out to save my life, not another life. I set out for kind of selfish reasons, and in the process discovered something so much more life changing. Going vegan for me changed more than my health, it changed more than my blood sugar numbers, or numbers on the scale. It’s another thing that I wish I could go back and tell my former self. The self who was so worried about not eating cheese. That I could tell myself it’s so much bigger than that. There are so many reasons to be vegan, reasons that I never knew about until I stepped further and further along the path that I’m on.
I get the question a lot if I will keep being vegan after I get healthy. I think what is most important to understand is that while I may have started out going vegan for health reasons, I now have 100′s of other reasons that now to me are equally as important to be vegan.If you are thinking about going plant based, really start learning about animal cruelty, learning the truth will allow you to make informed choices, and really that’s what it’s all about.