so. i’ve been thinking about exactly how i want to share some of myself with those who keep up with this blog – and because i couldn’t come to any solid conclusion, i’ve just decided to start writing this in one sitting, and see what i read when i finish. perhaps this is too long, or too rambling, for some to read – and that is fine. maybe read it at your own pace – a few sentences or paragraphs when you have the spoons to do so (for more on this click here!).
with a blog series like this, i’m talking about really serious issues that are so often misrepresented and misinterpreted for various different reasons. and so i need to admit right now that i do feel hesitant to write about these issues of veganism and chronic illness. and not because i’m embarrassed about what i believe, or because i’m unsure of my own voice and how i might come across to strangers reading this, but because i absolutely know that i’m not an expert about any of it. i learn new things almost every day, and some of these lessons change me in what i understand and the ways that i articulate my ever growing lessons. the only thing i can ever offer in these blog posts is my best attempt at honesty regarding my own lived experiences, and the few insights i hold about being a vegan who is also chronically ill.
i have been vegan for almost 6 years now, and chronically ill for about 15 years or so (though only receiving an ‘official’ diagnosis very recently). reading that sentence, some of you might think ‘well why aren’t you an expert by now then?’. i’m not an expert because i can acknowledge that someone can never know another’s lived experience better than they do themselves. and so me using this blog to tell someone reading it that their pain is not as bad my own, or that the ways that i do & do not contribute to capitalism is morally superior than their own… well that is just shitty behaviour and who would honestly read that anyway? so with that in mind, i’m emphasizing that i’m not trying to appear as some expert, but more as a someone who too is struggling, coping with illness and veganism in this society. i’m offering myself as a listener to those people who care to reach out and message me or comment below, and i’m offering my own strategies and perspectives that i have found useful in dealing with these really common problems that i think most reading this far can relate to. but it is always & forever going to be about you, the reader, to realize you are enough – right now, in this moment, this breath – and only you can save yourself. i cannot be vegan for you or be sick for you, but i can be a support if you care to ask for help.
and another reason i’m no expert about these 2 subjects is because of the sad reality that even though people can spend a significant amount of time and effort dealing with something in their life, that never implies you are always learning and growing from those experiences. there are times when i can think that i have all my shit together, that i am really “getting it” and beginning to grasp the whole picture of life – and then someone says something, or calls me in about something i’ve [not] done (for more on this click here!), or simply draws my attention to something i’ve been totally ignorant of right up to that moment. then i feel like i’m going to be forever lost, confused. that i should spend more time listening and learning (which is good!) and just stop speaking and sharing myself in an open and consensual ways (which is not so good). so instead, i am practicing to become better at remaining accountable to my behaviour and every word i speak or write, so that i can be ready and willing to change my expressions of being chronically ill and my expressions of being vegan when the appropriate opportunities reveal themselves.
so. living chronically vegan. a vegan with chronic illness, or a chronically ill person who’s vegan? is there a difference in the order of the words, or does it represent a shift in what identities you prioritize in your life? or what identities you tend to express more than the other, depending on what scene you are in at any given moment, or who you are sharing a conversation with, or perhaps whatever your current situation in life is right now? i think i can answer a confident ‘yes’ to all of the above, so i’ll go with that right now.
living vegan. living vegan means to me what is my relationship with veganism, as in, wtf does it even mean to be a vegan? well, it means to represent the ways in how i relate to the things i put in and on my body, and it means how and who i spend my days with – whether organizing actions or instead snuggling sleepy critters. i have no doubt my identity as a vegan has changed dramatically in the 5ish years – dying and being reborn countless times into increasingly beautiful expressions, each time representing who i was then and who i was not. like everything in my life, there were lots of characteristics to each expression of veganism that i cherish and others that i wish to forget. to provide examples to better articulate what i mean: i recall with wonderful embarassment the times when i approached veganism with what i would describe as a white saviour attitude – being persistent in my belief that i could solve all your problems if you were vegan like me (of course, i remained woefully ignorant to all the other host of violent oppressions and my own privileges that made my identities and relationships with veganism uniquely my own). but, i can remember – and learn from – these blunders and mistakes easier by reminding myself that i am (like everyone in my life) always doing my best. yes, ‘best’ may look very, very different to different people – but we are all still trying with the knowledge and love and traumas we carry around inside us. and so i like to think that as a vegan, i’m learning to take more accountability for myself in the ways that i am complicit and benefit from the social systems that make it really fucking hard for people to not have to hurt animals to keep living. learning to practice more radical concepts of love and patience – not in ways that necessarily encourage pacifism and ‘neutrality’, but expressions that light fires of hope and inspiration.
living chronically ill. same as before, my relationship with illness has changed quite a bit in my life. oddly enough, i never really recognized myself as being sick for a long time. my mental illness had been with me for so long that it was honestly just normal for me to have to deal with the pain in my head and body. it’s like trying to convince a fish that they are swimming in water, when all that this fish knows is water, and so they’ve learned to not even see it. we do that too with lots of things, like in the ways we treat ourselves and others or in the assumptions we make about different things. and i was doing that about being sick – i didn’t see it as sickness. yes, i had acute episodes throughout my life that were very dangerous and resulted in hard consequences for me, but i also had relatively good times in my life where i forgot the pain, so how could i be sick? but really all that had happened was that i was slowly numbing to this chronic illness, that i was self-medicating my pain with alcohol and drugs. and it was not until recently, after my worse acute episode yet, that my relationship with the illness changed in such a way that i could begin identifying 1. that i was sick and 2. where i, me, stopped and where the mental illness began. i’m still even today learning to recognize what is a symptom of this long-lasting illness and what is not, and doing this takes a hell of a lot of patience and self-love to reacquaint yourself with you, to begin restoring a present relationship with yourself. it’s been especially tough because i’ve had to literally re-examine my whole life, the big and small, and strive at opening up myself to the changes ready to take root in me, in how i carry myself, how i communicate, and the ways that i have harmed myself and others. and with such deep introspection, there has been a lot of trauma brought up from my past that has been sitting, rotting, in me because i never knew to let it out. it was upsetting too because i came to learn how much of my life i had been suffering so much all alone, never realizing that there are always better ways of enduring through the pain. that’s time i’ll never get back and that’s long lasting harm that i’m still learning to measure the scale of its effects. and so why is this good, better than yesterday? because i’m learning who i can now become, chronically ill and all, and that to do that i first need to shed off the old layers of my past.
so living chronically vegan is what it is.
it changes with me, and i change it. from the wisdom of the lovely Octavia E. Butler:
“All that you touch You Change.
All that you Change Changes you.
The only lasting truth is Change.
God is Change.”
and it is. we are always changing. our identities, in how we define, label and limit ourselves, is never fixed. i have grown out of so many of my older definitions of veganism and illness, and i love that potential, that hope that there are always greater things to come. and to quote another wise being, Thich Nhat Hanh:
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
and while i do say that with courage and hope, my intention here is never to undermine the real daily struggle that so many face in trying, trying to change, to feel better and to do better, by themselves and others. there are very real, very violent forces we all live with that prevent most folks from living the lives they might choose to live, and with that i’ll forward your attention to this piece by the great, Kim Katrin Milan (click here!).
and so i will leave it at that.
i’ve already written so much and now i’m quite tired.
but i really appreciate you folks who have read it.
i hope some parts of it were meaningful for you.
until next time.
image credit to: Emm’s Positivity Blog