When I finished high school and came to Vanderbilt, I decided to go vegan. In the moment, I wasn’t guilted into it by any horrific animal slaughter footage. I didn’t want to save the environment or conserve water. I didn’t particularly care to end the suffering done onto animals. I went vegan for the most selfish reason of all. I didn’t feel good.
High school was the first time I ever felt real sadness. There were weeks I didn’t want to go to school. My mom had to trick me into getting into the car with her so she could take me to school. I knew I didn’t like how I was feeling, but had no idea what to do about it. I had my parents bring me to all sorts of doctors. One prescribed me acid reflux medication for my “stomach migraines,” and another suggested Accutane to smoothe out the painful red bumps on my face. Nothing these doctors told me answered my questions the way I had wanted. I wanted someone to fix the core of what was wrong with me. I had a feeling in my gut, however, that their “solutions” had nothing to do with my problem.
I did my own research and read the testimonials of women who changed their lives by going vegan. Many of them came from pasts of restrictive eating and depression. When they removed the animal products from their diets, their lives seemed to improve magically. This seemed like my answer. This was a very concrete, immediate adjustment I could make and see instant results. I didn’t exactly understand how removing the animal products from my diet would help. It made sense that cutting out the extra hormones from my food would be a good thing. It seemed probable that eliminating animal products would relieve my digestive system of a heavy burden. I figured that all that energy being spent trying to digest these complicated foods could instead be put towards other processes like healing. Eating foods more rich in water, fiber and micronutrients instead of those packed with hormones, cholesterol, dioxins and carcinogens seemed like a good starting point.
It’s been almost three years since I went vegan and I wish I were exaggerating when I say that every day it helps me in new ways. Within the first week, my digestion improved massively. My sharp, stabbing stomach cramps were gone and constipation was no longer a word I’d need in my vocabulary. Within a month, I noticed that my period was lighter. Less blood, and less pain. After a year, for the first time in my life, I felt enough energy to want to work out. I could run on the treadmill and stop when I felt like it, rather than when my lungs closed up. I can wake up in the morning after only six or seven hours of sleep and feel completely refreshed. After two years, my inflamed cystic acne has given way to glowy smooth skin. I can’t remember the last time I needed to take Advil for a headache. If I get a small cut or a bruise, it heals almost completely before I wake up the next morning. My emotions still take dips and turns, but I don’t suffer from anything even close to the extreme swings I used to feel. Veganism has brought me a kind of lightness I can’t really describe in words. It’s the kind of lightness you can only experience for yourself.