Your mental health is
more important than a holiday.
This time of year is for gathering and family. We eat, we drink, and we love each other. We also argue when Drunk Uncle Burt has one whiskey too many, brings up politics, and then shit hits the fan. At my family gatherings it usually begins when my brother-in-law decides to mock my veganism. I tend to keep quiet because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing his insults get under my skin.
I’m very fortunate to have a supportive family and a take-no-shit attitude. When I initially went vegan, my mother researched vegan cookbooks. My oldest sister, who has a vegetarian son, seemed excited to challenge herself through veganizing recipes. My other older sister told me that she didn’t understand my decision but that she would support me. My husband went vegetarian and eventually became vegan. The rest of my family just kind of shrugged and said, “Ok.”
This isn’t the case for a lot of people. Especially during the holidays.
Most of my fellow vegans that I have spoken to told me that condescending family members are the worst part of the holidays and I agree. I deal with condescension in my own family (we all do). I remember my first thanksgiving as a vegan I was speaking to my mother about what I would and wouldn’t eat, my brother-in-law pointed at my mother’s avocado tree and said, “Why don’t you just chew on that?”
If it had been anyone else who said it, I would have laughed and told them to get bent, but at that point he had been insulting and rude at every available opportunity for months and I was totally over it. With my second round of holidays coming up as a vegan, I think about that moment a lot. When it happened initially, I just walked away. I didn’t ty to talk to him about it because I knew that it wouldn’t do any good. I don’t look back on that moment and think about what I could have done differently. That particular moment made me think about what I could do to survive family gatherings in the future.
I tried telling my mom and sisters not to veganize anything because I could eat before the event. That was quickly shot down when my mother said, “You really expect me not to feed you?” I even tried eating beforehand until I was so full that thinking about food made me sick, not telling anyone, and not eating at the gathering. That didn’t work because my mom and sisters are amazing cooks. Finally, I decided to just start making an incredible vegan dish and taking enough to share with everyone. It works for the most part. The majority of my family will try the food and enjoy it, which just makes my heart so happy because its one way to spread the message of veganism without being a stereotypical, militant vegan warrior.
Along with bringing food to share, I’ve stopped rising to the jokes and insults, which is easier said than done I must admit. It works, however. When you don’t rise to the barbs they spit at you, you’ll find that they become less frequent. I also recommend, for the shit-stirrers like myself, to check out Mic the Vegan’s recent video on comebacks to the most frequent “arguments” against veganism (link here).
My last suggestion is to walk away. If being around your family during the holidays makes you feel badly about yourself, walk away. The best thing you can do for your mental health sometimes is to avoid the situation entirely. It isn’t your job to make a family event better. If you’re not respected don’t be afraid to stay away. It is often times the easiest way to avoid confrontation and you’ll feel better, I promise.
Good luck out there this holiday season, babies. I love you!