Depression in the Animal Rescue and Animal Activist Communities: 4 Steps to Getting Past the Pain to Make a Difference

Depression is rampant in 21-st century America, and especially pervasive in the animal rescue and activist movements due to constant exposure to pain and suffering on the part of our animal friends.

We are often told that depression is anger turned inward, yet in the world of animal activism and rescue, depression more adequately equates to anger meets helplessness.

Not to overstate the situation, but there is an overwhelming amount of NEED in the animal rescue and activism world. Even if you were financially-set and resource-laden, one person still could not stem the flow of animals that need places to go and daily help. 

So how does one animal-loving human—without significant financial resources—feel when accosted daily with both the overwhelming need AND anger at those who abuse animals or allow abusers to get away with it?

Helpless, hopeless, frustrated, furious…

DEPRESSED, that’s how.

And with just cause.

Unfortunately, wallowing in depression doesn’t get us anywhere—and doesn’t get the animals anywhere—so it’s in our best interest to find a way to relieve both our suffering and theirs without breaking the bank or giving up our lives. Below are four steps you can take daily if you’re one of the folks who suffer from depression due to the status of animals in our society.

(Obviously, if you’re suffering from deep depression or are having suicidal thoughts or tendencies, it’s important to reach out for emergency medical help.)

Give yourself even an hour a day with these methods and I strongly believe within a month you will be moving in a positive direction.

1. Tap to Release Negative Energy

I’m a big fan of Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique), because I can do it on my own, I don’t have to work with a therapist or a facilitator, and IT WORKS for me. In fact, according to the founder of tapping, Gary Craig, there are few people he hasn’t been able to help with this method. Luckily for you (and me!), he offers a completely free course on tapping on his website at http://www.emofree.com.

Tapping works with the body’s meridians to release the pain we hold inside. Given that most of us like to pretend that the negative doesn’t exist, we tend to deny the pain and so our body continues to hold onto it, mostly on a subconscious level and within our cells. But tapping daily can bring relief from this pain and even cruise you past childhood emotional injuries that have been holding you back forever. Try it! You can do it while you’re walking the dog, driving to work, even watching TV if you’re feeling down but too desperate to make a big effort.

Tap along here with me for a sneak peak at tapping for depression, and get an idea of what all it entails (hint, it’s easy and simple!):

2. After you Tap to Release the Negative, Bring the Positive Back into Your Life

Hopefully after tapping you’re (at least temporarily) an emotional blank slate. Now is the moment to bring the positive back into your life and heart. Think of a time when you were REALLY HAPPY. During that one special moment you—without even realizing it— held your heart wide open and ready to receive good things.

This is a vulnerable place for us to be, and so we often shut that valve off in order to protect ourselves. But the more and the longer we can keep it open, the better chance we have of bringing ourselves to a more positive place.

So picture that moment, open your heart, and try to hold it open and envision yourself receiving positive events in your life for at least 60 seconds. Smile! Remember, you ARE worthy of good things, just like every other human on the planet.

3. Make a Goal for Yourself

If you were ready and willing to go for your BIG DREAM, what would that look like? Would you build an animal rescue? An animal activist organization? Would you volunteer and become more involved in the day to day world of work for the animals?

Take out your BIG DREAM. Shine it up. And sit it beside your computer. Because now you have a goal, something to work toward, and you’re not going to let depression stop you.

4. Every Day, Take One Baby Step Toward That Goal

I remember when I started Dogs Deserve Better in 2002. I knew I wanted to take a stand, but I was TERRIFIED. I promised myself I’d take five steps toward my goal before the end of the year.

But guess what? Once I got going, I was taking a step toward it every day.

You can do that too. Take one teeny tiny step toward your goal each and every day. If that means you make one phone call? Good. Do one google search on something you’re trying to understand? Great.

Feeling depressed that day and afraid of failing? Do it anyway. Make yourself take the one step.

You’ll be amazed at how you’ll feel afterward! And soon you’ll be adding up all those steps to making a REAL DIFFERENCE for the animals.

P.S. I’m in no way making light of depression, and am well-aware it’s a continual struggle for those who suffer with it. I grew up with a depressed parent, and always thought it was ‘normal’—which meant it became part of my life, too. I offer you these tips if you want to crawl out of the abyss of that kind of pain to make a difference. Sometimes having something to focus on outside of ourselves is the biggest boon we can receive. I wish you all the very best that life has to offer, and the strength to continue your path toward wellness.

Tamira Thayne is the founder of Who Chains You Books and Spiritual Mentoring, and the pioneer of the anti-chaining movement in America. She spent 13 years on the front lines of chained-dog activism and rescue as founder and CEO of Dogs Deserve Better. She is the author of Foster Doggie Insanity: Tips and Tales to Keep your Kool as a Doggie Foster Parent, and Capitol in Chains: 54 Days of the Doghouse Blues. To book a one-on-one session with Ms. Thayne, visit the website at http://www.whochainsyou.com/activism.html.

Been Told You’re ‘Too Sensitive’ for Caring About the Animals? Four Challenges Sensitive People Can Overcome to Make a Difference

 

Are you an animal activist or rescuer who’s been repeatedly told you’re ‘too sensitive’ for caring about animals? You are not alone.

One of the Universe’s little ironies is that the most sensitive among us are the ones tasked with doing one of the most difficult jobs…protecting the animals.

Yet this very same sensitivity—the gift of the ability to empathize, to put ourselves into the shoes, hooves, or paws of another being—puts us at greater risk for pain, depression, and immense suffering, whether we are following through with our chosen mission or not.

There are four hurdles to be overcome in working for the animals which can prove especially challenging to the sensitive soul.

1. Overcoming the Fear of Taking Action

Sensitive folks believe they’ve come to this planet to make a difference. When that difference is scary, such as advocating for animals left out on chains, animals that end up on peoples’ plates, or animals that are used for the amusement of humans, the fear—real and imagined—is amped up accordingly.

There exists the possibility that when one stands in the face of violence against animals, jail, physical and emotional harm, or even death can result. To the sensitive soul these confrontations with amoral people loom large and menacing.

The probability of failure is high, and even when there are successes to tide you over, the greater likelihood is that there remains a continued chance of defeat in each mission you undertake. Those who are sensitive take these failures more personally, believing that it’s all their fault—and just maybe they are not good people—if they can’t succeed.

2. Overcoming Debilitating Pain for and on Behalf of The Animals

For those of us who love animals, the thought of eating them, chaining them, caging them for our amusement, and the host of other uncurbed cruelties that abound out in the ‘real’ world cause us intense emotional discomfort.

We feel this pain on behalf of the tortured souls—as if we are experiencing it AS them—AND we feel this pain on behalf of our own tormented spirits, forced to witness the cruelty and feeling helpless to stop it.

Overwhelming anguish leads to depression, avoidance of the reality we face, and—worst case scenario—suicide.

When we are in such intense agony, it is very hard to act on behalf of the animals. All we can focus on is our own suffering and how to ameliorate it.

3. Overcoming Obstacles and Putdowns by Bullies and Authorities

Sensitive people by and large don’t fend off criticism as well as their neighbors and co-workers. Because they are so easily-affected by the putdowns of others, they struggle to place the far-flung words into perspective, to realize those who are directing abuse at them are really showing themselves for what they are: bullies. To the overwhelmed thought pattern of the empath, the putdowns becomes more proof that they must somehow be defective.

They have a harder time standing up to authorities—even though their moral compass is strong—because the desire to avoid conflict and an inherent kindheartedness is a large part of who they are. As such they are often mistaken for weak by those who bulldoze all those standing in their path.

4. Overcoming Defeat and Getting Back Up to Fight Again

Once a sensitive soul is down, it becomes all too tempting to roll over and play dead. They bury themselves in depression, alcohol, pills, food, TV-watching, internet surfing, or other activities that are self-defeating and don’t forward the mission of advocating for the animals.

Everyone on the front lines needs a break from time to time. Animal advocacy is a very difficult and soul-draining process, especially for those who are empathetic enough to fight on behalf of the animals.

There also comes a time in every activist or rescuer’s career when her front line days are over, she’s served her time, and she can then be of service to the cause as a mentor to others.

Ascertaining at which point on the spectrum the sensitive soul currently sits is an ongoing process, but overcoming a sense of defeat enough to stand and fight another day is a highly-commendable—and possible—goal.

Exactly How Does the Sensitive Soul Overcome These and Other Obstacles to Animal Activism?

Sometimes the most sensitive among us are surprisingly inept at inner reflection and strength-building. Most have suffered intense childhood wounding by their families of origin, and carry this pain into adulthood, mistakenly assuming they are stuck dragging it after them for life.

But our very ability to look deep, to release old, stuck issues, can make the difference in overcoming the obstacles and creating a new reality for ourselves.

Often a childhood fraught with animal abuse brings about the very desire to make a difference for the animals as adults, and letting go of the pain and blame from childhood will go a long way toward giving us the strength to stand tall for those we are now tasked with protecting.

There are a myriad of ways to let go, and there is no wrong way as long as it works for you. Just start exploring the infinite possibilities. I recommend reading “The Four Agreements” if you haven’t already done so, and take its lessons to heart. The agreements are simple yet profound, and the book is short and perfect for multiple readings—as you’ll find it easy to forget what you’ve learned and fall back into childhood patterns.

I’ve become a fan of and use tapping, aka EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), for myself and my clients, as a solid means by which to free negative emotions and build a strong inner core through drawing the positive into your life.

To teach yourself tapping (one of the reasons I love it is that you can totally teach it to yourself), visit the founder’s website and go through the lessons. You won’t regret it. http://www.emofree.com.

Below is a video to get the sensitive souls among us started in overcoming obstacles today. Tap along and you’ll start releasing a little of that pain and negativity within the first 15 minutes!

Tamira Thayne is the founder of Who Chains You Books and Spiritual Mentoring, and the pioneer of the anti-chaining movement in America. She spent 13 years on the front lines of chained-dog activism and rescue as founder and CEO of Dogs Deserve Better. She is the author of Foster Doggie Insanity: Tips and Tales to Keep your Kool as a Doggie Foster Parent, and Capitol in Chains: 54 Days of the Doghouse Blues. To book a one-on-one session with Mr. Thayne, visit the website at http://www.whochainsyou.com/activism.html.

Holiday Bullying around Food Choices Ends in Depression for Many Vegans and Vegetarians

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Author Tamira Thayne with her cat, Tuna

For many of us who choose not to eat animals, the holidays can turn into a special kind of hades, one beyond the normal ‘time spent with your crazy family’ insanity.

We often feel forced to choose between two less than stellar options: eat with our families, where odds are good we will be made fun of or put down for our beliefs—all while being forced to dine with a dead carcass smack dab in the middle of the table—or go it alone at the ‘happiest time of the year.’

Not great options.

When I first became a vegetarian fourteen years ago, I attended a seminar at one of the animal conferences about this very subject, and I remember clearly the speaker encouraging us not to hold ourselves separate from our families at the holidays. He reasoned that we could be an example for them and educate just by being ourselves, showing them we weren’t ‘crazy animal people’ and hopefully then they too will make more humane choices.

The advice made sense to me, even though it didn’t sound like fun. I really struggled with having to sit at the table with a turkey carcass and pretend like it didn’t affect me.

But I did it, and I pushed my personal feelings aside year after year. I’m here to report that I have not ‘won over’ a single family member, and remain the sole vegetarian/vegan in my family. (I eat about 85% vegan and 15% vegetarian meals.) I am married to a man who eats meat, and both of my children eat meat. Every member of my extended family on all sides eats meat.

I am truly alone in my choice.

And me putting my pain to the side and eating with them for years has not changed a single mind.

This year was particularly brutal for me, though, and may have forced me to reconsider following this gentleman’s advice, for my own emotional well-being.

If you too had a tough holiday season, I feel for you, and share your suffering.

If I end up unhappy and crying and/or seething with anger at a holiday ‘celebration’, is that really to anyone’s benefit? Is it to your benefit to end up the same way by forcing yourself to interact with people who don’t understand or support you?

I checked in with a few other vegans I know for their thoughts.

tearswerehumancoverloAuthor Heather Leughmyer told me her vegan family unit chose to eat only in the company of other vegans on Thanksgiving, and therefore there was no pain, no turmoil.

One of my Facebook friends drew her own line in the sand the other day with the following one-sentence post: “If you ate ham for Christmas, please unfriend me now.”

Her stand engendered the usual outpouring of “you’ll never win people over with this attitude” kind of responses; and maybe from a logical standpoint I can agree with them.

But our feelings are not always logical.

And maybe there comes a time when you have to take care of YOU, and YOU can no longer stomach the pain of hanging around those who believe animals are here for humans to use and abuse.

Subjecting yourself to bullying at the hands of loved-ones at the holidays—in some perhaps misguided effort to seem ‘normal’—isn’t healthy, and often leads to depression and feelings of isolation.

No one deserves to suffer for the simple act of making a humane choice with their eating habits.

At a time when bullying is at an all-time high in America, family members who tend to be bombastic by nature are feeling more empowered, and are apt to make easy targets of vegetarian and vegan family members.

I experienced this targeting while dining with extended family this year. The two women in the family went out of their way to make me special vegan food, which I didn’t expect but greatly appreciated. I was deeply touched by their kindness.

But the husband, who had coincidentally voted for Trump, went out of his way to put me down. First he told my son a ‘joke’ about vegetarians, supposedly behind my back, but making sure that I heard him. I felt belittled and shamed, and managed not to cry only by pushing my feelings down. And having another drink.

Then he told me if I didn’t want to be the only vegetarian at the table I should start eating meat again.

By this time I’d had enough. We had words, and then the whole family finished their dinners in awkward silence.

I won’t go back.

If forcing yourself to be with family only results in you feeling more pain, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to make yourself more important next year. Take Heather’s advice, find a new family of vegans to spend the holidays with, or go it alone.

Sometimes being alone isn’t lonely. It’s peaceful, healing, and calm.

I think that’s what I’ll be doing next year.

—Tamira Ci Thayne

Tamira is the founder of Who Chains You Books, and the author of Foster Doggie Insanity and Capitol in Chains. She is an animal activist and ordained minister, best-known as the pioneer of the anti-tethering movement in America. Tamira founded and ran Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit advocating for chained dogs, from 2002-2015.