Not the kind of tired you experience when you’ve had too many late nights, or not enough fresh fruit and veg. Nor the kind of tired you feel at 3pm on a Monday afternoon, when all you want is a strong coffee and a whole packet of Jammie Dodgers (and yes, they are Vegan!!).
I’m talking about the kind of physical and emotional exhaustion that an undernourished salmon feels after what seems like a lifetime swimming up a very steep stream. When you’ve depleted any energy and drive you once had to be who you are – or who you want to be – and no longer have the will to lift one eye lid up to see, let alone a whole arm to do.
But this fatigue – though it is spreading fast like a virus throughout my life– is not simply a result of working too hard, playing too hard or indeed life being generally hard. Its roots lie deep within; stemming from my increasing realisation that my attempts to live a green, waste less, compassionate life is surrounded by a million and one others who simply don’t give a shit. Apparently it’s called Activist Burnout, and I’m certainly not the only one who suffers from it.
Avoiding animal products – not matter how hard it is at times, and how awkward it can make me feel – feels futile when people around me openly admit they would just “rather not think about it”.
Ignorance is bliss. Indeed, it is for the ignorant. But once you have been exposed to certain truths, you can’t unlearn what you’ve learnt. It is those who care the most who often carry the burden for the rest of us; and this burden can turn into two trucks loads of anger, resentment and exhaustion that over time can literally sit on your shoulders like a responsibility which doesn’t seem worth it anymore.
Why should we avoid plastics when millions of others consume it like it’s going out of fashion? Why should we bother championing healthy, organic alternatives when Coca Cola simply change their packaging to green color and McDonalds brings out a new salad? While the minority (which is how I feel right now – small and insignificant) fight upstream like eager salmon seeking to follow their hearts, minds and ethics; the rest of the world wishes us a sarcastic “good luck” and turns on its heels to continue the carnage we’re busy trying to rectify.
Despite the enthusiasm, passion and pure optimism I felt when I started my “green Journey” just over a year ago; right now I feel exhausted, ground down and nothing short of pessimistic. About life. About my fellow humans. And, more importantly, about myself.
When a friend recently, and rather innocently, mocked me for my veganism and my futile attempts to “save the world”, I wondered why I was even bothering anymore. If my friends and family could support me yet not really get it, let alone agree, what hope in hell did I have in inspiring the rest of the world? How can you possibly stay motivated when you’re fighting what appears to be a losing battle? I’m not blessed with ignorant self-confidence or an ability to brush myself off and start again. I’m a dweller, a brooder and often an embarrassing emotional wreck.
With the commitment to live by your moral and ethics, despite what others around you are doing, you really open yourself up to vulnerability. It’s like stripping off naked and saying “Come on over. Give me a hard old stare, and feel free to tell me what you really think about my body. It’s OK. I don’t mind. After all, I chose to strip!”
OK, so I think I’ve made it pretty crystal that I’m in a low place right now. I’ve admitted that my energy for green living – and any passion to show you the “lazy” way to master it – is currently somewhere far away (probably buried under a huge pile of singe use plastic water bottles…) But what am I going to do about it? They say the best way to feel better about something is to be open and honest.
To admit defeat, or at the very least a desire for little helping hand, can often be the first step to gaining back the confidence you need to crack on. Sometimes you just need to say, “This is actually really fucking hard!”
And just because you have admitted you’ve met a big brick wall, and you have no clue right now how to get over it, it doesn’t mean that you’re admitting it clearly hadn’t been worth it, or announcing it’s the end of the journey. You are literally saying, “Gimmie a minute, I’m just going to eat this whole packet or Jammie Dodgers, then I’ll think about how to turn that frown upside down…”
Have you experienced Activist Burnout, or generally a feeling of green fatigue? I’d be interested to know what has worked for others.