My god people, caffeine withdrawal is hard.
Am I doing it because my body is a temple? No. I am doing it because my body is a porta-cabin.
My body is a porta-cabin with leaking plasticy windows that let in the cold and a door that never shuts properly and a roof that sounds like it might blow off in the next high wind.
I bloody wish my body was a temple. Temples are serene and well considered and generally quite elegant and peaceful. These are not words you could use to describe my body’s behaviour most of the time and even less so when it’s packing caffeine.
The porta-cabin is a double value concept. Here’s why, it’s not only falling apart and decrepit it’s also wilful and random. Just as you think you know what to do to nurture the porta-cabin and fix it up, it develops a new issue. Usually it’s an issue that I was sure COULD NEVER HAPPEN TO ME. Like Shingles. And sensitivity to caffeine. Yup, since the shingles (which 73 year olds quite regularly suffer but 37 year olds really shouldn’t) there’s no room for the coffee machine. The coffee machine is giving the porta-cabin near constant headaches, mood swings and gut issues that make an array of unpleasant, extraordinary noises and spasms.
And yet coffee is still that amazing smelling mug of love that I crave. It’s still that order in a cafe that I want to make and sit down with in porcelain on lip lust affair. It's another sensory memory of my Mum. It’s that omnipresent part of my life that means comfort, a little bit of decadence and some of the cracking stuff about being a grown up and a parent.
I miss it so badly already and it’s only Day 3.
No other withdrawal process has ever pole axed me in quite the way caffeine just did. On Monday I’d read about how caffeine withdrawal is now listed in the DSM (the mental health clinician’s diagnosing manual) as a mental disorder with its very own pathology was a little surprising but also a lot reassuring. If I hadn’t known that depression was a possible side effect of caffeine withdrawal how terrifying would its arrival, albeit temporary, have been? Having your normal mood switched out with the feeling of being completely unhinged and unhopeful from one day to the next is disorientating to say the least. It was good to be able to keep telling myself that the experience would pass and that it was a chemical side effect going on in my brain, not a thought process that I was choosing or that was choosing me.
Day 3 without caffeine. Blah........ what will go next....? Pillows on the bed? The soles on my shoes? What comforts does a 37 year old porta-cabin get to keep these days then?
I *think* I’ve come through the pain barrier though. The writhing dissatisfaction with all that is life since Monday has definitely subsided and I didn’t wake up with the headache that’s been with me constantly since my last cup of Lavazza. In fact I’ve only had a half hour headache today which is hardly worth even counting at all compared to yesterday’s cranium cracking delights.
I’ve given up a lot of stuff in my life; recreational drugs, weekly vodka drinking that had me hurling every Sunday, cigarettes, a massive daily sugar hit, relationships that were toxic... but of all of those withdrawals and cravings, caffeine has so far been the worst to try to say goodbye to. It’s down to two things, firstly, the physical pain of the headaches and secondly, the dramatically deflating effect on mood. Yesterday and the day before I felt like a basketball that had been slam dunked into an inky lagoon of hardcore depression with very fleeting abilities to float back for air on the surface. It. Was. Awful. Husband came home from work last night and listened with horror as I broke down the shades of brown, grey and beige that made up my day in mental terms. He looked so sorry for me as I explained the cognitive wormholes of self doubt and negativity I’d fallen into since he’d seen me (grey faced and whinging) earlier that morning. And all the self doubt and negativity weren’t even about coffee. I wasn’t sitting all day long lamenting lattes or planning memorials for mocha. No. It was a whole heap of other shit, horrible shit, that was needling around my neurons and making me feel like a total waste of space. Those thoughts that are probably the basis of my deepest insecurities and which are not best dealt with when I’m not quite myself. I don’t call anything depression lightly either – I’ve been there with the real deal diagnosed stuff more than once in my life and it’s a topic that’s so close to my heart and so ingrained in my family’s experiences that we can never take a good day for granted around these parts. We work hard on wellbeing because we have to and we’re lucky that we have the mental and physical reserves to be able to do so.
On the plus side, today has been an entirely different day. I’ve gone for two runs during my detox, running is my Prozac and I have a deal with myself to never take a state of mind too seriously unless it’s still there on the other side of a run. I think that has helped things flush through and perhaps go a little more quickly than it would have done otherwise. Seeing all the colours of autumn has helped me cling onto sanity too. Phew. The depression element has not been with me today other than a few very odd fleeting moments that were manageable and not overwhelming at all – thank the stars. Another plus is that I feel fresher today, my guts are behaving beautifully, I had a good sleep and my skin feels kinda different too – less puffy – while my thoughts are beginning to come back to the order that I would usually have triggered with sipping a coffee to keep me on my game. From what I’ve read about withdrawal, I’m probably not out of the woods yet and the biggest challenge is yet to come. Cause the next question is HOW THE FRICKETY FUCK AM I GOING TO DO THE WEEKEND WITHOUT COFFEE?!?!? HHHMM? Weekend coffee is the nearest thing we have to religion in this house. Well, that and gin, Chablis, Ikea and the Goddess Gospel of Caitlin Moran. It’s going to feel a bit like driving the car with no seat – probably possible but probably not enjoyable or particularly sensible. We’ll see. Any wisdom on the topic appreciated, as ever.
Yours, in (fairly flacid) Rooibos,