Dear caffeine

I didn’t think I could live without you. You were my routine. You were my comfort zone. I trusted you to help me be social when I just wanted to hermit and hide. You calmed my nervous hands. You steadied my mind. You kept me up late. You woke me up early. Over the years, I learned to love you in all your forms.

It’s been 7 days without you.

The first 3 days, I spent in an utter daze. I would read and re-read and re-re-read until I could try to get some sort of meaning from the words flying at me at work. I would type, delete, type, delete — somehow eventually landing on a few words thrown together as if I was playing scrabble and not trying to communicate with other Humans.

If anyone has ever thought it would be interesting to simulate depression, whew – I have an experiment for you to try! At the age of 16 or so, start drinking redbull so you can sneak out and stay up late with friends. To recover from staying out late talking at parks, start drinking redbull in the mornings from time to time. Witness something traumatic (pick wisely!) and just stop sleeping for a while causing you to start your day at the local 711 snagging a redbull every morning. Eventually, sometime in college, finally listen to a cute girl tell you to it’s bad for you (even though your parents have been telling you for years) and start drinking coffee (yuck) at her favorite coffee shop so you have to run into her. Start drinking too much coffee trying to see said girl. Get desensitized – start drinking redbull in the afternoons as a pick me up when you need it. Move to San Francisco and become a complete coffee snob in the span of 3 months. Go through a breakup and drink MORE coffee. Take on more tasks at work. Drink MOAR coffee. Start nomading across timezones and forget there is such a thing as a “sleep cycle”. One day, go to your favorite coffee shop in a new city and have two cups of coffee in the span of 4 hours. Feel nothing. Go home and fall asleep for 2 hours. 3 days later, decide to detox from caffeine. Curl up in a ball and feel all the things at first. Fall asleep at inappropriate times. Throw off your sleep cycle. Walk around in a haze. Try to go to the gym and force your slowly sloshing body to exert energy you don’t have. At a certain point, give in. Curl back up in bed. Forget to feed yourself. Forget to shower. Ignore as much human contact as possible.

Repeat for roughly 3 days. Afterwards, it’ll wear off and the sun will shine again or something.

Despite having to repeatedly tell myself for those first 3 days I wasn’t spiraling into depression and that it was caffeine withdrawal, I found a silver lining – I wasn’t anxious. For 3 days, I didn’t feel anxiety at all. I mean I felt a black pit of nothingness barely able to concentrate on anything BUT I didn’t feel anxious. It was a different kind of nirvana/zen/[insert calm term here].

Life started evening out as it always does with time around day 4-5. I still needed naps like a toddler but I could put words together, say my ABCs, blah blah.

Anxiety returned day 6 and 7. I have been anxious for so long that I forgot what it was like to be without it until it suddenly came back. I thought it would be gone. I thought caffeine was the root cause potentially. Apparently, anxiety is in the top 15 of withdrawal symptoms according to “the internet” so who knows. All I know is that today, when my mental clarity came back so did my dear friend anxiety with a freaking vengeance.

To all of you who say, “maybe you wouldn’t be so anxious if you didn’t drink caffeine?”. Sigh. Mental health doesn’t work like that. In many ways, it’s ironic because I started drinking redbull as a way to wake me up from depression and sleepless nights thanks to PTSD. Later, I used it to help me power through assignments, papers, tests, projects that I was anxiety ridden over. As I started nomading, I used it as a way to give me energy and motivation to see new places, meet new people, and have the energy to be goinggoinggoing even when I wanted to freak out and hide.

Today, without caffeine, my brain beat me. Every slack channel I was in seemed to have someone asking for help from me. I didn’t know where to start on my to do list and, in my head, everything had to be done TODAY.

At a certain point, I paused and reminded myself about the myth of “tomorrow”. I paired down what I wanted to accomplish for the day. I took a lot of deep breaths. I let my anxiety power me through a couple of tasks. I closed my computer at 4:30PM and curled up into bed unable to cope with or without caffeine. When my adrenaline finally gave out, I fell asleep in a tight ball.

Day 8, please be better?


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