Finding The Bottom of The Bottomless Cup
A couple days after graduating from college, I was settling back into my parents’ house and printing my resume on some nice crisp paper when I realized that something was very, very wrong with me.
It wasn’t so much that I had just moved back into my parents’ house, or that I had yet to land a job. It was that I had somehow developed these nausea inducing headaches. They had come out of nowhere and weren’t going away. And by the third day of those pulsating sons of bitches, I became very worried.
My immediate thought, was that this was my body’s way of payback for the grueling–caffeine riddled–six month intensive internship I had just gone through in order to graduate.
All of those early mornings, late nights of studying, and fighting sleep 7 days a week were now manifesting as some sort of stress induced affliction.
My HYPOCHONDRIACAL THOUGHT, was that I had just become the first person in the history of the universe to simultaneously contract the Bubonic Plague, E. coli O157:H7 and Hepatitis C. Because shit like that seems perfectly plausible to someone whose brain feels like it is about to explode.
I was also more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. Sleep did nothing for me. I’d wake up and feel more tired than before. It was frustrating.
By about the 5th day, my headaches and nausea had actually dipped to a more manageable annoyance, but I was still dead tired. And even though I had already self-diagnosed myself with every known disease under sun, I figured that the smart thing to do, would be to go to my doctor’s office and be checked out by a professional, instead of a medical internet database that will most certainly someday be downloaded into a robot that will turn against us in a robot uprising.
I was ready for any test my doctor would have thrown at me, x-rays, stress tests, the GREs. I just needed answers.
The doctor started off with something simple.
My urinalysis came back spotless.
My doctor had me get some bloodwork done as well and told me he would call back with my results the next day.
And of course, I waited all day by the phone like I was waiting to hear back from any girl desperately needing to lock down a date for the Sadie Hawkins Dance.
Sometime in the afternoon, he got back to me.
And before I could follow up with a question, he hung up.
My heart sank a little. I was distraught because I knew that there was absolutely something off about me. But on paper I was perfectly fine. Crestfallen and malaised, I pretty much accepted that this numbing lethargy would be my new norm from now until the end of days, so I pulled a comforter over my head and flipped open my laptop to peruse job openings for the rest of the afternoon.
It was completely dark out when I realized that I was nearing the event horizon of a Youtube blackhole and that I had failed at perusing jobs. But since I was already deep into surfing the internet, I decided to delve back in and do a bit more research as to what could possibly be wrong with me.
For the life of me, I can’t recall the exact string of words I had thrown into Google when I landed on a particular forum–nearly thousands of comments deep–with people talking about the exact headaches, the nausea, and same overall lethargy I had been experiencing. But after reading through only a handful of comments, I knew that I was suffering from the exact same ailment as my digital counterparts.
I say again, what I thought was some new-age hybrid virus annihilating my grey matter, was actually my body’s way of saying “Get me caffeine. Get me it now.”
I immediately played back memories of the past 6 months I had just spent in a very competitive internship. It was fueled by nothing more than coffee and energy drinks by the bucket load. I needed to be awake and alert at every possible second to juggle the workload and lecture schedule, so in turn, I slammed back heavily caffeinated drinks several times a day, 7 days a week.
The day after graduating, I went cold turkey on any type of caffeinated beverage since I was no longer required to be highly alert or awake. Barely 24 hours after that is when my symptoms began.
Honestly, I had very little idea the body could become that addicted to caffeine and that it could go that ape-shit over not getting it on a daily basis.
I continued to scour through the message boards, reading the accounts of my new compatriots. And as I did, I could feel a giant wave of relief sweep over me. I knew what was wrong and I wasn’t alone.
And then came a riptide of embarrassment to pull me out to sea.
I mean, c’mon, caffeine withdrawal? It sounded so utterly trite to me, but I assure you that the headaches and nausea were unlike anything I had experienced before. It was like a hangover that had its own hangover and for some reason mononucleosis decided to join the party and was all, like, “Heeeeeeeeey!”
The whole situation made me think about real withdrawal sickness, and how my symptoms were only just a fraction of what someone dealing with a much more serious addiction problem must have to suffer through and endure. It was pretty humbling.
Anyway, I noticed over the next few days that I was feeling better, but that I still had headaches. I remembered reading the message boards and how it was taking months for most people to become “symptom free,” and to no longer require caffeine to operate. So, I decided to ride it out, however long it would take, and aim for caffeine free existence as well.
I went 5 months of hardcore abandonment on caffeine. It took me about 3 months to be rid of my symptoms for good. To be honest, once the symptoms had pretty much faded, it wasn’t that hard to not consume caffeine.
But there still existed one problem. I actually enjoy the bitter goodness that is coffee. Scratch that. I mother fuzzing LOVE a nice cup of coffee. The aroma is true splendor and sometimes those first couple sips seem to illuminate the world.
I realized that when it comes to coffee, I’m a lifer.
So, after 7 months of successfully weaning myself back down to a more normal state, I eased up on my no caffeine stance and slowly assimilated coffee back into my existence. I’m usually just a cup a day (ok, sometimes two) kind of drinker. But now I can actually enjoy a cup of coffee. It isn’t out of sheer necessity.
Sometimes, when I have a moment at work, I’ll slowly sip my morning coffee and look out at the city, and I don’t just see that I’m in a much better place, I can taste it.