Hi peeps! Wow it’s been ages since I’ve written a post. Bad Nat! Decided to get back into my blogging this year after a not so great first half to the year!
Anyway, that’s another story. For now I wanted to share my little Caffeine withdrawal journey incase it helps anyone out there.
Let me start by giving you a little history about my Coffee consumption, and just why I’m giving it up in the first place!
I had my first cup of coffee when I was about 19 years old, I still remember it (cue music) it was a big ass latte. I’d scoff at that type of coffee now, coffee for wimps I tell ya! Anyway, I wasn’t actually too keen on the taste at first, but as is the case with so many people the taste grew on me.
Before I knew it I was drinking a couple a week, and then when I started my first Systems Administrator post with a local company I started to drink them on a daily basis, then slowly escalated to maybe 2 coffees a day. Nothing too major…But my love of coffee only grew! Aaah nectar of the gods, the glorious smell of roasted coffee beans first thing in the morning practically left me giddy.
Fast forward a couple of jobs and an odd 8 years and I’m on the good stuff, the espressos and espresso macchiatos (I’m craving one as I type dammit) and depending on the type of day I’d had I’d easily get to 4-5 a day. Average being 3 which I suppose is not as bad as some other people. But here’s the thing, and I’d never really noticed this before or thought about it. I don’t know whether it was the stresses of work over the last few years, my decision to go freelance from a full time career, or some minor health issues that had been plaguing me for the last 6 months, but I was having some crazy mood swings, energy dips and the return of some bad anxiety.
I should probably add, if I’m being honest, I’ve had a couple of spells in my short life so far of panic attacks and anxiety issues (coupled with some Adrenal Fatigue from over exercising a few years back), but for the most part this settled in my mid twenties. But lately the anxiety had started to creep its nasty little head again. Darwin knows why the thought occurred to me but I started reading up on longterm caffeine consumption and caffeine sensitivity and just decided from one day to the next to stop drinking caffeine!
I’d heard about caffeine withdrawal and always thought it was people just being pansies, well….let me tell you it’s no cup of tea! (no pun intended) Withdrawal is absolutely real! And pretty damn nasty! So here’s my wonderful first week off the Caffeine :
Day 1 – Tuesday
So on this first day of my mad journey, I had one last Espresso Macchiato at around 11am, and that would be my last. Not really expecting much to happen so soon I was a little surprised to feel the first effects of a pounding headache come on as I was getting ready to leave the office that day, around 6:30pm. Thought perhaps it was a coincidence so just headed home took some painkillers and carried on. They helped a little but the headache lingered on for the rest of the night. The only other thing I think worth noting is my mood that evening, probably around the time the headache started, and at first I also dismissed this as one of those days when my anxiety wanted to rear its ugly head, but it was a particularly weird mood and at first I wasn’t sure what was going on. Sure, I’d been a little down lately due to some lingering health issues, but this was something different. Incase anyone is interested in the details, it was as if a gloomy dark morbid fog had settled over my mood, I felt detached from myself and there was fear and worry when there was no reason to feel either, a negative scary hopeless feeling I couldn’t shake. Pretty weird! Had been a long time since I felt anything close to that, and I became aware all of a sudden I was having an anxiety episode, and just tried to distract myself and wait for it to pass. Which it did just before going to sleep. And I slept like a baby.
Day 2 – Wednesday – Caffeine 0mg
Woke up feeling relatively ok on the second day, apart from a slight headache, and the slightest bit of unease over previous nights episode. But this increased as the day went to make day 2 the worst mood wise by far. Energy levels are terrible, at their worst mid afternoon (when I normally have my coffee), I was struggling to keep my eyes open. The headache was mild and by late afternoon was pretty much gone. But my mood was really weird for most of the day, peaking at around 9-10pm. Pretty much the same as day 1 with the fear, anxiety, hopelessness, foggy mind, sense of detachment, but add to that a sense of hysteria in my mind that I couldn’t settle. It quite frankly scared the crap out of me, I’d go as far as to say it was like my head was torturing me and there was no hope of any improvement, like I would go mad. But as per previous night, this settled around 11pm. Weird…anyway..slept like a baby again.
Day 3 – Thursday – Caffeine 0mg
No headaches today, woke up worried about last nights hellish episode. Mood was better, but I would say a generalized anxiety had settled over me. It’s a catch 22, day 2’s episode scared me, but when I felt better I ended up remembering and worrying it would happen again! Hey ho…can’t be a coincidence, coffee does alter brain chemistry. Anyway, apart from the low mood, I was still feeling pretty exhausted. Slept well again that night.
Day 4 – Friday – Caffeine 20mg approx
No headaches. Feeling slightly more upbeat, but still feeling ‘weird’. I say weird, and this is hard to explain, but the anxiety attack left me feeling very unsettled, and like the world was a strange and negative place. Anyone that has had this happen will know exactly what I mean, the rest must be reading this thinking what the hell are you on about? Anyway, I made a stupid mistake today! I met up with a friend for a ‘coffee’ and ordered myself a Green Tea…yes…a Green Tea! Hello?!? It didn’t occur to me till I was half way through the cup that Green Tea has caffeine. I ditched the cup and carried on drinking water. Doh!!
It wasn’t too much that I drank, so I didn’t really have any headaches. I did however feel pretty damn good for about an hour after drinking that small dose, I would go as far as to say buzzing…over such a small amount of caffeine! Was more upset with myself for not realising sooner. Anyway…still a massive caffeine cut, but a small setback. Slightly low mood in the evening, but nothing too major. Pattern is it always seems worse in the evenings, then subsides late night?
Day 5 – Saturday – Caffeine 0mg
Today was a better day. Feeling more upbeat. Nothing more to note really, slept really well.
Day 6 – Sunday – Caffeine 0mg
Great. Mood much better, of course there was that small worry at the back of my mind that the crazy mood might return, but it didn’t bother me that much…and that’s the difference. It’s amazing how brain chemistry affects mood, something that bothers you so much in a bad mood is of no consequence when you’re in a good mood. I had to remind myself of this.
Day 7 – Monday – Caffeine 100mg
Another good day. The only lingering effects of withdrawal seemed to be the low energy levels. But I messed it up big time today. I normally don’t take a PreWorkout shake when I workout, but today I did…again…not realising Pre Workout has a pretty decent kick! Here’s the thing I didn’t actually notice the caffeine content until I looked at the back of the tub 2 days later. My energy and mood was obviously through the roof for the hours afterwards, but it didn’t initially click it was the caffeine in the pre-workout dose. Aaaah hindsight.
Day 8 – Tuesday – Caffeine 0mg
Feeling as normal as I have in a while. No headaches, clear head, slight tiredness mid afternoon.
Day 9 – Wednesday – Caffeine 0mg
Felt pretty normal today for the first part of today. Noticeable drop in mood level in the evening, with slight anxiety creeping in. Not sure if related to caffeine intake on Monday?
I never finished publishing this article. We’re now fast forwarded 5 months and hindsight has left me with a couple of conclusions about my whole caffeine withdrawal experience. I was a little undecided about whether or not to publish this in the first place, discussing the mental hardships I went through last year is hard. But I’m happy to highlight a few things about the whole experience :
1. Caffeine withdrawal is definitely a real thing, and can be much more serious than people make out to be.
2. I do believe the level of caffeine withdrawal and whether or not it has any effect on mental health is dependant on the persons predisposition to anxiety/panic attacks in the first place. Caffeine sensitivity is higher for people like this in my opinion.
3. There are many highs and lows for weeks and months after cutting out caffeine. I would experience days of clarity and happiness, and have this followed by anxious dark days. This cycle would repeat over and over but I noticed over time, the bad days happened less regularly, and lasted for less time. It’s hard to see this pattern at first but it does happen and it does get better.
4. Caffeine most definitely alters brain chemistry. Being so similar to adenosine it binds to the brains adenosine receptors and overtime our brain creates more adenosine receptors to countaract this effect, so we require more and more caffeine to stay alert.
So it’s now 5 months later and I’m still caffeine free. I still love the taste and smell of the stuff so I have a decaf a day, seems to do the trick for me =)
So there we have it, this is a very different post from me and not at all related to the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights, but I felt it was worth putting out there incase anyone was experiencing similar symptoms. If it helps you out at all it was worth it =)