Coffee interferes with your medication. You knew that, right?
– My flatmate
Well dang. That explains a lot.
In the lead up to my mental health day, I thought the meds had stopped working. I felt like I did before I started on them – constant tension, fatigue, pounding heart. Oh, and difficulty getting to sleep.
I was having three cups of coffee a day. With a heaped teaspoon of powder in each – so effectively six “standard coffees” a day. (Side note: why is standard coffee not a thing?) And guess what? Caffeine basically does the opposite of what the meds are supposed to do.
I don’t know how this didn’t occur to me. Did the doctor not tell me this? Did I not find this in all the research I’ve done on anxiety? Did I know it but just forget?
I had a quick google and supposedly the two don’t “interact”. The drug info sheet doesn’t mention caffeine. But surely if it undoes the effect, it’s worth a mention? Whatever, I guess I don’t have to feel quite so bad about missing this.
Still, I was left with a couple of questions:
- How did I get here?
- How do I get away from here?
Time to search my overcaffeinated soul for some answers…
The coffee capital
When I moved to Wellington, aged 24, I’d never had coffee before. I couldn’t stand the smell when I was a kid. It didn’t occur to me that my tastes might have changed since then.
Enter my uncle. I crashed at his place while I looked for a flat, and being a long-time Wellingtonian he instinctively made me a cup of coffee – as he would for any guest, I guess. I drank it out of politeness, and something amazing happened – I didn’t hate it!
One thing you need to know about Wellington is there are cafés everywhere. Seriously. Our café density is off the charts. So of course we had a café in the building where I worked, and the team went there once a week. And so the habit was born. A habit which, as I alluded to above, eventually got out of hand.
That other hot beverage
I never got into tea either, much to the dismay of my English parents. I didn’t hate it either. It just seemed kinda meh.
I’ve had several work colleagues espouse the benefits of drinking tea instead. (You know it’s bad when people tell you to cut back!) Yes, there’s caffeine in tea too, but not as much. And, crucially, it still satisfies the craving for a hot drink. I’ve come to appreciate it, even if I don’t love it!
So here we have a viable alternative to coffee. But I wasn’t prepared to quit cold turkey, so I made a compromise: I’ll have one coffee a day, and I’ll make an event of it. Even if it’s just the instant powdered stuff I get free at work. Because it’s all tea from there on in. (I get that free at work too.)
It’s coffee time. This is all you’re gonna get today. Make the most of it.
How am I coping?
It’s been two months since I cut back and I feel so much better for it. The panicky heart-pounding sensation has faded, and I feel like I’m back in control, or at least a little more than I was. And I reckon I fall asleep quicker too. (Staying asleep is another matter, but this is a start!)
More importantly, I no longer find myself hanging out for the next coffee. It’s distracting to know that I’m due for another hit soon. I’ve been able to let go of this and concentrate on the task at hand instead. The tea breaks are worth looking forward to as well, of course, but they aren’t nearly as compelling.
Best of all, I still get to enjoy coffee every day – and because I have to make the most of it, I genuinely enjoy it. Even more than I used to enjoy three coffees!
How many coffees do you drink a day? Have you tried cutting back? How did it work out? Let me know!