It has now been 72 hours since I quit coffee. Today, I’m happy to report, has been better than yesterday. I’m still tired. Still slept for two hours after breakfast, but I did raise the energy to exercise twice today. The dysphoria has reduced to a low-grade despondency. I’m beginning to think that the worst of it may be over, though the effort required to make myself sit down (sit up is more accurate) and write this post is orders of magnitude higher than normal, and when I do, I find my concentration span is appallingly short, and my train of thought less a train, and more of a… kind of…umm…what was I saying?
I am really amazed by the fact that I’m not craving coffee. Part of this I put down to the fact that the coffee in Indonesia is basically terrible. The other part I believe is that I’m not at work and so I’m not walking past hundreds of people cradling their morning coffees, and I’m not smelling the delicious aroma of brewing coffee coming out of the dozen or so cafes I walk past to get to work. So the temptation factors are way down. I also don’t have such a pressing emotional need for the drug, because I’m not waking up at 7am and struggling into a hideous office type environment to deal with assholes all day. I’m waking up petty much whenever I want to, and the biggest decision I make before midday is where to have breakfast.1
This whole process has raised some really interesting questions for me. And by that I mean that they are questions that I’ll be finding answers too. Firstly, I’m not oblivious to the fact that my list of what I hoped were possible side effects to drinking excess coffee (Day 1) look suspiciously similar to the effects that someone with anxiety might describe. So, question one, can drinking coffee cause anxiety like effects, or does coffee drinking exacerbate existing anxiety? Secondly, does caffeine effect introverted people differently to extroverted people? And what about the impact of stress? It seems logical to me that if a person is stressed, or in a working environment that they find stressful (e.g. an introverted person working in a noisy open office environment), then coffee isn’t likely to help them attain a sense of calm.
There are plenty of warnings online along the lines of ‘individuals who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine should quit or limit coffee intake’. However I don’t think this is very helpful because it doesn’t give us any clue as to what being sensitive actually means. My interest is in the effect that drinking coffee might have on an individual who’s already stressed. Specifically, on an introverted individual who’s already stressed, because this is a pretty accurate description of me, in any job that’s not a purely creative one. My hypothesis is that for this type of individual, caffeine acts as an additional stressor and so for them, otherwise normal levels of coffee consumption could have significant negative consequences.
However, given that I am still struggling in the grips of caffeine withdrawal; sleeping for three hours in the middle of the day and eating huge quantities of fatty, sugary junk food the rest of the time, I will save this relatively complex analysis for another day; a day when my brain actually works and I can keep my eyes open for more than 20 minutes at a time. I am led to believe that the effects of caffeine withdrawal last for 4 to 5 days max. Thus I should be starting to feel much better tomorrow. I do feel less jumpy and excitable than I did on coffee, but there’s a bit of an over correction occurring at the moment – I’m shuffling around like a zombie with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- I’m currently on sabbatical in Indonesia. ↩