The coffee need
On the first day of Lent, I committed to giving up the junk food that’s been my bane for the last many months. I usually eat junk food sparingly, but have been dosing it with myself most evenings since I wrote “my bulimia / my beautiful body” after my last Whole30.
“Junk food” means something different to me than it does to many people. For me, “junk food” is anything not listed on the Whole30 Autoimmune Protocol shopping list. It’s food that leaves me feeling crappier after eating it than I did before, whereas eating food on the list leaves me feeling better.
I usually feel like I’m swimming in rainbows a week or two into eating junk-free.
Not so this time.
A week in, I realized I was feeling very little rainbow action. Maybe it’ll come later, I told myself. After another few days, I still wasn’t feeling much. But how could that be?! The only difference between this and previous differences was … coffee.
But a cup or two in the very early morning couldn’t be pulling me down that much, could it?
Still, I decided to nix it for now, to see if it was indeed dragging me down.
I had excruciating headaches for the first two days, well above and beyond any I’d experienced before. After that, I felt kinda okay. My sleep wasn’t immediately improved, but I knew from conversation on a post I read earlier in the year that I wasn’t alone there.
After eight days without coffee, I visited Legoland with my family. I justified having
a cup three cups of coffee as a treat. I felt splendid … until the next morning, when my nerves were so on edge that I had a half-cup of coffee just to take the edge off. It did, but just barely.
The next morning, I awakened far too early–and far too on edge–when my toddler shrieked, “Mama!” I barreled into his room and soothed him back to sleep, turning around afterward to catch a moonlit glimpse of a stuffed rabbit that I immediately detected as a Serious, Imminent Threat. It was out to get me! (As a horror fan, I’m more easily creeped out in darkness than light, but specific targets are extremely uncommon. Which is, of course, in part because I don’t routinely keep ventriloquist dummies or porcelain dolls in the house.)
“Oh, hell, no,” I told myself as I exited Littler J’s room, certain that everything in the entire house posed some kind of threat to me. “Coffee is out!”
I wondered again why I could have six- and seven-shot lattes when Li’l J was a toddler while barely tolerating a cup now. Based on my reading yesterday, it looks like a body’s cortisol production increases with age, and that it takes longer to recover from cortisol spikes, such as those related to coffee ingestion or, oh, stress.
For so many reasons, my daily stress level is so, so very much higher than it was five years ago. One key difference is in now having two kids. I was woefully unprepared for how much more time, energy, and exhaustion is involved in raising more than one child. I assumed two coulds would be twice as much work, when really, it’s been about fifty times as much work, with less time, space, and energy for myself by far than I had with one child. I have had to do so much more with–at best–the same amount of energy.
(“One kid is a hobby,” a friend told me when I was pregnant with Littler J. “Two kids is work.” I was sure she was exaggerating about how much harder it was, a misperception about which I texted her while crying on my dining room floor when Littler J was two months old. “When does it get better?” I asked her. “Maybe in six or nine months?” she replied, inspiring me to weep even more profusely.)
Why am I surprised that coffee makes me feel like crap? I’ve written about this several times on my other blog, and was astonished how great I felt when I cut coffee out for four weeks earlier this year.
Somehow, I keep forgetting.
Honestly, the convenient forgetting’s been in how much I love the taste, feel, and smell of coffee. How I savor the revved up feeling I have an hour or two after having it, despite the crash that follows closely and the insomnia I experience later still after having a single cup.
It’s in how darn addicting coffee is.
Let me tell ya, I want to consume things because I truly choose them, not because they fool my body into believing they’re absolutely imperative for daily life. If any substance is mandatory just to get out of bed and make it through the day, I don’t think the solution’s in any kind of drug, no matter how tasty. At that point, a life configuration assessment is in order to suss out possible areas to build in more joy and less stress.
In a week and a half, I’ll return to periodically eating junk food at intervals long enough to heal from them. I will not be reintroducing coffee, which amplifies anxiety, makes me 1,084% more road rage-y, and messes with my sleep.
I’ll miss the taste. I’ll miss the smell. I’ll miss the buzz.
I won’t miss the need.