I remember being 14 years old and every time I was seeing my mother drinking coffee I would ask for a sip. At first one sip, then two sips, until I started to “sip” entire cups of coffee. Fast forward — a bunch of years later, I am working on my PhD thesis, I put so much time and energy in it, and like many other coffee lovers, I say to myself that I turn coffee into Science. It just sounds so cool to be a coffee lover, right? And drinking around 3 big cups of black coffee per day…right?
I also find myself, though, googling questions like “Why can’t I fall asleep at night?”; “Why am I so tired all day long?”, “Why do I have this awful brain fog all the time?”. Then, it gets even darker: “How to diagnose Anxiety?”, “Am I depressed?”, etc… The first culprit that I find is “The third-year blues”, meaning that being in the last year of my PhD, I am somehow overwhelmed by the insecurity of my future and by the stress related to the writing of my manuscript and to the preparation of my defense. I kept this explanation as the reason for everything until I finally defended my thesis and became a doctor.
Guess what?! One year later and nothing changed. And I should, maybe, just list all the symptoms that I can remember now, or the feelings that I had while I was drinking coffee:
Being hungry even though I was so full, like literally one hour after breakfast.
Getting irritated by the very small things.
Being anxious and getting depressed daily.
My brain was not able to shut off in the nights. I would find myself at 2 am thinking about all sort of random things and having complete complex analyses performed in my mind. Completely out of my will.
Unable to nap during the day
Lack of focus, brain fog, severe lack of motivation.
And many symptoms that would fit with Anxiety disorder and Depression.
Do you know that awesome feeling when you take the first sip in the morning? I actually stopped having that, so coffee became just a chore that I had to do…
Then, the big day arrived. I went cold turkey. No coffee, no teas, nothing with caffeine, just infusions. I was expecting some headaches for like 3 days and then freedom.
Here is what happened instead:
First 3 days: a debilitating headache — no joke and no exaggeration.
After the headache decreased, the pain moved to my lower back — constant dull pain in the muscles. This lasted for a few days.
The first week was the definition of brain fog.
I had one beer sometime during the first week. It was in the evening, with dinner. When I put my head on the pillow I felt a weird type of nausea: not very strong but clearly present, like my brain was whirling down. I know, sounds funny.
During the night I was sometimes waking up to go to the toilet (due to the numerous infusions I was drinking) and I would feel all muscles pulling down. To explain, imagine that you would have small heavy weights attached and hanging on every piece of muscle in your body…
Second week was better but I was still tired most of the time.
Third and fourth week, the dark times were behind me.
Now. I became calmer. Nothing would manage to irritate me anymore.
I have desire and enthusiasm to work on all the plans and projects that I had and somehow got left behind.
I am being joyful for the small things.
Nothing can manage to stress me or to cause me anxiety. Nothing is too much of a big deal anymore.
I read stories on the internet about what happens when you quit coffee, but many of them are stories where people switch coffee for tea, so the caffeine is still ingested on a regular basis. Or, they quit it for two weeks, etc… I also read on Reddit about other people having similar symptoms, who, just like me, decided to take back the control over their brain.
Do I miss it? Not one bit. This is my new friend:Do you want to quit it?
My advice is to not go cold turkey but to decrease the dose slowly. It will save you a lot of pointless suffering.