Yeah, I’m a nut. But you know what? My sleep was sucking. I was anxious. Shaky. Irritable. Tired. Bitchy. Mean. Hungry. Sore. Feverish. I could go on.
Right now, my little family is pulling up its roots, I’m starting a second career, finishing my Master’s, moving across the country, and navigating the seemingly endless bureaucracy and red tape that stands between me and actually getting mout of the Army. I’ll never again be called “Captain,” just a plain ol’ “Missus.” And if everything works out, we can replace that with “Doctor” in a fewwww years
But I digress. You’d think that I’d be fine with a caffeine dependence, especially since I’m going back to school. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 14 (no, it doesn’t stunt your growth…I’m 5’9″…or maybe I was just supposed to be a giant), and it got me through college and young adult life in general. People made fun of me because during field problems, I was known to hike through a mile of rainy woods at the crack of dawn to find the nearest checkpoint that had a coffee pot. Even if it was left over from the day before. I know. Ew. Go more than a few hours without a “fix” and I was either passed out on the couch or jonesing like I used to for a cigarette. If anything, after I quit smoking it got worse. My teeth were legit YELLOW and not because I didn’t floss. I’d try to cut back, and during times of lower stress or on vacation I could get away with 2 or 3 cups a day.
The last year has been a tough one on me for a lot of reasons, both military-related and not (I’ll leave that up to your imagination), and I’ve debated sharing some aspects with you because…well…it’s really personal and some of it is just downright inappropriate. Besides, there was a side of me that wanted to put on this internet face of perfect health. I eat Paleo, so I must be perfect. So, ok, that’s complete BS. Everyone has issues that they have to work through and no pill or diet or magic wand will fix it. We’re all unique snowflakes, right? What I will share with you is that I’ve been on a number of medications lately–and like way too many people out there I was also popping pills routinely to put me to sleep at night. During periods of low stress, I’d take a break and feel great, but then I’d fall right back down the same sleepless hole. I got to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. The docs wanted to keep trying new stuff, which usually put me out for a not-so-restful-sleep and made me feel like I’d been run over by a truck the next morning. I was done. D-O-N-E.
I saw this article by Sarah Ramsden and it got me thinking. I knew that giving up caffeine would PROBABLY help my sleep, but I wasn’t sold. Or I was a wussy. Either way, Sarah got the juices flowing and made me realize that caffeine wasn’t just messing with my sleep. It was messing with my whole system, or at least making the pre-existing stressors more potent.
So I figured, “What the hell?” I was tired and desperate. I’m with it enough to know that there is no magic bullet that will solve ALL my problems, but getting a good night’s sleep was a start. So I kinda did a scaling back deal, going from 6 or 7 cups a day right down to 2, then a week later to 1, then this past month to none. I’m not being dramatic at all when I say that it sucked. It sucked bad. It still does. Whoever told me I’d be fine in a week…I want to kick you in the teeth. It’s bee 2 weeks and I’m still exhausted, though noticeably less foggy in the head than last week. It is getting better but damn…its rough. I guess the whole pot a day for 12 years might have something to do with that…All you former smokers out there like me, the best analogy I can give you is that point where your mouth starts twitching and you get that tingling in your chest, your breath gets short, and you start sweating buckets…you’d probably gut a small child for a cigarette, right? Well take that and add extreme…I mean HORRENDOUS, BONE CHILLING…fatigue and the willingness to lay down in a pile of horse poop if it just means you can get some sleep. Yup. That bad.
But!!! My sleep at night? AH-mazing. SO amazing in fact, that I was out a solid 12 to 14 hours for three nights in a row at the beginning. Granted I was so tired in the morning that even after I was away I laid in bed for a good half hour with the dogs face butting the back of my head so I’d get up and let them out to pee. For this reason I recommend starting ant major caffeine withdrawal over a holiday weekend. But, yeah, sleep is great. No meds. It’s deep and often dreamless, which is huge for me. Ambien made me think that violent, psychedelic dream sequences would be part of my life forever…with the occasional morning where I’d wake up naked on the living room floor. Sorry, just tellin’ it like it is. Still not perfect, but I’ve been able to nix the extra prescription and let my body heal itself. I try my best to go to sleep and wake up the same time very day, too, so that I can have a health sleep cycle and that I’ll start feeling energized in the morning instead of hung over. Am I doneskies with coffee forever? I mean, it’s so GOOD! Welp, probably not. I’d like to think I’ll be healthy enough to indulge again in a few months. For now, though, I’ll take a decaf.