When I was 18 years old, I worked at an accountancy firm. God, I hated that job. It is where I developed repetitive strain injury, which over time became chronic, and still is my loyal companion today, 16 years later. It is also where I got into the habit of ridiculous coffee consumption. One of our clients was a coffee roasting company, and to make sure that they would stay in business, we consumed their coffee. I would support the cause and drink up to 20 cups of coffee per day, every day. How did I do that? Maybe I could handle it because I was young? I don’t know. The thought alone makes me want to space out and bounce all over my apartment. Back then it all went fine, until one day, out of nowhere, I couldn’t stand it any more, not even a single cup. I started shaking and shivering, a feeling that, up to that moment, I had never experienced before with coffee. I could drink a strong coffee before going to bed and sleep 8 hours. No problem.
Over the years, this pattern of building up consumption to the point I have to stop has become the norm. I have developed a true love-hate relationship with coffee. It smells good, it tastes good, it looks good. I also love the practice of preparing it. There’s something meditative about the routine. I often freshly grind beans for use in our espresso machine, but can also appreciate a good slow drip prepared in our Chemex. So many nice things about coffee culture. It’s just that every once in a while, things get out of hand. I’m an addict. One espresso becomes a double espresso, one double espresso per day becomes two double espressos per day. Then the moment comes where I limit it to a maximum of two double espressos in the morning. And just one before I get back to work after lunch. When I go to the office, I may take one or two doubles there. Pretty soon, I drink ten cups per day. Not good…
My coffee consumption generally does not bother me, just as long as I have a relatively quiet schedule. My brain does not fare well with a very busy schedule and a large dose (or double doses) of caffeine. Unfortunately, my schedule likes to fill up with stuff. It is really beyond my control, and this schedule leads a life of its own. My hypersensitivity, or sensory processing disorder, which is a condition I was only fairly recently diagnosed with, is a part of who I am and how my brain is wired. It expresses itself in my case as an extreme sensitivity to emotions, feelings, information overload, light, and, you guessed it, caffeine. Generally, I would describe most of my hypersensitivity symptoms as being of the mental form. If I am overstimulated, I can get extremely anxious, resulting in panic attacks or get the sense of being completely overwhelmed and frazzled. It’s hard to put the feeling to words. Now, when I am at the peak of my coffee consumption cycle, I tend to get many additional symptoms, but these tend to be of the somatic kind. In extremely overwhelming times I often get these knots in my shoulder, also known as triggerpoints. From there, I get a whole bunch of annoying pains that flare out from those points, from my shoulder to my neck, jaw and forehead, and in downward direction it usually ends somewhere near the buttocks. Pains range from tingling, to severe cramping. My skin often gets very sensitive to touch. At the moment it has gotten so bad that my clothes hurt my skin and it annoys the hell out of me.
I feel like the more sessile lifestyle associated with the lockdowns have had an impact on my condition. Walking and biking less than I used to and not being able to go climbing, or take a sauna seem to have made my symptoms more severe. Today it got to a point where I decided it is time to act. The activity patterns I have already been working on where and when I can. The business of my schedule is hard to change, I am afraid. That leaves me with one easy solution. I think I need to go cold turkey on the caffeinated beverages. From tomorrow, only decaf.
Let the decaffeination headaches commence… (if anyone has advice that does not include coffee, feel free to let me know in the comments below)