Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Importance of Caffeine

 I began drinking coffee around 12 years old (ballpark) after my mother told me that if I didn't like coffee, then I couldn't possibly be her daughter. Obviously she is a coffee addict. Honestly, though, that is not really why I started drinking coffee, but I do remember her saying that. Similarly, once I started drinking it, I couldn't stop. My coffee consumption has gone through peaks and valleys over the years, with the zenith taking place during my surgery rotation, but I have never had the desire to give up coffee. I was fine being an addict. Until now. Temporarily.
      It all began when my cousin came to visit me in the city a few weeks ago and mentioned that she gives up all caffeine for one week every month. To me, it seemed like a weird masochistic thing to inflict on oneself every single month, until she mentioned WHY she does it. Then, it sounded like a genius idea. So, she gives up caffeine for a whole week every month, so that when she does drink it, it WORKS properly and wakes her up sufficiently. After listening to her reasoning, I did some self reflection, and realized that caffeine actually has NO effect on me. ZERO. It certainly added no pep to my half-awake state for all of those 4:30 am wake ups in medical school. I couldn't even remember if caffeine had EVER had an effect on me and my tiredness. My 2 cups of coffee in the morning had become more of a morning ritual than anything else, and ritual coffee is not going to help me during my surgery internship next year.
      So, I decided that I will give up coffee for an entire MONTH and see what happens. If my cup of coffee on the first day of next month leaves me bright eyed and bushy tailed, then I will continue to drink real coffee until one month before I start my residency, and then I will subject myself to another painful month of abstinence. Before you ask, the answer is YES. These 2 caffeine-free weeks have been painful on both a physical and emotional level. Part of the emotional pain has been due to the shock. I still find it shocking that NOT drinking caffeine can have such an effect on me, when drinking it has absolutely NO effect on me. I had a constant headache for the first three days, which has thankfully subsided. Another issue is, I didn't even realize how much caffeine I drink on a regular basis that is not in the form of coffee. I have never had to think twice about diet soda being caffeine-free. In fact, caffeine was always a welcome attribute in my drinks, the cherry on top of a delicious beverage. Even tea has a lot of caffeine! The other day I ordered a soda at a restaurant, in a momentary lapse and had to watch sadly as Matt drank it. It is so easy to forget that technically, caffeine is considered a drug, and we can unknowingly become dependent on it. We have to keep adding more and more to get the same effect.
      Now, I feel much better physically, but I definitely take much less delight in my morning decalf cup of coffee. It is like being the subject of an experimental trial with secret knowledge that you are in the placebo group. It is just not the same. On the bright side there is only a week and a half to go. All I can say is- caffeine better be able to wake me up before I go-go by the time July rolls around and I start my job. If you have any ideas on how to make giving up caffeine an easier process please please please let me know, because this is no fun at all.

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