Coffee’s a bitch

As if life wasn’t hard enough. I have an incredibly stressful job, three kids, a husband who sees nothing bothersome about hanging drywall at 10:30 p.m., a messy house, two dogs…but I was holding it all together. The house is not clean, but not dirty. I know where the kids are if not exactly what they are doing. The young dog I can shut up in the kitchen; the old dog went under the couch soon after the young dog’s arrival and is rarely witnessed. The husband…well, you’re fighting a losing battle if you walk by saying “boy it’ll feel great to get out of these clothes” and the tape measure doesn’t so much as waver. Yet I always found some inner strength to keep things going and not completely lose my cool. Until recently, when a month-long experiment conducted because of a horrible hypothesis, came to an unwanted but undeniable conclusion.

I can’t drink coffee anymore.

I’ve been having serious mood swings for about six months now. When they started they lasted only a couple of days, usually the week before that time of the month (I can hear all the men on the blogosphere going “duh!” right now). I assumed that this was a pre-menopausal symptom that would eventually work itself out. Other than the slightly irritating problem of tears trailing down my cheeks as I typed out my boss’s dictation, it didn’t really interfere with my day. But slowly other symptoms began to show themselves. Irritability. Confusion. Lack of focus. Impatience. Exhaustion. Then the mood swings started lasting longer until they encompassed seven days. The slightest question from my children had me snapping. My husband’s attempts at mood-lightening were met with glacial glares. The young dog joined the old one under the couch. It finally occurred to me one night that my kids were spending a lot of time in their rooms. When my husband announced he was thinking of making himself a “man cave” in the garage, I knew it was time to do something.

There began hours of research into menopause and pre-menopause symptoms. An article discussing the changes in a woman’s body affecting her ability to metabolize certain foods caught my attention. One link led to another and soon I was reading about all the side effects of caffeine.

A problem with coffee had not occurred to me because I actually never drank it until 10 years ago. I am a big tea drinker – the Queen would love me. My husband, however, consumes three large cups of coffee every morning. I had tried it a few times before in my youth and always hated it, but tried his coffee and liked it. I still drink tea when I want a hot beverage at all other times of the day, but I started having coffee with him in the morning.

There were no side effects then. I had no noticeable problem until last fall. However, I could not deny that the article I was reading sounded very much like what I was going through. So in the interests of science and family harmony, I decided to skip the coffee for a week.

The effect was dramatic. I slept better, was more clear-headed at work, and my hot temper dissolved like ice cubes in hot chocolate. It was an amazing change. Things my kids did that previously set me off like a rocket now just made me laugh. My husband came out of the garage; I was in such a good mood I even complimented the beard he’d grown.

At the end of ten days, since I felt better, I took a coffee to work. Two days later I took another one. Then on the weekend I had two cups of coffee Sunday morning. By the end of the second week I was drinking it every day again, and all my symptoms came back. I dropped the coffee for another week – back to normal. Started drinking it again – Bitchfest 2014.

It’s tragic, but true. Coffee must be the reason I can’t focus at work. It’s why I don’t feel rested, and it’s why my husband was measuring our neighbor’s couch to see if it would fit along the back wall of the garage.

I am pissed right the hell off. Why should coffee bother me now? Why let me drink it for ten wonderful years and then turn on me like this? There’s no rhyme or reason for it. The only thing I can think of is, like the article said, you lose your tolerance for certain things as you age. My parents stopped drinking alcohol several years ago. They were never more than social drinkers, a Friday night cocktail and one or two drinks with dinner on the weekends, but they enjoyed it. They were forced to give it up, however; it disagreed with them so much that they finally said goodbye. Not so much as a sip of wine during the family reunion toasts now.

I can sympathise with the alcohol intolerance because, wouldn’t you know it, during the same six month period of caffeine testing, I noticed that I can no longer drink alcohol either. One rye and coke doesn’t do anything, but have two and I develop a raging, needle-jabbing-into-my temple, nausea-inducing headache. I can drink beer without pain, but now two put me to sleep.

So at the age of 47, I’ve been hit with a double-whammy – no more alcohol at night, and no more coffee in the morning. I am making a sterling effort to replace them with a healthy herbal tea and lemon, but it’s safe to say life will never be the same. However, my husband is no longer trying to install a woodstove into our garage. So maybe it’s a good thing.

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