Caffeine Tales

Throughout my childhood and into adolescence, morning was announced with the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Dad would get up at six am, start coffee and read the morning paper in his tighty-whities reclined in his easy chair (there’s a mental image that you’ll never erase) while drinking his first cup of coffee. Mom would get up and brew coffee in the morning in those years after dad wasn’t around.

Short Wave – How To Brew Amazing Coffee With Science – August 16, 2022

Throughout childhood and into adulthood, morning and coffee were inextricably linked for me; and to this day, I wake up when I smell coffee brewing. It’s a better alarm clock that any other that I’ve discovered in nearly sixty years of experience. This fact of life presents a problem when you aren’t allowed to have coffee anymore.

Caffeine is high on the list of food/chemical triggers for Meniere’s, and it is one of the many things that they tell you to give up when you are diagnosed. When I was first diagnosed I poo-pooed this directive. I’d been drinking iced tea and Coca-Cola all my life. Dad had a gas station with one of those ancient 25¢ (15¢ for the beverage, 10¢ for the bottle deposit) Coca-Cola vending machines and I drank Cokes every time I had a quarter to spend in that machine.

I had only recently acquired a taste for coffee myself before being diagnosed with Meniere’s. Before that time I was a tea drinker even though I liked the smell of coffee brewing. Working as one of the ever-present drones in an office cubicle farm where coffee is kept hot and on demand all day long made me come to terms with the quality issues that most coffee services face.

I was reluctant to give up my morning coffee. I fought against giving it up until that one time at the Waffle House where I gave myself a vertigo attack while drinking coffee. That was case closed for me. No more coffee. No more caffeine in anything like a regular dose; so no Coca-Cola, no black tea, etc.

Dropping caffeine from my diet revealed other things, too. That thing I called sugar shakes as a teenager? That was probably caffeine shakes. I fell off the wagon and had a cup of regular coffee one Sunday a few years ago. The same fluttering in the arms, legs and stomach that I used to blame on a dip in blood sugar occurred; and it wasn’t sugar shakes because there was no high sugar intake that preceded them. I drink everything unsweetened unless it comes presweetened. The coffee was black and I still got the reaction a few hours later, a connection that I have purposefully initiated and observed several times since.

I had stopped having these sugar shakes after I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages and not only when I had stopped drinking Coca-Cola, where the sugar was in sugar shakes. I should have known it was the caffeine.

There was this one time when we were out driving test cars on short sleep and I needed a pick me up. When we stopped for our break in Sonora I got some 357 magnum caffeine tablets (a truck driver’s replacement for a pot of coffee) and took one or two of them on the drive down into the hole along the Devil’s River.

Then I had an argument with my test car. She was a beauty, that one. They had us testing tires on new Chevrolet Camaros. I had the prettiest one of the group, midnight blue with a black interior. Most of the interior had been stripped out and replaced with sandbags, but she was still the sweetest car I’d ever driven at the time. She wanted to go to Florida. I told her, “no, we can’t go to Florida.” Didn’t I want to see her on the beach? “Well, yes, of course, a beach would be nice, but Florida isn’t on the course we’re driving.” Come on, she said. We could just take off. It would be weeks before they could find us. We could have a lot of fun by that time. The argument lasted for hours and came to a head as we drove back into Sonora on the way back home.

I made it back to the shop that day, despite the greatest temptation I’d ever encountered in my life. In hindsight, I should have known that caffeine was not my friend based on that experience alone.

I can’t lie, I miss my morning coffee. The quick pick me up and focus that comes with the caffeine buzz. The energy and concentration. I miss that. I don’t miss the lethargy and feebleness of the downhill side. Hot green tea is still good and doesn’t give me symptoms of any kind. A nice, hot cup of green tea on a cool morning. There is nothing better when viewed from a distance.


Brain Fog 2

I went to see my Otolaryngologist (an Ear, Nose & Throat doctor or ENT) yesterday. I had an emergency work-in appointment for the afternoon. The Wife drove herself to her cardio rehabilitation appointment in the morning, the second time she has driven herself since she had open-heart surgery in July. I’ve been driving her three times a week to that appointment over the months since, and the strain of being there for her over the course of those months has finally taken a toll on me.

Last Wednesday I started experiencing rotational vertigo. It persisted through the day, no matter how hard I tried to tamp it down. I finally gave up and took Xanax to quell it, but then I started feeling nauseous and so had to add a Phenergan to the mix to keep myself from hugging the commode for a few hours while the room continued to spin. Needless to say, I slept the sleep of the dead for about twelve hours.

When I woke up the next morning I could tell that my hearing had altered. I couldn’t say how, but I knew it was different. I was having a hard time focusing too. Muddy thoughts, muddy feelings, muddy existence. I struggled through the day, not feeling myself at all. The Wife got clearance from her heart surgeon so that she could drive herself to her appointment on Friday, just in case; and indeed I was hardly capable of driving on Friday when I woke up. I did manage to get to McDonald’s and back for breakfast, but the habit of ordering coffee with my morning cheeseless McMuffin that I had developed over the course of the few months I had spent chauffeuring the Wife to her rehab appointments finally bit back, and the caffeine from the coffee started up another round of vertigo that lasted into Saturday.

Brain fog on Saturday. Brain fog on Sunday. Barely able to discern what it was I was thinking at any given moment. On the upside, my re-emerged symptoms gave me time to play World of Warcraft for the first time in over a month; but on the downside none of the many other things that I had been putting off for months seemed possible. I was finally able to do some technical work late Sunday night, but that just exposed me to one of my known allergic reactions (dust) which then triggered symptoms again.

At my Monday ENT appointment the audiologist determined that I had lost another 10% of hearing from my left ear. Had it been the right ear, I would have let them give me an intratympanic injection of steroids to try to preserve the hearing. My right ear is my only remaining connection to the normal hearing world. The left ear losing another 10% puts it just under half as effective as a normal ear. Not enough to worry about, from my perspective. I went home with a prescription for oral steroids, which I don’t intend to take.

There is a new weather front rolling into Austin as I type this. I can feel my thoughts slowly draining away as the pressure changes and my tinnitus worsens. It’s time to leash the dog and go for a walk before the storm hits. Maybe I’ll watch a familiar movie or play some more Warcraft tonight. It will be something to look forward to at least. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of writing or thinking for me in the near future.