A few months ago, I relocated from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City to be with my partner. He was originally living in Hanoi, so this was a move for him too.
Since I was stuck in Bangkok (thanks Covid), he went apartment hunting alone and I gave my input based on photos he sent of the gazillion apartments he was shown over the space of a weekend.
After some back and forth, we agreed on what was to be our new home, a cozy one bedroom with tiled floors and European decor. It came fully equipped, including this beauty:
I'd always owned a coffee making apparatus, but never a proper coffee machine that does all the work for me. No patient pouring as the coffee drips, no timing the soak before pushing down the strainer in the French press, no putting the moka pot to a slow simmer. Just drop everything in, press a button, and voilà, your coffee awaits.
I drank coffee heavily in university. I remember leaving my dorm at midnight to go buy a cup of steaming hot latte from a nearby stall, then coming back to my room, drinking it, and immediately going to bed. It got to a point where no matter how many coffees I drank a day and how late, I was able to sleep soundly.
I realised (as one should) that this was probably not healthy, so I cut down on my intake. Plus after my bipolar diagnosis and going on bipolar meds, I wasn't really supposed to drink any caffeine, so I cut down even more.
For the past few years, I've been drinking 1-2 cups a day. One in the morning is a must, and often another just after lunch. I guess this is what many of you do as well.
The thing is: I thought this was perfectly normal and healthy. Until I choked on a piece of chilli. Yes, you read that right.
We were at a seaside town, feasting on seafood. Silly me tried to taste the soy dipping sauce with cut red chillies in it, and I choked on a sneaky piece. Badly enough that I had a horrible sore throat for a week afterwards (no joke) where it hurt to swallow saliva and all food and drink became torture.
Keen to end my chilli-induced agony as soon as possible, I read up on what I should avoid while having a sore throat, and one of the items was caffeine. So, I stopped drinking coffee naively believing this was going to be fine.
Result: splitting headache that ruined most of a Friday. I was incapacitated on the couch, listening to Taylor Swift's Fearless on loop. It was a whole other level of pain. Not only could I not swallow, but my head was pounding so hard I was getting dizzy lying down with my eyes closed.
At first I didn't realise what it was, until I looked up caffeine withdrawal symptoms. And this is what I found:
Caffeine causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict, slowing down blood flow. So when you go cold turkey, the vessels expand and blood rushes to your brain, mercilessly splitting your head in two in the process.1
It was an extremely painful reminder that caffeine is an addictive substance, that coffee is a drug like any other. Just one that society has chosen to embrace.
So, if you start your day with a steaming cup of coffee or have an iced latte or two after lunch, then congrats, you're an addict. Welcome to the club.
Until next Friday… Stay cool, stay safe, stay thoughtful,