I love caffeine so much that I’d rather have my heart beat outside of my chest than give it up. I proved this last week. I’ve had what are called heart PVCs for most of my adult life. These are benign little “extra beats” in my heart muscle that I experience pretty rarely, but they increase with things like too much alcohol, too much exercise, too much stress, and yes, too much caffeine.
A couple of weeks ago, I was experiencing most of the above list, and I made the unwise decision to throw down a huge glass of iced tea while having lunch with my 5-year-old. We were playing hooky from life that day, so we decided to go get pedicures at a place that provides free M&M’s. Side note: Retailers of the world, you don’t actually need to spend money on expensive marketing, because it turns out that if you just spread some free M&M’s outside your door, I’ll go in and start buying stuff that I don’t need.
Of course, as I sat there getting my toes painted bright pink, chomping away on chocolate (more caffeine), my heart decided to go a little cuckoo. I began getting PVCs every 20 minutes or so, which had never happened to me before. Cue stress. Cue more PVCs. Cue eating more chocolate to combat stressful feelings. I learned a couple of ugly things about myself in that pedicurist’s chair: 1) If I try really hard not to freak out, I will freak out more, and 2) I have no impulse control when it comes to free M&M’s, even if it feels like I’m going to have a heart attack if I keep eating them.
That was the least relaxing pedicure of my life. The only thing that kept me sane was knowing that I just happened to have a doctor’s appointment the very next day.
So as I sat there the next day in the sterile office, my doctor told me that my heart checked out totally fine, but then she said, “Welcome to getting older” — and now I hate her. She also said that I should probably lay off the caffeine for a while because obviously that had become a major trigger for the PVCs. She might as well have told me to stop breathing so much or that I needed to get rid of that pesky habit of eating to sustain my life. I left there wondering how I would manage to break the terrible news to my family.
Eating, breathing, caffeine — it turns out that this is the trifecta of my being able to enjoy my existence here on planet Earth. Without caffeine, I became an irritable shrew whose only joy came from making everybody feel as bad as I did. I hated kittens, babies, and the sunshine that obviously wanted to burn out my corneas. I was sure at one point during my first caffeine-free day, my head pulsing with a blinding headache, so tired I was hearing colors, that having my heart trip and bump all day just really wasn’t that big of a deal.
But nevertheless, I persisted, because in the event of my demise, my husband would never figure out where everyone needs to go every day. I persisted for six days. I imagine that my kids will probably bring up these six days with their future therapist.
“Well, doc, I think I started to develop my startle reflex to loud noises during those six days when my mom gave up caffeine.”
“I think that maybe the tic in my left eye began during the week my mom thought we all could survive without her drinking chai tea.”
After the sixth day, just like god, I needed a break. We all needed a break. I needed to feel that warm cup in my hand and know that everything was going to be alright in 20 to 30 minutes. I needed to stimulate my central nervous system and improve my mental alertness in 8-ounce increments. I admitted to myself that I had an addiction and that I didn’t care.
I did manage to cut way back on the amount I was consuming, and I haven’t had any PVCs yet, so there is some hope for me. I’ll keep monitoring it and be a responsible adult, so get off my back.
But I can’t promise that I’ll ever give it up completely again because life really is too short to not enjoy the things you love. I love you, caffeine. I’m so sorry we fought.