Yesterday I had a frustrating reminder of just how addicted I am to caffeine. I was snappier than I should have been when the poor guy serving coffee at church offered me de-caff coffee and later a weak cup of tea. I don’t always insist that my coffee comes ‘leaded and black’, as one former landlord of mine requested, sounding oh so cool. I don’t need it to be proper coffee, and it certainly doesn’t need to be made in a proper copper coffee pot. I have even been known to request de-caff coffee if it’s late in the evening. But if I don’t get a mug or two of caffeinated coffee in the morning I will have a headache by mid-afternoon. I am also likely to be unproductive and grumpy.
I’m not proud of my dependence on caffeine but I live with it – it’s fairly manageable as addictions go. I like the way I can sleep a variable amount of hours as I need to, and get going early if I must. I tend to travel to work in a pre-caffeinated state which makes the buses full of teenagers a lot more tolerable. I know some people need a cup of tea or coffee before they even get out of bed, but I can manage until I get to work. While my computer is warming up I make coffee and sometimes (like today) it keeps me going all through an unexpected lecture and IT hassles.
I like a glass of wine sometimes as well, usually for the taste and with nice food although there are some days when a glass of wine seems to have more medicinal qualities, and I don’t just mean taking a little red wine for your stomach. After a heavy day, a glass of wine can help you unwind, and I have been known to find myself more entertaining after a drink or two. I know that some people struggle with more serious drinking issues and I have a lot of respect for people who stay off alcohol or help others stay off alcohol. I know that some of the mood changes from alcoholism and other serious addictions can have much more major consequences.
But I’m talking about more low key, not too unhealthy things that can help with a bad mood, whether it’s an espresso, a squirt of rescue remedy or a bar of chocolate. Previously I’ve had some benefits from more sophisticated medication designed to help with low moods, and many others I know have also needed some help with serotonin levels or other mood stabilisers. I’m not quite sure when mood-altering substances become mind-altering substances but I’d certainly encourage people on anti-depressants and similar to keep taking the tablets. Those SSRIs have surely saved a lot of lives.
Beyond chocolate, caffeine and getting proper medical advice, I do think there are other things you can do that help your mood. They’re often the things you feel least like doing, of course. Getting out into the fresh air and getting some exercise can be great, but November may not feel like the best time. Sometimes a good blast of a song can help, as my sister found when my younger nephew was finding school just too much lately. They also liked the “Ich bin grumpig” song my former housemate shared with me a year or two ago, and they probably enjoyed the Bugsy Malone themed Charleston on Strictly at the weekend. When I was feeling grumpy and caffeine deprived in church yesterday I returned to one of my old faithful Bible passages:
It’s the Sons of Korah again, trying to hearten their souls. Seeking to praise God despite all the troubles around them and when faced with the apparent absence of God. It doesn’t always work, but it seems more positive than being grumpy and taking it out on someone else. Sometimes a silly board game with a couple of friends is a good tonic. Sometimes a nice meal like sausage casserole and apple and blackberry crumble is enough to put a smile on your face. Sometimes I realise that God should get some of the credit for making apples and blackberries ripen at the same time and go so perfectly together. And that friendship was probably his idea too. And wine. And anti-depressants. And coffee.