Mental in the Morning

I’ve been suffering from really severe headaches for a couple of weeks now, and trying various things to make them go away. Drinking lots of water… getting extra sleep… no alcohol… lots of painkillers… nothing worked.

On Tuesday night I came down with a bug on top of that, from a sick child at pre-school, and I took the rest of the week off. Not what I usually do, but I’ve subbed for so many other people for absolutely no compensation that there’s truly no incentive for me to just soldier on as employers tend to expect (and I tend to do). Sod that. I’m fed up with always being the quiet, dutiful, good girl. I called in sick and proceeded to sleep for 5 days, and did not trek halfway across town for the necessary doctor’s note. What are they going to do, fire me? ;)

I realised yesterday that I hadn’t had a headache for a few days – and wondered, with a sinking heart, if that was because I hadn’t pumping my body full of caffeine every day. And so it came about that I decided to give Monday a try without any coffee.

Did you hear that? Monday. Without coffee.

Yeah, it was almost criminally stupid.

Now, I don’t know if this is normal, or if it’s just me, right, but my state of mind in the morning is absolutely nothing like in the evening. I know there’s the whole early bird vs. night owl thing, and I am most definitely a night owl who is unfortunately in an early bird’s line of work. But surely it cannot be normal to feel completely, utterly despairing and hopeless in the morning, when you feel right as rain a few hours later?

I don’t mean grumpy, or irritable, or in a bad mood – although all those certainly apply. I mean downright depressed, lethargic, unhappy, and almost panicky. I have colleagues here who tried for many weeks to arrange to meet me in the morning if we were travelling to schools in the same area, and they eventually had to give up, because I just couldn’t face anyone. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t force a smile, couldn’t be in company. By the time I got to work, the coffee would have kicked in, and I’d be perfectly happy to travel back home with said colleagues a few hours later. I’d even be quite chatty!

I remember my mum, when I was a child, knocking at my bedroom door to get me up for school, and the feeling of sheer dread that paralysed me, sending me burrowing under the covers to hide from the horror that was Morning. I didn’t dread school in the slightest. I loved school. I wasn’t worried about anything – I worked hard, I always had my homework done. I looked forward to seeing my friends. I had every reason to be happy to greet another day – and yet when I heard Mum calling out the time and telling me to get up, I felt as if life wasn’t worth living. Very often, she had to eventually come in, telling me I was going to be late, and drag the covers off me to make me get out of bed.

All my colleagues, even my best friend at my job in Korea (the job I absolutely loved, remember!), knew there was no point in speaking to me when I arrived each morning. Everyone else would be chatting in the corridor or at the water cooler, and I’d slink past with my head down, fill my coffee cup, and retreat to my classroom, closing the door behind me. Just 20 minutes later, I’d be out there chatting with the rest of them, all my woes and despair forgotten until the next morning.

Now, add this knowledge to the current state of affairs, where I’m not happy. Mornings have been frighteningly depressing, to the extent where I sat on the edge of my bed one day recently, with my head in my hands, saying aloud to the dark, empty room “I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to”. I was completely fine once I was in class, but that hour or so in my apartment, and the bus journey, were a kind of mental hell.

So what possessed me to attempt to do it this morning without any coffee, I really cannot say. I swear, I honestly felt like the world was ending. Small problems seemed huge; big problems seemed to crush and suffocate me. My head was not aching, but my mind was racing in a crazed, out of control way. By the time I got to work, I was trapped in a tangled prison of thoughts and worries. And then all the children wanted to chat to me.

I thought I was going to scream, I really did. They were being all cute and sweet and friendly, and all I wanted to do was press my hands over my ears and yell “Go away! Leave me alone! Stop talking to me!”. After somehow getting through the morning on autopilot, I stumbled towards the bus stop in the grey and drizzle, and realised that the no coffee thing was not going to work. If it’s a choice between headaches and insanity, I choose headaches. I dragged myself into a coffee shop and asked the girl there if she spoke English, which – happily – she did.

Right, I said, very firmly, I need your largest cup of strong Americano, with no milk or sugar, and 2 extra shots of espresso. 

Just to make sure, she said as she rang in my order, you really want SIX shots?

I nodded, and she looked mightily impressed, if a little concerned.

Half a litre of black coffee with 6 shots of espresso, please.

Half a litre of black coffee with 6 shots of espresso, please.

I have just finished my coffee, and all the demons are gone from my mind. I can face my afternoon classes with a smile and lots of chatter.

I know this isn’t normal, this mental morning allergy or whatever it is, and it’s starting to seriously concern me, but at least it is treatable. I am never giving up coffee again.

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