When I first went sober I began drinking coffee. I always liked the smell of it but never enjoyed the taste. That was until I needed to replace the alcohol with something. Caffeine has been my upper for the last nearly 5 years. Coffee, Hi-Balls, 5-Hours, caffeine pills, crazy amount of soft drinks. Every single day. My body was having trouble functioning without it. I’ve recently began realizing it wasn’t a much better replacement to the alcohol. It controlled my life and my moods.
Caffeine has it’s place in many peoples lives, especially in the recovery community. But it also has the potential to be just as damaging as alcohol, especially to someone who also lives with bipolar disorder. The constant outside altering of moods and energy levels wreaks havoc on my sleep schedule, my ability to think during the day, and my energy level to sustain normal daily activities. The fact it took me this long to realize how much it was effecting me doesn’t surprise me, since I went so long as a using alcoholic.
The biggest impact it has had on my life overall though is my bipolar disorder. I recently gave up caffeine because I had a my first migraine and they think it may have been caused by either that or my vision problems. So, I got glasses, and gave up caffeine. After I stopped drinking caffeine I was doing some research on how they can contribute to migraines. Instead of what I was looking for, I found copious amounts of articles on caffeine and bipolar disorder.
I was astounded at how much the articles hit home for me. Aside from the obvious side effects; insomnia, tremors, increased heart rate, and anxiety; it also has severe effects on people with bipolar disorder. Ranging from mild sleep issues which can make it difficult to control moods when agitated from lack of sleep, to more major issues like triggering psychosis. Thankfully my side effects didn’t reach the level of psychosis, but they did however push me into several depressive and manic episodes.
In my journeyÂ living with bipolar disorder I am constantly learning new things. Things I wish I would have known when I was first diagnosed. I know there is a ton of information out there and impossible to have known it all by now, but some things I wish were more widely known. Like all the studies on how caffeine can make living with bipolar disorder more difficult.
In the studies and articles I have read, most all agree that abstaining from caffeine consumption is important. One of the biggest effects it can have is making your manic episodes much more pronounced, with the risk of leading into psychosis. This is a scary thought for me because I have had one episode of psychosis in my life and it was very scary (scary after the fact because I wasn’t fully present or aware during the episode). I never want to revisit that part of my life if I can help it. And if giving up caffeine can possibly put that risk lower, I will gladly keep to the abstinence.
Another risk caffeine can have is anxiety and panicked state of mind. For someone living with bipolar disorder, this can easily turn into exaggerated paranoia, which I have had multiple times in my life. The feeling of thinking everything is against you is not a fun one. I get feelings like this quite often, unfortunately. An, usually during days where I have consumed more caffeine than usual. I know the two could be completely unrelated because mental illness and consumed products effect everyone differently, but it’s hard to dismiss the similarities in the studies and my experiences.
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It has only been 2 weeks since I decided to give up caffeine, but I have seen some changes in my regular day to day activities. Ranging from being overly tired some days because my body is adjusting to functioning without high amounts of caffeine, to noticing I’m not on edge nearly as much anymore. I am excited and hopeful to see how much my life with bipolar disorder minus the caffeine changes for the better.
I encourage you to also give up caffeine if you live with bipolar disorder. I know it may be difficult if living with a dual diagnosis such as alcoholism, but there are many other ways to get energy through the day without the bad side effects caffeine can have on you. I have been putting together a list of things I can drink or consume that can give me a more natural boost, provided below.
B12 comes in many forms, but the quickest way to get an energy boost is to have a regular injection of B12. Most doctors offer this service. If you can’t do the needle, you can always begin taking a daily B12 vitamin supplement and start boosting your energy in a healthier way. Consuming foods high in B12 (fish, red meat, milk ) can also help you get more energy.
Ginkgo Biloba is a wildly successful dietary supplement. The easiest way to consume it is via a vitamin supplement. Ginkgo has the ability to clear up concentration, therefore giving you more time to focus on the things that matter by giving you a boost of energy. It can also subdue anxiety and help boost you up in depressive states.
Ginseng is most commonly consumed in the form of tea. By giving you a boost of energy, ginseng has the ability to reduce stress, therefore calming you manic episodes down a little. Another great side effect of Ginseng is that it can improve brain function. Helping you process things easier and able to evaluate and be present during manic or depressive episodes.
Essential oils are derived from nearly all plants and natural growing foods. It works in a form of aroma therapy. Breathing in the aromas from certain plants has been shown to improve your life in multiple areas, including energizing you. Essential oils can be used by air diffusers or by applying directly to your skin in a place where you will breathing it in easy. Some oils that give energy are lemon oil, cedar wood oil, orange oil, and peppermint oil, just to name a few.
If you have any suggestions or ideas for more natural energy, please let me know in the comments below.