My brain just would not settle down today, so I tried something that I haven't done for quite a while: caffeine. I calculated a rough dosage, rapidly drank about a liter of strong tea, and found myself able to sit down and actually do stuff - clicking myself gently and consciously into flow state during daylight hours - more easily than I've been able to in weeks.
This stuff has its tradeoffs.
- Ability to focus more easily
- Physical twitchiness
- Reduced ability to regulate body temperature
- Noticeably increased heart rate
- Inability to sleep at a reasonable hour
- A jittery-stomach feeling that lasts for the remainder of the day
- The need to constantly be aware of pushing more water through my system to make up for the diuretic effects of the chemical
- Concerns about getting lazy and becoming suboptimally dependent on caffeine
And yet. Sometimes it's worth it.
When I was in high school - long before I was diagnosed with ADHD - I was a caffeine fiend. I would make regular trips to the grocery across the street from my high school and return with as many liters of Mountain Dew as a plastic bag could carry without ripping. (Sometimes I'd get Code Red for variety.) During solo late-night study sessions, I would steadily sip through bottles upon bottles of Dew - it was a habit, a ritual, a way I knew to predictably catch my brain in a clear state conducive to things like problem sets and essays and the general passing of classes.
I didn't connect this to the caffeine at the time, nor was I aware that having such a reaction to a stimulant might be an indication I should pay attention to. My parents didn't know (they wouldn't let me drink things with caffeine in it because they wanted me to sleep), though I did do my research before getting my first bottle of Dew my first year of high school and made sure I knew how many milligrams of caffeine were in each ounce of each type of soda I planned to drink, the likely physiological effects, that there were no side effects I had to watch out for (when you're 14 and your blood pressure's good, you don't worry about it being slightly elevated by a chemical that has a 4-hour half life in your bloodstream), and how to make sure that I wouldn't get addicted. (I've never had withdrawal headaches.)
But actually, what it was (and is) is a drug, and what I did (and am doing) is a variant on self-medication. Now, I'm fine with that, to some degree. When I have a sore throat and boil some ginger in water and drink that, it's fine. When I eat a giant round of simple carbs and follow it with a warm shower in order to make myself groggy, that's fine. Why should tea be any different? And when I drink tea, I do appreciate it - I can give extensive critiques of any tea I happen to be drinking, I enjoy the taste. (I drink tea nowadays rather than soda; I realized after high school that it tasted better and had much less sugar.)
But there's this other part of my mind that thinks that well, no, this is different - and maybe you shouldn't do it. I more or less gave up caffeine after high school because I wanted to listen to that part of me and make sure. I'll have the occasional cup of tea. Once in a blue moon, I might try a sip of someone else's coffee or caffeinated soda. And once every couple dozen blue moons, after extended stretches of trying everything else in the book to break a twitchy spell, I'll cave and chug 300mg worth of the stuff in the form of Raspberry Earl Grey (tasty!) and watch my mind in satisfaction as it settles in and reminds me of how I can think, sometimes. The reminder helps me keep my brain on track on its own on subsequent days; I've only had to do this a handful of times since graduating from college.
Did that today. Hopefully can make it last tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. If not, then... well, I've got me half a tin of tea left. (But only one small cup at a time.)