TBI Tuesday – The dreaded C word

Almost four years ago now, I had a bicycle race on Thursday. Home from work on Wednesday evening, I decided to do an easy 25-miler to stretch  my muscles and pump some blood. But three miles from home, I was hit by a car doing 65 mph. I spent a week with machines breathing for me and a month in and out of consciousness. I finally transferred to Atlanta’s Shepherd Brain and Spine Center where they taught me to walk again and set me on a path for TBI recovery. If you want to read more about my experience and advice for recovery from brain injury, you can find my book Can I fix my Brain here on Amazon . It’s a free read for Kindle Unlimited readers, and I’ve priced the paperback inexpensively. If you can’t afford the cost, and I know all about how expensive TBI can be, please leave a message, and we’ll work it out. Thanks for reading!

I left the hospital four years ago with a raft of advice. I didn’t really care about one thing – no alcohol for a year – because I drank about one beer a month during the lawn mowing season and ramped that up to one a weekend for football season watching Notre Dame. One thing bothered me, though: no caffeine. I worked long hours and then came home to write for long hours and kept it all going with copious caffeine. Honestly, I rarely felt the jitters that the black elixir is known for, but drank it by the pot just because I liked it. So, I’ve been off caffeine now for four years – five counting my time in the hospital and recovery – and decided it was time to try it again. Silly? Maybe, but I can’t find two of my favorites coffees in decaf. That, and my grocer started carrying Lavazza, and I was aching to try it.

So I did. Three days ago.

And today, I feel pretty lousy. The back of my neck feels like a vice grip is pulling on me and my head is swimming. If I bend over to do anything, like tie my shoe or something, a wave of nausea washes over me when I stand up, and I get more of the swimming head syndrome. Bringing caffeine back to my diet is the only thing I’ve changed.

So, I will do what my very smart recovery doctor at the Shepherd Center told me to do when I wanted to quit some of the fifteen drugs I took every day. Regarding the drugs, she said to quit one at a time. Cut the dose in half for the first week and then cut that dose in half for the second week. If I don’t feel a difference or don’t feel lousy, go with it and cut about. If I do feel weird or lousy, then I’ve determined my threshold and keep taking that dose. It’s advice that I’ve used many times and in many areas.

So, I’m off caffeine again and feel great. My head is clear, and I rarely get eye floaters. I’ll trade this any day for any supposed jolt I got from the black bean.

It’s good advice, too, for you if you have any kind of brain injury or PTSD. If you’re feeling wonky about something, try cutting out what you think might be the cause. Reintroduce it slowly, in small increments, until you are where you want to be or until you feel some effect. Once there, stop: you’ve found your threshold. I’ve done the same thing with exercise. Maybe because I’m an old guy now, and maybe it’s because I laid out in a hospital bed for months after being tossed to the side of the road like a rag doll, but I can’t work out like I used to. I’m improving, but after three days of running or on my indoor bike, it’s all I can do to get out of bed and do another workout. For about a week. So, I did what the doctor ordered and took some time off to recover and find now that working out every other day doesn’t affect me in that way. And if I’m feeling really worn on my day off, I’ll take another. There’s plenty of time ahead, you know.

NB – In case you’re wondering, Lavazza does come in decaf and, yes, it is wonderful. Kind of chewy, very rich, and deep. Another recent fav is Private Selection decaf which – I think – is a house brand of Harris Teeter, et. al. Then there are the two longtime favorites: Peets and Gevalia. I even still use my Gevalia grinder that I got in the ’80s when I joined the Gevaila subscription club. Ha. It was a radical idea!  Truth be told, though, in my grandmother’s words, “Denn will drink anything as long as it watery, warm, and black.” But it’s got to be decaf.


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