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Let me begin this post by saying that I will NEVER drink coffee again. I have sworn it off. Anything with more caffeine than a cup of tea is not for me.
As I mentioned here, my grandfather recently passed away while I was thousands of miles away at a writing conference. To get home, I’d have had to dodge some pretty heavy obligations, talk to people about changing my flight, etc… My mom told me that I should just stay and stick it out. She advised that I keep myself distracted, so I did.
There were quite a few people that I’d met before at this conference, and they invited me to various activities that were taking place after the workshops and panels that took place every day. I actually had a lot of fun. These people were good company, and they drew me out of myself a lot.
The only trouble was that I get really tired when I’m around too many people for too long, and I wasn’t sleeping well due to a combination of grief, stress, and a strange bed in a strange place. It got to the point that I’d be sitting, listening to another writer talking at a panel and start to fall asleep. The last day, it was so bad that I had two cups of coffee. I know that doesn’t sound bad, but it’s two more cups than I would normally drink.
Up until lunch time, I didn’t feel too bad, jittery and tired, but not sleepy. I could live with that. But as I was looking for the next room I was scheduled to be in, I started feeling really dizzy and having trouble breathing. As my vision was narrowing down to a small point of light, I turned to the writer I was walking with, a friend from a couple of other conventions and retreats, and said “I think I’m going to black out.” I thought I was joking, figured it was just one of those tunnel vision moments that would resolve itself in a second, but it turns out I was right. I passed out right there in the middle of the hallway.
I guess I was only completely out for a handful of seconds. When I came to, all I could see was the light shining red through my my hair, which had fallen across my eyes. I brushed it away and saw someone with dark hair leaning over me. I knew it was one of my friends, but two of them had long dark hair, and it wasn’t until later that I was able to confirm which one of them it was. My mind was so scrambled that for a while, nothing was clear to me and none of the memories from right after I passed out are easy to access. This confusion is just one of the symptoms of caffeine poisoning, and I was suffering ten out of fifteen listed here.
The main thing I gathered is that a lot of people were worried about me. Someone fetched the nurse kept on staff and one of the other writers there who was a doctor left her workshop to come check on me. Several people missed the events they were going to attend to make sure that I was alright. My heart rate was dangerously high and very irregular, and I was overheating like crazy, so I had to lay on a couch and keep calm for a while before they would even let me stand up. Fortunately, though I did hit my head, I didn’t have a concussion, and I didn’t hurt my back.
I’ve never passed out before and I hope it never happens again.
So, does it seem a little far fetched that two cups of coffee would cause this? Turns out that some of the writers thought the coffee was too weak, so they took it upon themselves to make it about three times stronger on the last day. My poor caffeine-unaccustomed system was subjected to six cups of coffee worth of the stuff over the course of about two hours. Mystery solved.
The whole incident might be well behind me (about three days), but it’s still bothering me. I keep telling myself that it’s okay that I got all that attention, that I shouldn’t feel so mortified, that no one is mad at me or thinks any less of me because I passed out. But I still haven’t brought myself to talk about it to my family or anyone I know out here because I hate the idea of them knowing that I am not invincible. I feel bad that people missed things because of me, that someone else had to step up and run my workshop, and that I scared people. I know that none of them mind (they all told me so). But I still feel guilty, like I did something wrong.
On the bright side, I got to see jut how much these long distance friends cared about me. I ‘m trying to hold on to the warm glow I get when I think about all the nice things they did to take care of me.
And as for my decision to stay away from coffee from now on, it comes partly from the fact that I kept tasting the stuff for the rest of the day and can’t stand the taste or smell now. I also suffered from a really high level of anxiety which I only found out later was most likely due to the coffee. I think I’d better stay away from the stuff.