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Dear Caffeine: We Need to Talk About How You Affect My Bipolar Disorder

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This article was written by my wife and is shared with her permission.

Dear Caffeine,

God, I love you. I have loved you for as long as I can remember. The sweet nectar of Dr Pepper is a lifeline after a long day, a need for an all-nighter or just to soothe my day. We have had a love affair for my entire life. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t drink soda.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I do not like you in coffee. I do not like you in tea. I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I Am. However, I love you in soda and I used to have a brief tryst with you in energy drinks. My love of Dr Pepper is not just for the energy burst, but also the memories of times long past.

I began to love you because I wanted to be like my Aunt Meleea. She was my idol, all throughout my youth. She drank Dr Pepper, so I did too. My father is a Coke fanatic, but I only tolerate a Coke every once in a while. No, Dr Pepper is the greatest toxic relationship of my life. I also have a weakness for Big Red. Perhaps it’s the Texan in me.

We had a bad breakup when I was in college, my dearest Caffeine. I decided to quit you cold turkey. I paid for that. Weeks of headaches and emotional attachment put asunder. However, I was in a weird headspace at the time. I went on a health kick, primarily because I felt so weird. Looking back now, I realized I was in the beginnings of my bipolar disorder fluctuations becoming a cycle, instead of just bursts of lower level mood swings I have experienced all my life.

Bipolar tore our love affair apart, Caffeine. Looking back, she has always been in our way. An interloper. I can see the signs of childhood bipolar quite clearly now, and my first prolonged manic episode was when I was 11 or 12 years old. We had a particularly hot couple of months, you and I. I drank more and more soda as a way to maintain the high. I needed you, Caffeine. Sometimes mania makes me run into your arms, in a way that is manipulative for me, at least.

So, in college, I put you on ice. Ghosted you, in fact. I avoided you like the plague, and I started to see the world in a new lens. Unfortunately, Caffeine, you tend to pop up in the weirdest places. I started going to more and more parties, drinking more and more alcohol. Alcohol, as you know Caffeine, is another of my great love affairs. Instead of coming between us though, alcohol always makes us closer. A threesome of love and dependence, featuring you, me and that siren call of alcohol. However, as you know, that bitch Bipolar tends to start hanging around like a creepy ex-girlfriend, waiting for you to slip up and capture me again. At a party, rum and Coke is a cheap drink. My favorite, though, is whiskey and lemonade. So sometimes, I was able to elude you, but then a drink would be pressed in my hand that evidently lead me right back into your arms, my sweet Caffeine. It would be so easy for alcohol to rule my entire life. To fall into the depths of alcoholism, but instead, I chose you, Caffeine. So thanks, I guess?

Then we would start again. For eight more long years, you and I continued to orbit in each other’s lives. A Dr Pepper for breakfast. A Dr Pepper for lunch, snack, dinner… the list goes on and on. Sometimes switching it up to keep us fresh, a Big Red or two would find its way in. All good relationship couples do tend to suggest we “keep things interesting” in a relationship. However, you soon saw yourself being used again. Having your position in my life challenged. Bipolar had come back, harder and swifter than before. Before, she had quietly exited a few times… now, she was back for good. You didn’t know it at the time… but it was the beginning of the end for us.

The medication I was originally given to break the months-long mania state was great for treating the mania. It did, however, trigger a full-blown swing into diabetes. So I had to start limiting our interactions, my noble Caffeine, because of the sugar intake. Once I exited that medication, which seemed to wreck by physical health while improving my mental one for a time, I transitioned to just the other medication on its own.

The lights came back on. I felt wonderful. Then, I discovered my diabetes medication worked best with a moderate level of sugar intake. Diabetes murdered my affair with alcohol. We hook up randomly, but we don’t get past first base. So, we entered back into a more regular relationship again, Caffeine. Then, disaster struck. My wife had a series of strokes. Less than six months later, my entire life was blown apart by Toxic Mold. That bitch. We won’t even get into details about that bitch. We both hate him. It’s cool.

The problem is, Toxic Mold started a chain of events that would eventually lead to a long break in our relationship. I had to start an anxiety medication. The combination of the mood stabilizer and the anxiety medication masked the fact that mania had started to creep back in. All the doctors, the websites, common sense and most importantly my psychiatrist kept saying to not make decisions about changing meds in the middle of a stressful event. Problem is, in the last year since Toxic Mold essentially violated my life against my will, life has been a solid collection of stress. So I waited. I waited some more. We had an intense period together — a summer of love, if you will.

Then, one day, I realized mania and depression had crept its way back into my life. I realized that August had left me in a manic state and it was time to pull the trigger. I couldn’t schedule an appointment for two weeks. You know that I’m dead broke on the regular, so I had to schedule it for payday. In the meantime, something had to be done. So, I cut you off, my love. Caffeine, you know you create energy, and energy was what needed to exit stage left. Hard. Immediately.

It’s been almost four months since I last indulged with you. You are a siren. You call to me all the time, but Bipolar and I are heavily in tune with each other now. The meds helped stabilize me, and she convinced me you were trying to ruin our relationship. So, I listened to her, because after all, she is the most important mental state in my life. Much to my chagrin, she’s my ride or die, bitch. You have to pay attention to your enemies if you hope to win. Bipolar is my nemesis, and you have proven time and again that you bring her back into my orbit. You, my ex-lover, cannot be trusted when it comes to her. As much as you fight each other, you also have this weird codependence. Like you can’t exist without the other as you vie for prominence in my life.

Then, last week happened. Don’t get me wrong, Adopt-A-Child is one of my favorite things. The problem is, that crafting and creating always flirts with the mania. It can be tempered, but it takes a concentrated effort to keep bipolar at bay. Stress is a trigger, after all, and I always want everything to be perfect. I need it to be perfect because I care so damn much. So, by Friday evening, I was tired. I was bone tired. However, I wanted a date night with my wife. I wanted to go to a movie. So, at dinner, I had another affair with you. I drank a third of a Dr Pepper. Just a taste of you, and it felt good. You tasted so good. It was life-changing. I’m not being dramatic; it was life changing for both you and me. You thought you would take hold again — that I couldn’t resist your insatiable thirst for me. It was the opposite, my lover; you are now forever my ex.

You see, even that brief consumption of you sent me into a tailspin. I took a sip of you and Bipolar saw her back door entrance while I was distracted. This weekend was hell — no sleep, mood everywhere. In fact, just 45 minutes after our connection, I went into a panic attack for which I now recognize you were the immediate trigger. I haven’t had a panic attack in months, but here it was. You had let it in. Bipolar and Anxiety both piggybacked upon our rendezvous.

Which has lead me to the conclusion that you and I can never be again, my dear Caffeine. I have to end our relationship. Forever. You are toxic, my dear. So very toxic. This is a breakup letter, Caffeine, if you hadn’t figured it out by now. This is my “Dear John” to you. Your strong masculine energy has been a part of my life for so long that leaving you leaves me melancholy. Contemplative. I wonder how many times in the past you have actually hurt me in the guise of helping me. I now see our relationship has always been an abusive one, on both sides. You abuse me with your back door antics, and I abuse you to maintain my relationship with Bipolar. We just aren’t good for each other, Caffeine. I have to leave. I’m not sorry for my withdrawal from you, only for the time I have spent with you. The fact you have been a part of so many good memories saddens me. I realize that holding a Dr Pepper and smiling at memories of my Aunt will never happen again. You enable both good memories and bad experiences to transcend the barriers I have erected for my own safety. You allow them to breach and conquer. For this reason, I’m done.

Please don’t contact me again.


Your once devoted adherent.

Getty Images photo via Nutthaseth Vanchaichana

Originally published: June 22, 2019
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