My Lens: Part 3 – The Power of a Lens

What is your perspective of the world? Do you ever consider how much it changes?

It’s a post I’ve written before and one I’ve been thinking about more and more of recent. Coupled with Throwback Thursday I’ve revisited my two earlier posts, My Lens: Part 1 – Seeing the World in Pictures and Words and My Lens: Part 2 – A Happier Perspective, and, besides from realising how my writing and blogging style has changed since those earlier days here on the Clouds, I’ve also realised just how true it still is.

Part 1 deals with how our hobbies and interests shape how we see the world; the more we write, the more things that present themselves to be written about, the more photos we take, the more opportunities we see. I’ve found this to be fundamentally true as I’ve gone on. The “My Lens” series was one of my first blogs written to be read my a bigger audience, a less personal post. It was around a time when blogging was new to me and one of my fears was that I’d have nothing to say. Recently, I’ve had a lot of blogs scheduled way in advance, I’ve been proud of that, but it also meant I’ve rested on my laurels a bit. Due to this, I’ve actually noticed I’m far less inspired by things around me. Blog posts aren’t sitting around in my head waiting to be written, and my 9-5 is leaving me exhausted and too tired to write.

Part 2 of the My Lens series dealt with Mindsets; the more you practice positivity the more positive things will be. Written like that, it sounds pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the opposite that most people tend to ignore; the more negative you are the more negative things will seem. I know a lot of people who are negative, who’s believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever goes right. They spend so long focused on the negativity, that not only does every new experience seem negative to them, but they’re ignoring and glossing over the positive too. When something good happens to them, it’s only a matter of time (in their eyes) before life is going to go to shit again. In this way we curse ourselves to a damned unhappy existence.

So, what’s this part 3? Why has it taken so long?

Firstly, it’s took so long because I’ve just spent hours writing a blog that, in actuality, was really waffley, self-indulgent, and had no real baring on anyone else. It had a message, certainly, but it took ages to get there. Stay with me for a bit though, let me see if I can break down to the true meaning of Part 3.

Power.

Part 3, is ultimately about the Power of a Lens. Like Skills, the Lens you don’t practice with is lost. The less writing I do, the less I see to write about. The less photographs I take, the less shots I see out there in the world. The less positive my outlook, the less positive things seem. It can become a somewhat self-fulfilling cycle and one you may have to consciously break or you’ll feel all hope is lost.

Now, bare in mind that your perspective doesn’t just have the power to shape your view, it has the power to shape your whole world. By practicing something like writing I will get better, I will also see more to write about, I will find more opportunity. Now consider if I practice love. By practicing love we will find more love reciprocated in the world around. It’s this that Part 3 is about. That there is power in the way you see the world.

This power that perspectives have over our lives is both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it enables and opens our eyes to the wonders around, perspectives also denote your blind spots, if you practice counting your money, you start to only see the world in monetary gain. You’ll  be more blind to the things money can’t buy, the things in life like love, gratitude, support. I’ve spoke before on what value truly is in How We Misinterpret Value. and I feel the need to point out how that is very much a perspective, a lens. After all, the old adage of “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” works well here. Those who are so money focused will be the kind of person to think money solves everything; that their problems stem from too little of it, and that they can solve them by throwing their hard earned dough that further away. Similarly, those who haven’t ever seen love, and therefore don’t practice love, will be blind to its presence; may even scoff when you talk of its ability in changing the world.

We need to all be aware of how our perspective is shaping the world around us; the good and the bad it can do. We can shape the world to be more aware of the special, photo-perfect moments, we can shape it so we can see love, kindness and gratitude, or our perspectives can make us blind, they can act as narrow blinkers blocking all but that which we want to see. Our perspectives also let us see where others have blindspots, when people don’t care about others, or about society, or about the world at large. Our perspectives can show us the society-induced blindspots. The more we open ourselves to these more accepting viewpoints, the clearer the narrow view of the world at large can look.

I think the point I’m making clear here is… that after a rewrite this post is still pretty waffley. (Evidence I haven’t written something in a while… evidence that I’m on Day 9 of 13 shifts at work…) But the actual point I’m trying to make here is that it’s worth reflecting on your own lens, the behaviours you practice in your life, and thinking about the power they have in shaping the world around you. Is something you’re focused on shaping your world? And if so, is it for better or for the worse?

So, as homework, what would you say your ‘Lenses’ were. How do you see the world? And, on reflection, are there any lenses you’d like to switch out? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking Back at Fizz Free February

As I write this I’m drinking a bottle of Pepsi Max… I wish I could claim it is some sort of experiment I am conducting, but really I’m just thirsty and it was the only thing available (besides plain water, bleh!).

Last month I was doing Fizz Free February: A Fight with Caffeine Addiction and I thought that, after my first post and since it’s now March, that it was worth checking in on this subject to see how I was fairing a month down the line. In the interest of accuracy, it is worth noting that, dispite ‘Fizz Free’ being the title, I wasn’t 100% Fizz Free. In fact, it is probably more apt to call it ‘Reduced Fizz February’ instead. That said, even Kirsty will admit my habits are completely and utterly changed.

So, when have I been drinking ‘Fizz’ (in our case, Pepsi Max). I’ve drank the dreaded Fizzy Pop when it’s been a bit of a treat, i.e. with a meal out, or with a takeaway (might as well, since I’m ruining my body with grease anyway, right?). That said, there have been a few moments where I’ve had a bottle, one of those 600ml, 20% Bigger** bottles, and I’ve drank them fairly slowly. I used to drink these constantly, I could finish them in a few minutes, but now? Well, I can make one last. Not only that, but they sometimes leave me feeling a bit naff. They make me feel bloated and yuck… this one certainly is!

Of course, I used to notice this before, but I think I was just that conditioned to filling up my body with them that I’d accepted it as a standard feeling. It wasn’t until I felt better that I began to realise the body shouldn’t feel this way. That’s a lesson for life right there, sometimes you don’t realise how naff you feel until you feel better.

For some people this might be enough to never touch it again, but like a kid (or, lets face it, Grown Ass Adult) who keeps eating his weight in chocolates despite the awful repercussions afterwards, I’ll still continue to drink it; I know I will. I also know, though, that my addiction is broken.

I certainly don’t find myself craving it as I used to. When faced with the option of a drink of Pepsi Max or a drink of Water (with Cordial, thanks) I would always opt for the Pepsi Max, it always seemed the most delicious. Now though, coupled with the bloating after effects, I realise it just doesn’t quench my thirst, and I notice I actually prefer to reach for my cordial infused water far more often.

As for Caffeine, the major feature of the previous article, I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully recovered. I have days where I wake up as though I haven’t slept, where it feels like the time between my head hitting the pillow and my alarm (Kirsty’s hairdryer) going off were instantaneous. I think these moments are just symptoms of life, though, rather than symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Same goes for me being moody, having a foggy head, or being demotivated. These are just my usual cycles, previously enhanced by withdrawal, and now settling into a norm. Who knows, though? All I know is I don’t need it anymore, and that’s good. Too much reliance on anything outside of prescribed medication is a bad thing.

So, has Fizz Free February been a success? Damn right it has.

At least, I think it has.

Let’s Recap: No more addiction, no more cravings, saving a ton of money (who knew Water was so cheap?), and functioning with minimal withdrawal.

That’s a success right there!

How the Nintendo Switch gave me a Moment of Adulthood

Adulthood keeps sneaking its way into my life, unseen until a moment of sudden clarity.

When you’re younger, I don’t think you ever fully understand what an Adult is; you go from day to day, week to week, year to year, and you just accept that one day you will become an ‘Adult’. That never happens. You’re still the same, you’re just suddenly making slightly more adult choices and, depending on your living conditions, this can happen slowly or rapidly before you even realise.

You may know by now I’m a huge gamer; I LOVE games. My monthly pay cheque is always spent before it arrives, preordering the latest releases or picking up a new board game to play… at least it used to be.

This weekend saw the launch of the Nintendo Switch, the latest Nintendo console complete with the latest Legend of Zelda game: Breath of the Wild. Zelda is one of my personal favourite series of all time; it fills me to the brim with utter excitement, it pulls at my stomach with nostalgia.  As normal, I preordered the Switch as soon as I could and watched it sat there in my Amazon basket.

I love buying things on day one. I love being part of that exclusive club; those playing it first, discovering it first and being able to experience something ahead of spoilers and ahead of other impressions. When the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 released within a week of each other, I took a week off work and bought them both. I’d just started a new job, with a considerably higher pay cheque, and by saving enough away for two months I had them both in my hands. It only seemed fair that I bought the Nintendo Switch and took a day off work to celebrate its release.

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Eugh, it looks so fucking glorious!

Only, I’m now a homeowner. I now pay a mortgage, I pay bills, I pay expenses. I’ve just had to replace my oven, I’ve got a leaky Kitchen ceiling, and we’re looking at getting a new bed. We’ve got a lounge which is half done, we’ve got a garden which will soon be in the correct season to tend, and, most importantly, I’ve got a Study I want to fit up so I have somewhere to write. I could simply shirk all this; I could simply ‘treat’ myself. I didn’t, though.

In fact, as I write this (a few weeks ago from ‘now’; check me out being scheduled in advance!) my finger is hovering over the ‘Cancel Preorder’ button of the Amazon page. Part of me is hoping that some news will come out, some exciting new announcement, that might justify this Day One purchase to a my sensible adult mind. I know that’s not the case though, I know I can buy one later, I know it’ll be better value later, and I know my money is better off elsewhere. EDIT: This is a particularly painful edit, as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now receiving absolutely stellar reviews and being regarded as an absolute masterpiece… and here I am without it… begrudgingly trying to find some silver lining… I’ll try to go on, but life is looking bleak…

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Be still my heart.

The point I’m trying to make, I guess, is that Adulthood sneaks up on you and it shows itself in a variety of ways. It affects some people earlier than others, situations and circumstance have a way of moulding us, of helping us mould ourselves. You might argue that getting a mortgage was a bigger symbol than this, you might argue that my post is very much a “first world problem” and it undeniably is. I think it’s an example though, nonetheless. A few years ago, I couldn’t picture a Shaun who didn’t own the latest games, the latest consoles, and didn’t keep up with the latest news. That’s me though, that’s me right now. I’m still a gamer, I’m still spending more money than I should on games, but I’m a bit more sensible now… and I suppose that’s part of being an Adult.

Written by Shaun, age 27 and still not sure if he’s an ‘Adult’ yet.

Do you still struggle with the concept of Adulthood? What were your biggest lessons in making the transition? Or are you still waiting for it to happen?! Let me know in the comments below!

The Powers of (Mis)communication

Have you ever realised how much upset and annoyance can stem from a simple lack of communication?

A few weeks ago I talked about stress and anxiety in: 3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!. There I mentioned that arguing with Kirsty was one of the things that brought me stress, but that things aren’t as simply as just ‘deciding to stop arguing’, instead you have to find a way to combat that, to avoid having reason to argue in the first place.

Last week, I talked about Seeking Sanctuary after my housemate moving out, and, whilst trying (and failing, a little? You be the judge!) to avoid going into rant-mode, I also wanted to talk about one of the things that upset the balance most.

Both these two points stem from the same source; both of them are a lack of communication.

Kirsty often gets annoyed with me when I don’t do something she expects of me, sometimes this is me not doing as I said I would, sometimes it’s me not doing something I didn’t even know was expected of me; all of it is a problem with communication. Maybe I didn’t listen when Kirsty was explaining something, and mid-argument I realise she’s right, maybe I didn’t communicate when, or how, I was going to do something and had left Kirsty with a different expectation than myself. If, in the first instance, we’d communicated better, if we’d explained and listened, explained and listened, than we could avoid arguments around those issues.

To prove this point, there have been times we’ve had arguments that, when you get down to the bare bones of it, stem from me meaning one thing and Kirsty meaning something completely different. That leads to an argument you can’t conclude, neither of you are listening, neither of you realise the argument is futile and, by its very nature, has no end. Sometimes, though more rarely, we’ll actually be in agreement, but arguing because we’re using different language; our shared goal lost in translation. When we realise that’s our cause, simple miscommunication, we settle back down, but how long have we wasted arguing? How tense have we left an otherwise pleasant and peaceful evening?

Similarly, many of the negativity from having a housemate stemmed from a lack of communication. Whilst waiting for him to move out, it never seemed there was any progress, it lead to feeling like no effort was being made (though I’m sure it was, just behind the scenes), we had no word when he was going to be in, or out, or when his girlfriend was going to be round as well; the closest we got was being asked if it was ok, whilst she’s there behind him, how can you say no? The thing was, we never wanted to say No, we liked them both and who would deny a young couple to share each other’s company? We just wanted a heads-up, a show of respect. Then came the move out, they had the keys, they had the place… and two weeks later there was no eagerness to move, their attentions more fixed on decorating and sorting than packing and leaving. Again, whilst we so eagerly craved our own space, we would have nothing against them delaying a week, two weeks, even three… but there was no communication. We weren’t kept up to date with their plans, therefore we became annoyed and irritated when they happened around us.

We’ve spoken since on the topic, I addressed my housemate and asked a question to the effect of “Why don’t you keep me informed of things?” and his response was because he felt awkward, and because I never asked. Well, I never asked because I felt awkward… Miscommunication, lack of communication, how much easier would the past five months have been if we had just had a simple conversation? If we’d explained and listened? One of us could have extended the olive branch; one of us could have saved the mutual awkwardness.

My problem is I hate confrontation; I’m passive aggressive, I’m petty. I’d rather say “I’m fine” than explain how someone has annoyed me. Half of it is through fear of upsetting someone else, half of it is through an expectation that someone should know they’ve upset me… but that’s not how the world works. Sometimes people are utterly clueless, regardless of the (seemingly) huge hints you leave in their wake. It’s just not a productive way of conducting life.

The world needs more people that communicate, more people that actually explain what’s wrong, and more people that listen to another’s points before reacted. Explaining, listening. Explaining, listening. When we shout over everyone, when we only hear the points we make ourselves, everyone is deaf.

Kirsty and I have took that on board. We’ve started to listen to each other in full, to try and provide comfort to each other when we open up as we realise it’s sometimes difficult to do so. More importantly, we’ve begun to listen to things. When Kirsty used to say “I wish you’d washed up today”, I used to hear “Why don’t you do anything at all in the house?”, when really she meant “I wish you’d washed up today”. We’re communicating now; we’re explaining, we’re listening.

Do you agree? How important do you feel communication is? And do you have any tips to ensure a healthy dialogue? Let me know in the comments below!

Seeking Sanctuary: A Monday Blog

Do you crave your own space and solitude?

For those who visit the Clouds regularly, you’ll know I moved house five months ago and you’ll also know that it’s one of the best things that has happened to me. It seemed to take a long time coming, it seemed to be the answer to so many problems, and it seemed it couldn’t come quick enough.

One of my main worries, going into the house, would be the lack of space. I’m a big believer in having space, having some time to yourself where you’re alone, where you can watch something rubbish on TV, snack on something guilty, just basically indulge a little without fear of judgement. My concern was that, with Kirsty and I living together, I’d never get any of this space; really the opposite occurred. Not only does she give me enough space to keep me sane, but I don’t actually need as much as before; I’m happy and I’m chilled even when were together. Pretty perfect, right?

One thing you may not know, regular reader or not, is that when we moved in one of my best friends came with us. He was my old housemate, and his housing plans had fallen through prior to the move. We couldn’t leave him stranded, or paying out for the old flat on his own, so we moved him in to us. We’ve lived together 8 years, and this would just be a short stopgap that enables him to get on with life, so where’s the harm? Well, five months later, I found myself having descent into pettiness and irritability, I found our friendship becoming tense and delicate. I’d become a Shaun I wouldn’t want to know.

As of Saturday he’s ‘Moved Out’, though a lot of his stuff still remains, and as such I’m not going to use this as a forum to promote negativity; I’m not going to bitch and moan. In the end, we were helping out a friend, and in his own way I’m sure he’s grateful, so I just want things to return to the way they were… not something that will happen if all I do is focus on the bad. So, instead, I’m just going to tell you what I’ve learnt.

Space as a Couple

I’ve learnt that space isn’t purely personal; it isn’t just a case of wanting to leave ‘me’ to ‘me’. As a couple, we desperately just wanted the house to be ourselves. Five months on from getting the keys, and I can count on one hand the amount of times we really felt the house was our own. Even now, with the scattered remains of his half-move, the house doesn’t fully feel like ours… but it’s almost there.

I’d always thought I’d need space away from Kirsty, time to be myself on my own, but it couldn’t be less true. I actually craved time to just be with Kirsty, for us to just watch a film together, to lounge around together, to be have no interruptions besides when Toby wants some fuss. It’s not the same when someone else is around, even if they’re upstairs, even if they’re out at the shops, you can’t just relax and fall into each other, you’re waiting for that interruption.

The Positive Lesson: I’ve learnt how much Kirsty and I need our time together. Where before I would have looked forward to nights to myself (and only to myself) I now look forward to nights when we can just enjoy each other’s company. I’ve learnt it makes our relationship stronger, hell it makes our love stronger, and it’s more important than I’d ever give it credit for before.

Space as an Environment

Space needs to be a positive environment, it needs to be somewhere you feel completely comfortable. I can’t tell you where your ‘space’ is, it’s something entirely subjective, but what I can tell you is that it needs to be free from anything that will serve as a reminder to your stress.

I’ve learnt that if the house is in a mess, Kirsty can’t relax, and if Kirsty can’t relax neither can I. I’ve learnt that when you look around, and there’s things to clean, to put away, reminders of a house that isn’t in order, then I can’t just be. If your stressors are work, you wouldn’t surround yourself in papers, overdue deadlines, or email notifications. Similarly, I’ve learnt that one of my stressors was the constant reminder of living with someone else. Scattered shoes under feet, open doors and windows, impromptu visits and plans without clarity… I couldn’t relax in that environment. I watched the clock more than I even do at work; calculating how long I had, when I’d need to cook dinner by, whether I’d have time to watch an hour long TV show uninterrupted. It made for a tense environment, it made for a situations where nobody felt comfy, and yet where there was nothing anyone could really do to help.

The Positive Lesson: I’ve learnt how much I want to promote a good environment in my home. I’ve started to learn to keep the place tidy, and I’ve learnt mess plays a bigger role in my life than I’d ever thought possible. This may be more a symptom of home-ownership than anything else, but I’ve realised I actively want to keep on top of my housework. I can’t relax when there’s dirty plates, scattered books, or messy tables… at least when they’re in eyesight. It’s important to identify the things that are affecting your environment, sometimes without your knowledge, and this has helped me to realise what I can do to ensure that those moments when we do have peace, that I can maximise their potential as moments of care.

Space as a Sanctuary

Most of all, I’ve learnt that when we require our ‘Space’ it’s often that we require some Sanctuary. I’ve always believed a home needs to be your Sanctuary and now seems as clear as day for me. It needs to be a place where you feel safe, where you don’t have to ‘do’ anything or ‘be’ anyone. It has to be a place of utter comfort. When your home isn’t that place, when you’re walking on egg shells, when you’re scheduling your life around others, and when you can’t just cry and break down if you need to… it becomes a weight. Most of all, it becomes a place you don’t look forward to being, or a place you even avoid going.

Six months ago, before the keys came to my hands, I imagined that getting home would be like having a weight lifted off my shoulders, I imagined bad days fading away into the backdrop of the outside world, and I imagined just being in this perfect bubble, unaffected by anything or anyone. It hasn’t been that way. I’d get home more concerned with the plans of others than with simple, stress-free relaxation. The environment put me on edge, and the lack of couple time, between Kirsty and I, made us irritable. Our house wasn’t a place where we were free from the pressures of everyday life, it wasn’t a place where we could simple be.

The Positive Lesson: Home needs to be our sanctuary. I’ve learnt just how important it is to be able to get home and free yourself from the shackles of everyday life, lest your home become its own chain with its own anchor. It means I’ve learnt to take on board the potential issues that can jeopardise this sanctuary, the ones in control at least, and it means that in my spare moments I look to actively keep on top of things I might have otherwise ignored or put out of mind. I’ve learnt the importance of letting go of stress, of just being relaxed at home.

And there we have it, three positive lessons I’ve learnt in the first five months of living in my house. Part of me wanted to do five lessons for five months, but one of my other lessons was almost as long as this post all together, and it’s already planned for its own entire blog post of its own. Instead, it’s over to you…

Where is your Sanctuary? Where do you find your space? What do you do to maximise your down time? Let me know in the comments below!

Why I Don’t Hate Valentine’s Day

What is Valentine’s Day? Waste of Time? Sign of Corporate Greed? Pagan Festival rebranded by the Romans?

Valentines is one of those days people either seem to love or hate. People either buy into the overly romantic nature of the holiday, or dismiss it as nothing more than an excuse to claw money away from society. In truth, many holidays follow a similar suite.

Christmas, is often advertised well in advance, making sure nobody misses the memo that we have to spend money to enjoy the season, that we have to buy our loved ones the best gifts to show them we love them the most. Even Easter, which will soon be upon us, joins its festive brethren in advertising and cost; you must buy Chocolate Eggs, you must cook a big dinner.

Valentine’s gets a big brunt of this though, with statements like “I don’t need one day a year to show someone I love them”, “I don’t need a gift or present just to show love”, and “it’s just another meaningless day”. The thing is… I get that. The thing is… I agree.

But why so cynical?

When I was younger, when I was at the height of my ‘down with the system’ beliefs, I couldn’t have agreed more. Then I realised something, I realised that these things are what you make of them, and only what you make of them.

In the true vein of Capitalism, Corporations are going to do everything they can to push things onto us; they’re going to offer sales, deals for couples, breaks away. That’s what they’ll do, like with every other day and every other reason they can find to make you spend money. It’s up to you, though, if you buy into it… and hell, maybe you’ll get a cheap deal for something?

My biggest argument is when people say “I show someone I love them all year round, why should we have a day to it?” and my argument is simple… “Why not?”. If you show someone just how much you love them as often as is possible, every moment of every day, that’s absolutely great. In our busy, hectic lives it’s sometimes easy to forget things though, it’s sometimes easy to take people for granted. Why not utilise one day a year that really does say “I love you. Nobody is saying you only show love on Valentine’s Day; that’s a terrible argument. See the day as a reminder, just a little memo, that maybe you should tell/show someone just how much you love them.

More to the point, use the day to just say “I love you” to more than just your partner. Love is such a strong emotion, yet it’s one we don’t show as often as we should. Tell your partner you love them, tell your parents, your siblings, your friends and your colleagues.

I suppose a summary to this, and to my thoughts on all the holidays, is to use them as reasons and excuses to show someone your love. Don’t want to buy cards and gifts? Don’t! Why not make something or do something instead? Don’t want to go out for an expensive and busy meal? Don’t! Cook something nice or have a cheeky takeaway together. Kirsty will often say one of the best things I can do is tidy up, do chores that she’d normally do, and just show I’ve thought about her in some way. That stuff is free!

Things can be pushed onto us all we like, and it’s true that everyone will try to make a quick buck, but see the occasion for your own reasons. I love Christmas, because it’s a reason to see all my family, it’s a reason to show them how much I love to spend time with them; but I try to do that as often as possible too. I treat Valentine’s the same. Kirsty and I show each other our love Every. Single. Day. but this time of year we also just make an extra effort to make a bit of time for each other, or maybe cook something a bit different, or to bake/make/craft something. The day doesn’t have to be a waste of time, it just depends on how you treat it.

How will you be spending Valentines Day? Do you hate it? Or do you celebrate it?

 

Fizz Free February: A Fight with Caffeine Addiction

Do you drink a lot of fizzy drinks? Consume a lot of Caffeine?

I do; I’m addicted. Here’s what’s happening as I cut down.

I had a brilliant weekend this weekend just gone. Kirsty and I went out for a Miller and Carter on Friday, to celebrate an achievement with her work, then Saturday we went out with two friends for Food and to “Escape the Room” at EscapeLive in Birmingham (Second time we’ve been; Highly recommended!), then Sunday we just relaxed together; she played games and I read. However, Monday morning I realised I felt… down. I was tired, for a start. My Fitbit said I’d been awake/restless 22 times during the night and now, during the day, I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  Then, couple that with the kind of lethargy that hits when you realise the fun weekend you were looking forward to is over, and now you have a full day at work where you don’t feel fulfilled on a good day… It all adds up.

It was so bad, in fact, that I didn’t write. Normally Monday would be a #MondayBlog, but this week I just didn’t write one. Sure, I should have had one planned in advance anyway, scheduled to go, but in any event if I don’t I would always write one on the day; not so this time. Oh well, maybe Tuesday would be a better day?

Only Tuesday came, Today came, and I’m still tired. I’m unbelievably tired considering how long I’ve slept. I remember, vividly, how often I was awake last night, and I’ve spent all day rubbing my itchy, tired eyes, counting down until I can be in bed again. I’ve spent the day in a melancholy bubble, surrounded by a deep desire to, not only not be at work, but to not really be doing anything. I feel so apathetic. I feel my drive gone. I feel the need to just cuddle up into a ball and waste my day under a duvet, watching rubbish on TV and adding zero value to my life. That’s how Today feels. However, Today I also discovered the reason for it.

Caffeine Addiction.

Or more to the point; Caffeine Withdrawal.

Here on the Clouds, I’ve been doing Fizz Free February. I’m not sure it’s actually a thing, it’s something I’ve just invented for myself. Whilst I’m sure most of you know the negatives of drinking fizzy drinks, and you probably get preached to as often as I did, what they don’t often tell you is what you face when you stop.

You see, Fizzy drinks were my main source of Caffeine. My addiction to Pepsi Max saw it replacing all other drinks in my day. Morning drink? Pepsi Max. Drink with Dinner? Pepsi Max. Quick sip of something before heading to bed? Pepsi Max. About the only drink I didn’t replace was Beer, which is unhealthy in its own way. I never claimed what I was doing was right, but I’d never admit my problem was getting a little out of hand. So, as part of a healthier eating routine I’m doing, I thought I’d cut out my addiction; Lent’s around the corner anyway, I’m just a little early.

Let’s just say it’s left me feeling rough; far rougher than I thought.

Pepsi_Max.jpg
The cause of my Caffeine Addiction

It’s amazing how something I’d slowly been filling my body with has taken an invisible toll on me. Whilst I was consuming Pepsi Max, I never really noticed just how much caffeine I was putting into my body, and now that I’ve stopped my body is in a withdrawal I never expected. In fact, I didn’t even immediately blame my symptoms on withdrawal, I thought it was just me being me. I struggle with anxiety, I struggle with apathy, and maybe it was just another of my cycles… It wasn’t until I started looking up caffeine withdrawal, after a moment of thinking “Damn, I wish I could drink some Pepsi Max on this awful, tired day”, that I realised the thing I thought could cure me, was the thing that made me worse in the first place, and there we have addiction.

I found a site called the Caffeine Informer that listed the symptoms of withdrawal.

  1. Headaches
  2. Sleepiness
  3. Irritability
  4. Lethargy
  5. Constipation
  6. Depression
  7. Muscle Pain, Stiffness, Cramping
  8. Lack of Concentration
  9. Flu-like Symptoms
  10. Insomnia
  11. Nausea and Vomitting
  12. Anxiety
  13. Brain Fog
  14. Dizziness
  15. Heart Rhythm Abnormalities

Do these sound familiar to you? because they sure did to me. Headaches? Check. Brain Fog? Check. Irritability? Just ask Kirsty. In fact, the site went on to explain some of these in further detail.

  1. Sleepiness: This just isn’t your normal tiredness, this is sitting up straight but still can’t keep your eyes open tiredness.
  1. Lethargy: Forget about productivity at this stage because you’ll be unmotivated to do anything from the feeling of the lack of energy.
  1. Lack of Concentration: Forget school, studying, brain surgery, or jet engine repair during this stage of withdrawal.

Reading this page I had a lightbulb moment, shining a golden glow into the shadows of the unknown. This was me, here on the page, and these were the things I was thinking/feeling.

caffeine-chemical-structure
The Offending Chemical via Caffeine Informer

So what am I going to do going forward?

I’m going to keep #FizzFreeFebruary going; despite the symptoms. I hate the idea that something could take this much toll on me and draw me back with invisible strings; it was my choice to drink Pepsi Max and it’ll be my choice to cut down on it. Caffeine Informer goes on to say, “Even after the withdrawal period is over, many still never feel quite as good as they do when they’re drinking caffeine all of the time”, and whilst this has put a pretty big fear into me, I’m going to try not to let it be that way.

The thing is, I know the cause now and that makes me feel more confident. Knowledge is Power, after all, and it’s given me a power to keep going. Sure, I’m still at the start of my journey, I’ve seen that some symptoms get worse before they get better, but I know why they’re happening now and that gives me strength to disassociate with the negativity. I may not sleep well tonight, due to the withdrawal, but I’ll sleep better due to the knowledge.