Wednesday, June 16, 2010

life is meaningless without challenges.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with publishing, except maybe how much coffee people in publishing drink (a lot).

So back when I was very very young, I used to give blood all the time. I started when I was 17, and quickly figured out that giving blood was a nifty way to assuage my grieving conscience for all my other crimes against humanity. E.g. "You've been gossiping an awful lot about your friends lately; that makes you a nasty person. But at least you gave blood." Etc, etc. Plus giving blood is a good excuse to eat like a hooligan. Replenishing nutrients and whatnot. Right?

Anyway, this merry pattern dropped off about two years ago. At that point, every time I went into the NYC Blood Center, they would stab my finger and then turn me away for low iron. An outrageous accusation, especially hurled at one who could easily eat an entire cow over the course of a week (or other tasty iron-filled meat product, for that matter).

I tried eating more meat and going back. No dice. I tried supplementing iron-rich non-meats, like spinach and walnuts. YUM WALNUTS! An addiction was born. But no, still the iron count was too low.

The last time I went, I asked the guy what was wrong with me. "I never used to have this problem until a couple years ago," I told him.

"Hmm," he said. "Well, have you started drinking a lot of coffee lately?"

"No," I said. "No more than three or four cups a day. Unless I'm tired. Then sometimes more."

"Right," he said. "You know coffee depletes your iron. Try cutting out the coffee and coming back."

Obviously I laughed uproariously at his hilarious joke. Cut out the coffee! FUN.NY. Sure, I wanted to help save lives. But without coffee, I might accidentally kill someone myself, either through morning rage or sheer sleepy accident. So saving lives might actually cost lives. Which would defeat the purpose, right?

Well, anyway, suffice it to say that after lo these many months I am reversing that decision. I have to leave the country shortly (on vacation, boohoo, poor me), and that will make me ineligible to donate for six months. So, when inspired by my friend Ellen, who also wants to make a donation, I decided to squeeze one last little life-saving in before jetting off.

Our appointment is set for next Thursday. I haven't had any coffee whatsoever--not a single drop--since Friday morning of last week. Let's just say this is both easier and harder than I imagined. I come from a fine line of coffee drinkers. My father, who used to be in the navy, drank so much black coffee everyday to keep himself awake through his dog watches that on nights he managed to sneak in a full 8 hours to sleep, he would wake up 4 hours into it with a crushing caffeine withdrawal headache, brew himself a cup, and go back to sleep. I mean, he makes me look like an amateur.

It's very interesting to look at the facets of my life this probably largely psychosomatic drug has. For example, without the crutch of coffee, how do I trick my brain into engaging in the morning? A brisk walk? A math puzzle? Cake? (I have tried at least one of these options. I will not insult your intelligence by saying which.) And this is only one manifesting issue. My coworkers probably want to kill me--I keep walking into things, taking three times as long as usual to do stuff, and being unable to think of very common everyday, uh, what are they called. Those things, that you say and write. Words! That's them. But my coworkers are kind and haven't let on.

Perhaps we can break the addiction forever! Do I have staying power? I don't know. I like coffee. I like the smell, and also mixing it with lots of milk. But I do hear it does a number on your poor insides. I dunno. I'll leave big decisions until later.

Anyway. That's my adventure for this week. Now if the Blood Center tells me my iron count is STILL too low, I shall return here with irateness anon.

51 comments:

WendyCinNYC said...

That's more willpower than I care to have, my dear. Have you tried iron pills? Although they have some rather unfortunate side effects. Hmm. Well. I wish you luck.

Susan McBride said...

Love the smell of coffee, but have never been able to drink it. My husband gave it up for Lent while we were dating, and he was as crabby for a week as I've ever seen him. Hang in there, Moonie! Can't wait to hear how your iron count looks! I'll bet, this time, you pass. :-)

Kristi Helvig said...

I love that you're that dedicated to giving blood. I gave up when they couldn't find my vein after sticking me multiple times--I had the track marks of an IV drug user without all the fun!

Unless you're one of the few people adversely impacted by coffee (e.g. heart problems, anxiety), it actually has many health benefits. More and more studies are linking moderate coffee consumption with statistically significant lowered risk of Alzheimer's disease and certain cancers. I'm not just saying this because I'm a coffee addict--which I absolutely am. Anyway, hope you get back to the java soon and have a great trip! :)

Rick Daley said...

We are not measured by the challenges we face in life, but rather by the steps we take to overcome them.

And for some reason, I think this video is relevant to his post:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K5YBNQq-Qo

JEM said...

I'm working on the same thing. I am trying to limit my coffee drinking to the weekends only. I enjoy the experience of coffee, but when I drink it at work I'm using it more as a crutch than an actual helpful substance. Plus I hate withdrawal headaches. So far my record is dodgy at best, but I have high hopes for myself.

Kristan said...

You know, I JUST started drinking coffee. As in, JUST TODAY. Like Susan McBride, I love the smell but hate the taste. But you know what I hate more? Being so freaking tired all the time! So I'm giving coffee a try (because I don't want all the calories from soda, don't want cancer from diet soda, and don't want whatever you get from energy drinks). Hopefully it can be a short term thing (short term meaning 1-5 years) until I can support myself by writing full-time and thus won't need to stay up until 1 a.m. every night working on my books.

And all this is to say... good luck giving up coffee, and thanks for donating blood! (Obviously I won't be doing that for a while...)

Susan Adrian said...

You are so brave! If I miss my afternoon coffee I have a headache the whole next day.

RE blood donation, though: I have been annoyed for YEARS that they will not let me give blood because I lived in England for a year during the whole "mad cow" thing. More than 15 years ago.

I keep checking to see if they've changed the regulations, but no...

Larissa said...

Yeah - I tried switching some of my daily cups of coffee to tea for awhile.

That lasted about two days.

Good luck!

catdownunder said...

I love the aroma - and that is about enough for me...we cats really do not appreciate coffee the way we purrhaps should. I cannot understand this "barista" fuss and the umpteen diffurrent sorts.

brionywilliamson said...

Moonrat! I bring you hope! It can be done!

At my worst (when I was working in Northern Ireland) I was drinking maybe 8 cups of coffee a day. And it made me feel ill, but I kept doing it. Now I have maybe one or two a week.

It's like any withdrawal - you think you need it, but you don't. I heard about a study the other day that said that there was no scientific proof that caffeine actually 'woke you up'. According to them, it's just purely a psychological thing.

And I think it's true: I swapped my morning coffee for a glass of icy cold water. Actually it was more a glass of ice with some water thrown in, but that wakes me up far quicker than any other method I've tried! I can't even drink instant coffee anymore unless the situation is dire. And I have started drinking a lot more tea. Tea is good! And tea goes well with biscuits, cupcakes and all manner of Good Things.

It was hard to give it up. And I will never give up coffee entirely. (I live in the coffee snob capital of the world!) But if I can do it (and I have not one ounce of willpowe in my body), so can anybody.

Good luck!

Josin L. McQuein said...

FWIW, there's more than one kind of anemia. I got tagged at the blood drive, too, and for me, it's a matter of no/low B-vitamin production rather than lack of iron.

If the coffee doesn't fix it, you could ask your doctor about pernicious anemia. (<--- take for whatever the going value of non-doctor/stranger advice on a blog is worth.)

:-P

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Actually, I think coffee is healthy in moderate doses. Key: moderate. :D That's the hard part! Still, congrats on making it so long, I hope your blood situation irons out.. .HAHAHAHA.
...
sorry.
:D

Tere Kirkland said...

I don't even drink coffee, and my blood is perfectly good, but they still won't take it because I lived overseas for too long.

Luckily, my husband more than made up for my share during his wild youth in Baltimore, when he used to donate plasma several times a week for gas and cigarette money. I guess they liked his O positive better than my Euro-trash A.

Can't wait to hear if you made the cut. Or the stab. Whatever. Good luck.

Anita said...

I exercise daily, eat right, blah, blah, blah, but my heart was doing these weird jumpy things. I went to the doctor and he asked how much caffeine I drink...too embarrassed to give #s here. Anyway, I gave up coffee and the heart is now good. So here's to a happy heart!

Jeannie said...

brionywilliamson said...

"It's like any withdrawal - you think you need it, but you don't. I heard about a study the other day that said that there was no scientific proof that caffeine actually 'woke you up'. According to them, it's just purely a psychological thing."

Um, no.

The caffeine in coffee is not merely psychosomatic in its effects.

Caffeine increases the amount of adrenaline available to your body--in other words, the same stuff that triggers your fight or flight response.

Thus you get an increased heart rate and respirations, and constricted blood vessels, in turn raising your blood pressure. As you might imagine, breathing and perfusing at increased rates then increases the amount of oxygen to your body and brain. When your brain gets more oxygen, you are (usually) more alert.

Caffeine is a drug, it is classified as a drug, and it is addictive. Just as not everyone who drinks alcohol can be considered an alcoholic, not everyone who drinks coffee is a caffeine addict.

Kristi mentions a study suggesting benefits of caffeine: I've seen similar "studies" for the benefits of drinking wine. Frankly, the risks to those who have a predisposition to either alcohol or stimulant addiction are not worth taking.

Good luck--excuse me if this sounded a bit like a rant! :-)

Jeannie said...

P.S.

Orange juice or apple juice will not give you the same kick as caffeine--don't expect anything similar. However, they will raise your blood sugar in the mornings, and may help you to wake up less painfully. Use 100% juice, without added sugar.

After that, eat breakfast.

Chris Catledge said...

Coffee: Love the taste and smell of it.

I used to drink a pot or two a day then the doc warned me to cut it out. I read how a couple of cups a day are actually good for you. With that belief in me, I drink a couple of cups to get my day started.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

I've too much iron! You can have some. I have to give blood to get rid of the iron. Maybe I should drink coffee. Good luck.

Ebony McKenna. said...

I'm kind of hoping the whole coffee things makes no difference (which is awful to say, because then the pain will be for nothing) but then it means you can go back on the coffee and know it won't make any difference to your iron count.

God I love coffee. I will do anything to justify my intake. I also love Earl Grey tea (just in case we meet up and you'd love to make me one)

Oh I'm so tired. I need coffee. But maybe I'm tired because I have low iron??? It's a vicious circle!!!!

Laurel said...

Switching to tea won't solve the problem if it's an uptake issue. Tannic acid (prevalent in tea, even the "oh so good for you" kind") inhibits absorption of iron.

I've been turned down for blood donation multiple times due to the same issue. Half of it is just being a chick.

Good luck in your future efforts to support the wounded!

Heidi C. Vlach said...

I'd recommend eating more chocolate! It contains caffeine and iron. And you just plain deserve some chocolate.

moonrat said...

Heidi--thanks! I'm inclined to agree with you!!!

on that note...

moonrat said...

Simon--HA! I wish we could make an exchange.

Catherine Blakeney said...

Look for "carbonyl iron" - it doesn't have the side effects that cheaper iron sulfate does. Also, take a multivitamin at the same time, and drink it with milk, whether it's real or soy - just something with calcium in it. It isn't just coffee, but also tea, and it's not the caffeine in them that does it, but the tannins. So if you need your jitters, take a caffeine pill with a glass of juice.

Simon C. Larter said...

You're a better woman than I.

Okay, that's kind of a given, since I'm a man, but whatever about that.

Also, there's another Simon in the blogospere? I feel like my uniqueness has diminished. I wonder if I should break him.

Your civic-mindedness is inspiring, good lady. I should give this giving blood thing another shot, since I'm probably eligible again by now. Muchas gracias for the reminder.

Joelle said...

I am a vegetarian and I was just reading about low iron. One suggestion was for vegetarians to cook about half their meals in cast iron cookware. Seriously. I guess it imparts enough to make a difference. I only drink one cup of coffee each morning, but my husband makes it strong enough to defend itself, so maybe I should cut that out too.

I used to give blood regularly, but after I lived in England for more than six months in 1991, I was banned from donating for always(at least that's what they told me a few years ago) because of Mad Cow (I wasn't total veggie then)!

Leona said...

If I gave up caffeine at least two of my kids would probably die - my moody teenage daughter and my 19 month old who sleeps less than the rest of us!

I can't give blood anyway (cancer and before that, they couldn't find my veins. I know what the track lady was talking about!) so I don't have that guilt to add. However, I do have to be awake until 3-5 am with one child and up at 7 with two others.

Caffeine is my friend. Chocolate is my lover.

Good luck on your quest to give blood and have fun on your trip :D

StephanieD said...

You can do it! I quit caffeine years ago because I hated my dependence on it and how it would make me feel jittery. I felt really sleepy for two weeks then after that I was fine. Now I drink decaf mochas on the weekend and decaf tea weekday mornings.

WordstobeWordy said...

Coffee does not keep my awake. I am not jittery after several cups. But, without at least one cup of joe each day, I am a complete Downer Debbie!

Jena said...

I miss donating blood. I, too, started donating when I was 17, and did so mostly regularly till a few years ago, when I moved to a town in Canada where there is no blood donation because it's not cost-effective to have blood drives here. (They'd have to take all the blood back to Vancouver Island, and all those vehicles they'd have to compensate for ferry fares...).

I don't drink coffee, but my mom was told that drinking black tea can lower your iron, too, as can hot weather. Good luck next time!

Charles Gramlich said...

I appear to be virtually alone in academia in my dislike of coffee. I hardly ever touch the stuff. I'll be interested in hearing your outcome, though.

Harry Markov said...

Coffee abstenance? Blasphemy.

JES said...

Nothing to add about the drinking of coffee or the giving of blood; everyone above seems to have it covered.

But I will say this is a genius post, hilarious, wonderfully written, and a great way to start my own day. Thanks!

Jenny said...

I always want to give blood too, to save lives and be virtuous, and besides I have a blood type that the hospitals really want. But I've only ever managed to give blood once; thereafter they have screened me out. I am petrified of needles, so my heart rate shoots up as soon as I set foot in the blood trucks, and then my pulse is too fast to give blood. Also I tend to develop small psychosomatic fevers. It's very embarrassing.

Diane T said...

I, too, have been having problems being turned by the Red Cross because of low iron. I'm not willing to give up my morning tea (as bad as coffee in inhibiting iron absorption), so if I take iron pills I make sure to take them at night before I go to bed. Besides, my iron problems are more likely due to (ulp) getting older.

The UK exclusion used to be worse. I lived in London from 1998-2002, after the onset of mad-cow, when their beef supply was likely safer than in the US, and they wouldn't let me donate after I returned. They've since relaxed the restriction for people spending time there after 1996, but it is rather annoying. Still, after the debacle with HIV during the mid-1980s, it's understandable that they err on the side of caution nowadays.

Ellen said...

Every time I try to donate blood, I pass out inexplicably. I'm not scared of needles, and I can get shots just fine. But even when they draw a tiny vial for blood tests, I black out. :(
The first time I went to donate, they checked my blood pressure and were like "that's not right! You'd not be sitting upright!" and went to get another pressure cuff thing while I went unconscious and hit my head on the floor <.< I tried to convince them I could donate anyway as long as I was lying down. For some reason, they didn't believe me :(
This gives me great angst, 'cause all those commercials about donating make me want to help out, but... >.<
Good luck with the coffee thing!!! You are a brave soul.

Breanna said...

As someone who gets woozy just thinking about giving blood, I admire your dedication to the task. And as someone who loves coffee (although, not quite as much as you do, I think), I can sympathize. It's evil stuff, really, but soooo delicious...Hang in there, moonrat!

Jennifer Ambrose said...

Hilarious post! Just what I needed this week...aside from a nice, big iced coffee.

moonrat said...

Catherine--you have been EXTREMELY informative. You took my vague ideas and put names and facts behind them. I'll need to keep you on retainer for all my random hapless problems in the future!

moonrat said...

Simon LARTER--there are three separate Simons who comment here, just going by people who use their real names and not some other handle (I stalk all my commenters ;) so never worry your comments are going ignored).

It doesn't take away uniqueness. It merely adds to community.

THAT SAID I have yet to see any commenters with my name. Weird, right? You'd think there'd be more than one MoonRat out there. There are millions of us running around in Borneo alone!

Whirlochre said...

I have to be very careful with coffee.

I don't drink that much of it, preferring tea and fizzy water instead, but if I do succumb to its charms, it's usually for reasons of staying awake (whenever the singing pigeon I have tied to my head has either escaped, died or fallen asleep itself). 2 cups, and my veins are sticking out like I'm being inflated. 3 cups, and I begin biting people. 4 cups, and someone has to phone for the police.

With any luck, you may find that things improve. Alternatively, you may eat a whole carpet. Keep us posted.

Jen McAndrews said...

Holy cow! I have been having the same runaround with the Blood Center people and no one ever told me about the coffee thing. Can't wait to hear if it works! Good luck!

Catherine Stine said...

Gee, I've cut out everything else: booze, pot, cigarettes, um... really sugary desserts. Coffee is my last private treat.
But you gotta do what you gotta do. So, I applaud your determination.
Go for it!

Imogen said...

Good grief, and good luck, and good for you.

And, may I ask, are you actually (or even just tacitly) inviting other people to start calling themselves Moonrat too? Isn't that a form of stalking/impersonation/something else creepy?

(I once had the email monniker TomRat, if that is any consolation...).

Oh, joy, my verification word is Chlog; first you have the bandar log, then the Ch log; then maybe the Yule log?

I need my tea.

Jael said...

Dagnabbit, my comment gotten eaten by the internets. Long story short, I have had this same problem with the blood drives and the iron count and whatnot. A couple years back they switched from the earlobe test to the finger test, and given that I was barely passing the earlobe test and the finger test is more sensitive, I no longer make the cut. Tried supplements, tried black beans, tried everything. Apparently I could eat a cow a day and it still wouldn't show up in whatever particular particulate (hemoglobin?) they're counting.

(Long story not so short, I guess, after all.)

Sarita Rucker said...

Congrats on giving up coffee to donate blood. :) Hopefully giving up coffee will be worth it.

And you know what, I actually donate blood tomorrow. :)

Dawn Simon said...

This is super interesting to me. I used to have low iron issues, but dietary changes fixed them. Then I discovered coffee. I noticed coffee can give me that same feeling, but I assumed it was just a caffeine crash. Huh. Thanks for the info.

Yes, another Simon. ;)

HelenK said...

While I have no information on the coffee thing (I don't drink it, but sympathize with you), I have been anemic all my life.

Don't take iron with milk. Take it with orange juice. Milk interferes with the body's ability to absorb iron. (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/nutrition_for_everyone/iron_deficiency/index.htm)

It was a painful lesson to learn with my first pregnancy when my anemia when completely crazy no matter what steps/supplements I took. They had to give me a shot to stop the bleeding after I gave birth. (sorry, I know- TMI, but it's serious stuff - or can be)

Good luck with the coffee/blood thing. Like others I'm currently banned for life after 4 years in England.

February Grace said...

So this begs the question (to my mind anyway) if you eat chocolate covered coffee beans, does the iron depletion thing cancel itself out while providing you with two delicious, complementary sources of caffeine?

God, I hope so.

Debbi said...

You are truly a good person to give up coffee in order to give blood. The thought of even tiny needles makes me shudder. *shudder* See?

Besides I need coffee like I need to breathe air. They'll have to remove my coffee cup from my cold dead hand ...

Becky said...

The same thing happened to me (the low iron count) and I also drink a lot of coffee! And I am also an editor! Wow. So did cutting out coffee help? I could never give it up at this point. I am known for my coffee consumption around the office. It's how I make friends and influence people.