Quitting Caffeine.

Why would I quit caffeine, my final drug love affair?  In order to have a foundation for research I used my one palpable symptom—a large cyst in my left breast, which gets larger and more painful near my cycle.  I have a host of other symptoms I can attribute to too much caffeine, but let’s use the very obvious physical growth which isn’t imagined or complicated by too many variables.

During my last mammogram the tech said, “you know cutting down on coffee or quitting would reduce these,” so I believed it was a scientific fact there is a correlation between caffeine and my benign breast cyst, after all, she is the expert.

The American Cancer Society reports:

Some women report that their breast symptoms improve if they avoid caffeine and other stimulants found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and many soft drinks. Studies have not found these stimulants to have a significant impact on symptoms, but many women feel that avoiding these foods and drinks for a couple of months is worth trying.”  (

The Mayo Clinic reports:

No, caffeine doesn't appear to cause breast cysts… Anecdotally, some women report reduced breast pain when they go off caffeine. Although no research has documented this effect, there's no reason not to go caffeine-free to see if it relieves discomfort from breast cysts.” (

The LiveStrong Foundation synthesizes the Mayo Clinic article:

According to Mayo Clinic internist Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., there does not appear to be a clear-cut connection between caffeine -- or coffee, a major dietary source of caffeine -- and breast cysts. However, in very large doses, the caffeine in coffee may indirectly influence reproductive hormones, which, according to, are thought to affect the development of fibroadenomas. Moreover, some women report relief from fibrocystic breast changes when they reduce caffeine intake, according to Pruthi. So if you drink a lot of coffee and suffer from uncomfortable fibrocystic breast changes, you may want to try going caffeine-free, says Pruthi. MedlinePlus also reports that while there is no evidence that caffeine causes fibrocystic breast changes, some women believe reducing their consumption of caffeine -- as well as chocolate and fat -- helps.  (

And finally, the website ‘Women to Women’ writes:

“There is also some suggestion that caffeine causes breast tenderness and may increase the incidence of fibrocystic breast lumps in women of all ages.”  (

Marcelle Pick, a founder of the Women to Women website warns, “But be prepared — caffeine is not an easy drug to quit for some women. I see patients in my office willing to make every other single lifestyle change I suggest, yet who break down in tears when I suggest giving up caffeine.”

Of course I enjoyed Marcelle’s article the most because it elaborated on the issue from a wholistic perspective.  While the Mayo Clinic and The American Cancer Society are brief and to the point, ‘if you want to see if your cysts decrease by quitting coffee, there is anecdotal evidence which suggests it may help,’ it will honestly take more than that for me, because frankly, I can stand the discomfort of a cyst because I love coffee that much. 

My answer to the simple question is, ‘it would likely help to cut down or cut out coffee.’

“Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I don’t want to!”  

I often say, “coffee is the one drug I abuse and I’ll be damned if I will give it up.”

Then Marcelle adds a few more criteria for me to consider:

The caffeine addiction quiz

Answer yes or no to the following questions.

Do you use caffeine to facilitate a physical activity (for example: waking up, exercising, having a bowel movement, concentrating)?  YES

Do you have to have caffeine in the morning?  YES

Can you substitute hot water with lemon? yes

Do you crash or have caffeine/sugar cravings in the afternoon/early evening? YES

Do you grow irritable, have headaches, feel disembodied if you miss your caffeine fix? YES

Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night and waking feeling refreshed? sometimes

Do you need caffeine to heighten the effects of other substances, e.g., nicotine, alcohol, sugar?  sugar, YES

Do you feel your social routines would suffer without caffeine use? YES YES YES

Does the idea of going without caffeine seem impossible to you?   IT SEEMS REALLY, REALLY TOUGH.

My husband, in solidarity, rarely drinks alcohol, and he hasn’t around me since my last drink six years ago.  However, there is zero chance he is going to quit coffee.  When he is home we wake up and share a pot of coffee, when he is fishing he drinks coffee non-stop, when we go to his parents we have coffee, when he stops by the shop for lunch we have coffee.  The only time of day we have reduced our coffee habit is right after dinner, which until about 9 months ago was completely normal for us to make a pot of coffee after dinner.

We have made a few changes to our coffee habits after our first #whole30.  We begin taking our coffee black and have never gone back to coffee with 1/2 and 1/2.  Before our first whole30 we bought at least one fancy coffee/day.  He drank a grande double mint mocha and I drank a grande single latte with a hint of real cinnamon and honey (basically a warm milk); every day we spent at least $10 for those coffees.

For the past 6-7 months we have cut back on our fancy coffee (we are in the middle of our third whole30 now=no fancy coffee).

Is the next step, for me at least, to cut it out altogether?

I tend to be black and white in my habits.  I prefer very structured diet guidelines, in fact, it’s the only place in my life I appreciate and respect routine.

There are a host of other issues I could address in my quest to quit caffeine, such as:

The effect of caffeine on mood, energy, sleep, nutrient absorption, calcium depletion, dehydration… all components of a system I work to keep in balance and cannot deny caffeine doesn’t assist in balancing.

When we get back to the foundation, instinctively I know to quit coffee, in my case, would be more beneficial than detrimental.  I have quit tough things before. 

I will let you know how the cyst does, off coffee, because although I can tolerate it, why wouldn’t I do the one thing that has anecdotally shown to help?

Yancey, I am going to apologize in advance for this week because the only way I know how to quit something is cold turkey and I am choosing today to begin; it’s okay that I began the day with coffee after all, I don’t believe it takes the sun rising to make a new day.



Lisa Nilsen
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I understand, I am tired of it too.

It started yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t a bad day. I thought if I just lie down I might have the energy to go to the shop and clean before we got on the ferry at 3am.  I even bought our ferry tickets the day before knowing I wouldn’t want to deal with it early in the morning; the idea of being up at 3am was weighing on me. The shop not being cleaned up and everything I hadn’t completed was all settling on me.

The house was quiet at 5pm.  And at 6pm.  I set my alarm for 8pm.  “I can wake up and go to the shop at 8, clean and head to the ferry,” I told myself.  My body said, “NO”.  My body, which I hadn’t asked much of the past two days, began to feel like lead.  I sent the message to my mom, “too sick to make the ferry,” in a few more words.  I can’t look back at the message because a fight with Yancey then escalated.


I screamed at him, the primal scream that leaves your throat raw.  I threw my phone at the timber wall of my room.  It bounced off, unbroken.  I stormed out of the house, down the steps, to the edge of the property and threw my phone as hard as I could towards the beach.  It landed 8 feet from me just below the tree line of the beach.  I stood still for a moment, disgusted, I couldn’t even throw it to the beach.  It was raining, that would do the job. 

Crying, yelling, feeling like a failure for not being able to control this, to get through it and get the kids to the ferry. I hadn’t thrown a phone since 2012. The pressure in my head caused me to rock and beg, “please, just break.” An aneurysm, anything, the pressure built further.  Lying down sent shooting stabbing jolts from above my ears to my crown. Sitting up felt like I was trying to get to the bottom at the deep end of the pool. The pain was unrelenting. I thought, "I should go to the ER."  When I did sleep for a few minutes I woke up crying.  Around 4am the ferry passed by the house, the familiar humming of the engines as it passed sent me into another round of quiet choking sobs.

Around 5am I thought I should let Yancey know about the phone. I went upstairs to Miranda’s room, “what’s your code,” I whispered to her. I put the code in. Five minutes later I couldn’t recall the code, I asked her 3 more times this morning before saying, “please write it down.” I also had to write down a phone number because I couldn’t remember the seven numbers from looking at a text it was sent in to typing it back into the phone, though I tried several times.

With another phone lying by my head the texts and phone calls began again.  We fought again. For hours. It doesn’t matter what we said, as always we are both at fault. I screamed again. I set Miranda’s phone on the bed, and kept screaming. I hit my bed with my fists, I stood up on the bed and swept all books, magazines and glasses off the shelf at the head of our bed. A vase with paper flowers from mothers day hit the wall and shattered.

Glass was all over the carpet and sprayed into the hall. I stopped screaming. I picked up Miranda’s phone and walked to the living room. Merrick met me at the bottom of the stairs. His eyes ringed with red splotches from crying. He had come in my room when he woke up and wrapped himself around me. Tears fell on my cheek, his tears, mixing with mine.

“I am sorry,” I said, “it wasn’t about you guys, I just got sick and it’s hard for me to travel.”

“I know,” he said. I wrapped my fingers around his and felt ill for his disappointment. “I love you,” he said again leaving my room.  He was likely red eyed over missing the trip, not because I was screaming or breaking things, but part of my wanting out is because of what the kids have to witness and experience with me.

“Here,” I said to Merrick, handing him Miranda’s phone, “please take this or I will break it,” I turned away grabbing the broom to start cleaning my room.

There isn’t a feeling I despise more than losing control, more than breaking things. It snaps me out of the anger for a moment, the anger having snapped me out of despair as well.

“You feel better when you are angry,” Yancey has said many times. Meaning, I get mean and angry and fight to avoid feeling bad. He is right. Today I understood something new. Despair, stress, suicidal tendencies all rob energy from me. Anger must have a chemical reaction that pushes adrenaline through me because I do often believe I can do anything at the same time I am threatening to leave him or just being cruel. For a very short time there is actually relief from the pain, while I am causing more for someone else.

And so the cycle runs.  The house phone rang again.  Lying in bed, alone in the house I knew if I didn't get up and answer it he would send someone here.  His parents had already picked the kids up.

"Yes," I said.

"I just want to know you are okay."

"Yeah, if I was ABLE to kill myself I would have done it a long fucking time ago," I said and slammed the red receiver down.

It has been a good run of not feeling this bad.  It hasn't happened like this for a long time.  I can speculate why but the truth is it just happens.  It happens if I am drinking, sober, abusing medications, taking none or taking the one that has worked best for me, which I am and will continue to take.  

I don't have prescription medication at my house which could be used to O.D.  I am terrified of dying, of actually hurting myself.  But I am not scared of falling asleep forever.  I am a spiritual person and that thin thread of believing I don't have the right to take my life is always there, no matter how badly I want to end the pain forever.  I research things like, how much tea tree oil is lethal, but again, that's not an appealing way to go.  So you could easily say I live in the "Desire for Suicide" or suicidal ideation, when I feel desperate or extreme mental anguish. credit

Don't worry if you don't understand, I am sharing for people who do.  Since I have a fear of dying painfully I usually decide, "I will starve myself to death, slowly, without telling anyone."  But rather quickly I realize I am really very hungry.


I have been questioning if I am strong enough to keep the shop open, and truly hope I am.  It feels humiliating to be here.  I feel ashamed when I can't keep this from happening.  I do everything in my power to navigate around feeling this way, but since I went to the Doctor in April I have known that there are things in my life that I have to address.  I have been isolating, I have been feeling crushing failure as I work to be more present at home and things at work give out. 

It has been a rough day.  The worst kind of day.  Something must be changing or I wouldn't have the ability to write. I've learned riding out the storm is preferable to fighting it and although I wish for a permanent solution to severe temporary pain, I am not capable of it, it seems.  

It's easy to say "fall down seven times, get up eight."   I don't know what the answer is for anyone else.  Today I'm wondering, "what can I do differently to be well."  No one can answer that for me either.  It's not cancer.  It's not diabetes.  I don't actually know what it is and I am 100% sure no one in a white lab coat or title "Dr." does either. It's not logical someone who lives as healthy and clean as I do would have a brain which backfires so severely or a body which fails so easily (and this is with the benefit of LDN, I cannot imagine where I would be without it).  

Truth is its a problem I can't solve today.  It feels like a mean joke to be good at something, but not strong enough to maintain, which feels like the pattern and one I desperately want to break.  Right now though, I am like SUPER hungry... I suppose that is a good thing.


I laughed a little today at comics new to me on nedroidcomics/Tumblr, which I stumbled across and was thankful for while heading to for the images in this post. 

Lisa Nilsen
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Just. Breathe.

“I remember when I saw a water spider and it brought down a bubble of air and placed it over its nest – a magical and fantastic thing.”  –Mark Tobey
Lisa's Perspective:  without drugs.

 The fourth time was the charm. I was 37 years old when the Alaska State Troopers flew into town, zip-tied my wrists and set me in the backseat of a floatplane. In the 17 years leading up to this, twice I had arrived at the hospital by ambulance, once I drove myself, and this time earned a law enforcement escort.   The first time I went to the hospital I have no memory of, but for years charcoaled or bbq food would trigger a gag reflex.  The second time I looked around me and realized, “damn, I am NOT this kind of crazy!”  The third time I whined, “It’s not my fault!”  What I do remember clearly about this period in my life was a lot of pills: to lower my anxiety in public, help me sleep and for my diagnoses. And of course I needed an inhaler.

 The fourth time I took responsibility for my own health.

“Have they suggested tapping yet,” my husband teased me over the phone.  “Matter a fact they have, and I am learning it!” I admitted.  Lying flat on my back (the mattresses were slightly less hard than a slab of wood) I would close my eyes and begin the tapping and breathing pattern we learned at group.  There would no longer be a sleeping pill or sedative to push me into sleep or numb me into a comfortable cloud in a crowd.

“Guess what?” I shared giddily with my husband during visiting hours. Sitting as close to each other as possible on a plastic covered couch under florescent lights he waited patiently... “OXYGEN is the ANTIDOTE to ADRENALINE!” I shrieked.  After hundreds of hours spent in therapy and counseling one very simple idea at group had finally worked it's way into my brain. It was IN ME, the answer. Using pills hadn't made me well or healthy, more importantly the feeling that I "couldn't breathe" didn't go away in all the years I took medication.  

An article by Anxiety Care UK highlights the "biological effects and consequences of anxiety."  It is the reason many of us feel we cannot breathe.  It states, "learning to use abdominal breathing, as first aid for anxiety and panic sensations is invaluable."  Highlights from the article are:
1.  Anxiety activates the flight or fight response.
2.  That response is adrenalin based.
3.  Even minor stresses can begin a chain reaction of anxiety=flight or fight=adrenalin, until your poor body begins to feel physically ill.
4.  Sources of relief include:  "correct breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, stress management, regular exercise and diet... (although) relatively simplistic, easy to do and can be carried out by everyone.  Nevertheless, to achieve success... requires a great deal of commitment and effort on behalf of the sufferer."  

(Please follow this link to read the amazing article in it's entirety:   It is also awesome simply because it's British and says things like, "is unable to eat and may go off sex."  Which is very much not how we write here, and I love it.)
It comes from within and is my responsibility.  There is no magic pill or easy fix, it requires lifestyle changes and accountability.  Just breathe.  As oxygen replenishes and balances your blood supply, which your adrenaline moved to your extremities to help you flee or fight, your breathe will become the antidote to adrenaline on a cellular level.
Lisa's life-happens disclaimer.  In spite of my best efforts there are always a few days each month that I am a puddle of tears and it requires every ounce of me, all day long, to maintain a crying state rather than a more devastating one. Getting through those days will be another topic another day, and of course deep breathing is an essential part of those days too.


Laura's Perspective:  drugs required.

I have to pay to breath. I was diagnosed with asthma in my early 30s and started the process of trouble-shooting a medication and maintenance plan. It is clear I will be dependent on medication for the rest of my life.
My diagnosis didn’t stop with asthma.  A few frustrating years after my initial diagnosis I saw a pulmonologist and underwent a bronchoscopy. We discovered I had something a little more uncommon and specialized: non-bronchiectactic bronchiectasis. I don’t have bronchiectasis, but my doctors were now going to manage me as if I did because it was close enough.  Basically I have a chronic battle in my lungs. The asthma wants to constrict the lung walls and the air that’s trying to move, the “bronchiectasis” is causing my lungs to lose its elasticity and not move the air very well, and to clog everything up I’ve got a permanent MAI infection (mycobacterium avium-intracellulare, a nontuberculous mycobacterium). Physicians can’t tell me how I acquired it, only that I have, and that it's what causes the bronchiectasis.  A silver lining is that it's non-contagious so I cannot infect others with it. To hear me cough one would want to argue otherwise!
Can I take an antibiotic to get rid of the infection? Sure, for about $700 a month (out of pocket) for 12-18 months.  Even then there’s only about a 50% chance of eliminating the bacteria.  It’s not guaranteed to eliminate it permanently; it could return after just two years.  The potent antibiotic would likely cause liver damage over time, which means tests and monitoring throughout the course of treatment. 
A cheaper and more realistic option is what my doctors and I refer to as lung hygiene. 
1.  Take a daily inhaled steroid (I opt for the lowest dose possible).
2.  Use albuterol when needed.
3.  Use my Acapella device (a lung-fluttering breathing tool) daily.
4.  Stay well hydrated.
5.  Do regular cardio exercise. 
Or at least that’s the idea. Many people only have an occasional sick day or come down with a short-term bug.  For me I have occasional days of what I call clarity.  These are days where I have minimal to no coughing, my lungs feel clear, without congestion, and I don’t feel short of breath at any time throughout the day.  When my lung hygiene is on target, I have days like these.
My lung maintenance feels like a full-time job and it would be easy to just sit down on the pitty potty and not do anything. However, I determined long ago that asthma is either an excuse or an inconvenience and the difference is in the action. If it’s an excuse, the action is to blame the condition for a limited lifestyle. If it’s an inconvenience, the action is to push the boundaries of limitations, to build strength, and to focus on the possibilities rather than the impossibilities. I don’t know what could be more roller derby than that. 

TRENDING!  Find another sweet BREATHE excerpt:  page 56 of the March 2015 RealSimple magazine.  Ahhhhhh.  

Lisa Nilsen
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