Whether you're an international agent of espionage, a diplomat, or a perimenopausal wife and mother, here are some symptoms that should—or shouldn't—alarm you. These symptoms could be a red flag that you've been the victim of a directed energy attack, A.K.A. Havana Syndrome, or could just be evidence that you are fifty-ish and careening headlong toward “the big change,” A.K.A. menopause.

1. Lasting headaches?

  1. Yes. My headaches came on suddenly one day after I walked past a black SUV parked outside the embassy that quickly sped off when I fell to the sidewalk clutching my temples in agony. After that, my headaches have been regular, often lasting for hours, or at least until I get my hands on some OTC medication, like ibuprofen.
  2. Yes. My debilitating headaches started soon after my mid-forties, somewhere between weaning my youngest and completely losing interest in sex. My headaches often start off in the morning as tension in my neck and shoulders that creeps up from the base of my skull to the top of my head until the pulsating pressure feels like my cranial fissures will crack open, spewing gray matter all over the matching gray walls of my bedroom. Whether I take ibuprofen or pop expired prescription opioids from my last root canal, I often end up on my knees projectile vomiting into the toilet. Medical marijuana, anyone?

2. Fatigue?

  1. Yes, I began to experience extreme fatigue shortly after my encounter with the mysterious SUV. Up until that point in my life, I'd been an athletic, energetic team player who was once described by a senior administration official as a “shining role model of professional excellence and a beacon of light to all.”
  2. Yes, I began to experience extreme fatigue somewhere between “I do,” and “I don't give a rat's ass what my birth plan says! Give me an effin' epidural before I kill you all!” Or maybe it started after being deprived of regular sleep by an infant who, though adorable in the daytime, by night turned into a sadistic forced labor camp warden trained in advanced psychological torture techniques. Up until that point in my life, I'd been a fun-loving, sexy, vivacious functioning alcoholic and successful marketing exec.

3. Hearing loss?

  1. Yes. Along with ringing and pressure in my ears, I find myself constantly asking people to repeat themselves. A trip to the field office ENT confirmed that, since the onset of my headaches and fatigue, my hearing is only 50% of what it used to be.
  2. Yes. People have described my hearing ability as both “selective” and “defective:” selective in that I have the uncanny ability to feign deafness when faced with requests for PTA field trip chaperoning, mall drop-offs, or data plan upgrades; defective as in “Huh?” is my universal response to everyone except liquor store clerks and Uber drivers.

4. Loss of balance?

  1. Yes. I frequently experience vertigo and can no longer navigate stairs.
  2. Yes. After binging on Netflix while knocking back a bottle of wine when everyone else is in bed, I often stumble up the stairs to my bedroom and experience bed-spins.

5. Possible long-term brain damage?

  1. After extensive cognitive tests, the field office has determined my memory and problem-solving skills are declining at an alarmingly rapid rate.
  2. Wait, where are my keys? What did you do with my glasses? What was the last question?

All As: Havana Syndrome
All Bs: Menopause


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