You May Need an Empress And Some Thread 😂
The One Menopause Symptom You Didn't See Coming: Mortal Combat with Yourself!
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Fellow Empresses, How the hell are you?
First, I hope you all had a warm, bountiful Thanksgiving with the people you hold most dear. Thank you, and welcome to all the new subscribers! Your being here means everything—especially right now.
Second, sincerest apologies for my recent silence. I am just home from the hospital. And forgive any absurd typos in advance. My head is barely crocheted back on and I’m dealing with all these new anti-seizure meds that make me feel beyond stupid. Think brain fog multiplied by a hundred.
But without getting too French Revolution-y on you, two days before Thanksgiving…
I nearly cut my own head off during a conference call—which, a) you wouldn’t think is even possible but with a deadly enough coffee table SO totally IS, b) tracks back to my very first symptom of perimenopause and c) requires far more Empress juju than you might think to survive.
So… Talk about Marie’s Crisis. Cue joyous interlude.
In those early violent days of perimenopause, as if hot flashes, torrential night sweats, and insomnia weren’t disorienting enough, I was also diagnosed with adult-onset epilepsy. I was 40. It was unusual, considering how healthy I’d always been. My neurologist, a stubby, little arrogant twat who never let me finish a sentence, ever, immediately jumped to it being genetic. But there was nothing, zilch, on record in our family other than one extremely distant relative decades ago who’d had seizures and it’s an eighth cousin, five times removed. So, a dodgy connection at best.
To me, the seizures seemed more obviously connected with the major hormonal shifts my body was simultaneously undergoing and worth exploring as a whole. There are, after all, over 40 different types of seizures—one being Catamenial and linked to women's menstrual cycles and related hormone levels. It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the two could be linked.
My seizures were typically preceded by an ecstatic aura—a psychedelic shimmer, a swarm of electric bees, a wild, spinning disorientation—think: a perfume commercial, sometimes even music, and then they would progress to a full-blown convulsive episode. It was terrifying for my children and others around me. Often, I’d awaken hours later with concussions, bruises, cuts, aphasia, broken teeth, or other more serious injuries.
In navigating both seizures and peri/menopause over the past 14 years, I learned a host of hacks, useful products, services, and narrative framing devices—that weren’t necessarily “meno” branded but that helped ease the way through the hellish transition—hence, The Empress.
Because here’s the thing, I thought… If I’m going through this full-scale, all-systems, multicellular transformation alongside a chronic condition, chances are other women are too because everybody’s got something—whether it’s anxiety, depression, diabetes, Crohn’s, hypertension, arthritis, or addiction issues—peri/menopause is this infinite and unruly kingdom—with shitstorms always breaking out everywhere you look. You may not want to be in charge of it all, but congratulations… Here’s your crown!
Because sometimes… it’s about a whole lot more than just the noble heroine’s journey. You’re not just heeding a call of adventure to blossom into a wiser, more creative, more evolved form of you—that’s cake. No, sometimes you’re calling on more serious power in a moment you’d never thought you’d need it. You’re summoning The Empress.
Because on the conference call this morning, where moments ago, you were being witty and urbane, now it’s two hours later... You wake up face down in a pool of blood with multiple facial fractures, deep lacerations across your throat, and a dislocated Picassoesque jaw broken in 5 places. Your teeth are cracked gravel, and you realize you need The Empress because this is now your third time breaking your jaw and your first time self-decapitating.
Your Flokati white shag rug is ruined, but it saved your life by acting like a giant, fluffy f*cking tourniquet soaking up all the blood from the gash to your carotid.
You are a gash of a person. Saved by superior decor.
You text your mom crew—SOS! They descend in stealth silence without drama, like Ninjas. They know all the entrances, exits, and backways to the nearest hospitals and ERs from years of practice with children.
But it’s once you hit the ER and you are unable to speak, that you are suddenly “storyless” and you become profoundly vulnerable—and not in a woo-woo Brene Brown way. When you are storyless, others leap in to fill in whatever narrative suits them—whether that’s hospital beds or insurance quotas. Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators take one look at you; a midlife woman who can’t speak, who is covered in blood, with a known seizure disorder, and they take over your narrative.
Here’s another thing, when you self-decapitate, the ER peeps DO NOT return those clothes. So, that bra you really liked, the one that was your total fave—GONE.
Suddenly, you’re no longer on your heroine’s journey. You don’t have agency. Now, you might as well be a frail widow spinster or a late-model damsel in distress in need of a handsome prince’s rescue, or you could be a crazed crone in need of incarceration “for your own good,” and so your vulnerability from what was probably a three minute, hormone-related seizure, now has the potential to be weaponized against you—right when you need that dynamic least. Right when you need radical empathy and collaborative care most.
You need an Empress’s Journey and narrative so let’s talk about what makes that…
Last week, much like my very first seizure in perimenopause, I could tell something was off.
I could tell my HRT was off because my symptoms were returning.
My hot flashes were mild but interesting. In the right frame of mind, they were more like illuminations. In bed, or in a safe, quiet space, the rising glow of internal flame was remarkable. It’s like an unfurling, an expansion of my interior landscape — my aura filling the surrounding environs and becoming more, somehow. It felt almost empowering as if a previously unknown strength within was revealing itself.
That said, I’d decided to check in with both my OB/GYN and my neurologist. It might be time to rebalance things, shift dosages, make sure all was kosher, or reset my expectations about what post-menopause held. I’d recently interviewed a woman who’d had hot flashes well into her 80s.
In thinking about my own Marie Antoinette incident, 80% of women are single and living solo as they age. All the more reason to have 3-4 women in your life you can text: Hey, I’ve just cut my head off, can you come over?
In the ER, the one person who SAVED me was a girlfriend who could speak for me, and enforce my directives, but who ALSO spoke doctor. She’s a former trauma surgeon, who takes no shit and would not let bad things happen to me, which very well could have.
See this week’s Gotham Girl for the whole Love Actually near-catastrophe recap and the women’s heroics.
In the Empress Archetype, you always need a Hand of the Queen-type/Royal Badass to preserve your human narrative amid doctors, political ne’er-do-wells, and shithead insurance dweebs. Get yourself an ace storyteller/protector/strategist. You never want to be storyless, rudderless, or without a position on your healthcare.
Let me be clear. The men in my life during this WHOLE incident were useless and wrong about all the things. They didn’t even send flowers. I’m very disappointed in them. Wolves have better manners.
So, I have much more to say about The Empress as Archetype in menopause and crises. There will be times on the menopause journey when vulnerability is both a strength and a necessity but you can’t let it take everything from you. A key attribute of The Empress Archetype is the ability to balance the channeling of logic, discernment, and intuition—while staying rooted in creativity. For certain cultural & feminist studies scholars, Beyonce is a prime example of the embodied Empress Archetype:
Discernment can be fostered through an exercise called The Hummingbird. I’ll talk more about this as I return to our Subscriber-only Empress Book Club on alternate Fridays. We need to finish our final thoughts on Killers of a Certain Age. I had a minor epiphany about it in the hospital that we may wish to ask the author.
Then, in our Empress Sunday Journaling Prompts—there’s a chance for us all to do some more individual creative flash work—whether you are an essayist, a songstress, or a showrunner-in-the-making, this one can serve in a crisis, or wrestling with trauma and grief. The power of mythopoetics, and comedy to reframe, empower, and heal ae potent, no matter where you are along the journey.
Lastly, I wanted to ask about reader preferences for Substack, which can be marvelously noise-free ad-wise. I’ve been grappling with how best to keep it that way—as grateful as I have been to our sponsors and content partners.
For now, I leave you with some cake since I will not be on solid foods until the first of the year, so will have to savor it vicariously through you all. Holiday gifting news is also coming soon—we have a couple of unique takes to share.
Yours in Grandeur & Deep Sh*t,
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