Self-Care, Mothering, More on Cognitive Dissonance (plus Cornea Transplant)

'Hitchcock disguised as Molly': The director before he was famous, wearing a figure-hugging dress on the tennis court in Shoreham-by-Sea Photo credit to:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2625534/The-inspiration-Norman-Bates-Alfred-Hitchcock-pictured-dress-play-acting-sea-recently-unearthed-album.html

‘Hitchcock disguised as Molly’: The director before he was famous, wearing a figure-hugging dress on the tennis court in Shoreham-by-Sea
Photo credit to: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2625534/The-inspiration-Norman-Bates-Alfred-Hitchcock-pictured-dress-play-acting-sea-recently-unearthed-album.html

Pardon me while I collect my thoughts.  I have several competing notions, all vying for the spotlight.  As I was shuffling the quizzical stockpile of flickering thought-gasps, I stumbled upon this article:

The inspiration for Norman Bates? Alfred Hitchcock pictured in a dress and play-acting in the sea in recently unearthed album, from the Daily Mail.

Dating from the early to mid-1920s, many of the pictures show Hitchcock, Cutts and others, including Hitchcock’s future wife Alma Reville, in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, the location of a small film studio.

[…]

Notably, one captioned ‘Hitchcock disguised as Molly. Shoreham. 1923’ shows a young, moustachioed Hitchcock wearing a figure-hugging dress while gurning at the camera during a game of tennis.

Cross-dressing killer Norman Bates was later to become one of the director’s most-famous characters in the 1960 movie Psycho, a film which has come to define Hitchcock’s style of psychological horror.

Once again, the separate rivulets of my life come together in unexpected ways that almost transform them into ghostly and mighty tributaries, not unlike the waters pouring out of the mouth of the Amazon basin (Amazon as in South America; not Amazon as in “we used to sell books but now we sell everything”).

Imagine the Alfred Hitchcock, the very one who firmly defined psychopath in movies for the popular imagination, and him frolicking in the 1920’s in the English village where I lived with my psychopathic wife.  Yes, I know Leo Sayer came from Shoreham-by-Sea, but I had no earthly idea that Alfred Hitchcock had graced the beaches I enjoyed so much.

And I have absolutely nothing against cross-dressing, though it’s not my cup of tea.  Yet I can’t help but notice in this particular photo, with the paunchy tummy, Alfred looks a tad pregnant.  Almost foreshadowing Mommie Dearest?  (That’s the famous “wire hangers” scene — nothing to do with Hitchcock per se, except my observation that the above photo looks just slightly maternal.)

Terry and Paula in front of Mother and Child Statue at the Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, July 2010.

Terry and Paula in front of Mother and Child Statue at the Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, July 2010.

So, I guess I was strolling along with thoughts about motherhood and self-care and self-love.  Yeah, that’s the general direction I was heading.  Seems apropos to include the photograph of me and Paula in front of the Mother and Child Statue in Old Greenbelt, taken the month we were married — July 2010.

I’m not certain of the historical origins of the statue, but it’s been here since the very beginning:

Mother and Child Statue in Greenbelt, Maryland ~1939

Mother and Child Statue in Greenbelt, Maryland
~1939

My little community is an historic area.  It was built by the Roosevelt administration starting in 1939.  The rationale was to create jobs after the Great Depression by building a large housing project in the vicinity of Washington, DC.  The housing cooperative would also provide inexpensive homes for families with federal workers in DC.  So the story goes, the cooperative was owned by the federal government, and very much championed by Eleanor Roosevelt.  But then the administration came under fire by critics who accused the project of being “Communist.”  So the feds decided to sell off the cooperative, to the dismay of the residents, because for them it had been a great success.  The disappointed residents banded together, pooled their money, and bought the property, continuing it as a cooperative.  It is and has been one of the most successful cooperatives in the nation, and recently celebrated its 75th year.

There’s more than one blog about Greenbelt — I can’t possibly do it justice in my quirky posts since it’s somewhat tangential to what I mostly write about.  See one great blog here, with magnificent photos.

I’ve gone and done it again… wandered off topic.  For the fearless souls who follow my blog, you will remember (I’m grading you for attention span!) that I was anticipating having my eye surgery on January 13th, 2015.  This is why I haven’t posted in several days.

Terry after corneal transplant on January 13, 2015

Terry after corneal transplant on January 13, 2015

This is me, late evening, after my return from the surgery.  Okay, for those of you not paying close attention, I had finally gotten around to doing something about my left eye.  To summarize briefly (stop laughing!!), my poor old left eye has had countless surgeries over the decades, the first one when I was 5 years old.  Yes, the right eye has had surgeries also, but the left eye — although at one time it had the better eyesight — endured the scalpel many more times than the right orb.

The cataract surgery at age 5 years was followed by a bazillion surgical procedures to quell the glaucoma, which medication was not phasing.  I’ve explained this before, but it won’t hurt (not too much anyway!) to describe it again.  The eye is nourished by a constant renewal of the clear fluid that holds the orb taut and spherical.  When it’s all working correctly, the nourishing fluid drains out of fine meshwork, unnoticed.  Various injuries and diseases can block the proper drainage of the nutrient-rich fluid.  In my case, it was the cataract surgery which destroyed the finely-sculpted canals.

Glaucoma surgery is about creating an artificial opening that will allow the fluid to flow off freely as it is supposed to do.  You see, if the fluid, which is constantly renewing and replenishing itself cannot drain, then the pressure in the eye grows like a basketball filled with too much air, and yet more air is pumped in, and more, and more, and more — until the basketball is in danger of exploding.  That’s exactly what happens in the eye with glaucoma, except it’s the aqueous substance and not air.

Long before the eye gets to a stage where it is on the verge of exploding, typically and in most kinds of glaucoma, the slow build-up of pressure has, bit by bit by bit, killed the optic nerve in the back of the eye.  It happens so slowly that one doesn’t realize it is happening.  As the pressure on the optic nerve destroys the nerve fibers, it first affects the outer edges of the nerve bundle, killing off nerve strands in an inward direction.  The net effect is that a person with untreated glaucoma loses peripheral vision progressively, slowly but surely.  It’s like looking through a straw that gets narrower and narrower over time, until finally even the central vision is gone.  The optic nerve is completely dead, and there is no eyesight whatsoever, not even light perception.

Now there are many types of glaucoma surgeries.  The trabeculectomy uses a tiny scalpel to fashion an opening in the eye for the excess fluid to drain so the pressure will be relieved.  There’s laser surgery, cryosurgery, and just about anything you can imagine.  But they all amount to making an artificial outlet for the excess fluid to flow from.  And the problem with this — for me, as I was having my first glaucoma treatments as a teenager, was that — no matter how the hole is formed, if the patient is young and healthy, the hole is going to close immediately as healing occurs.  It’s just like getting pierced ears but not wearing your earrings — if you’re lazy long enough, the holes heal closed, and you can no longer wear your earrings.

So I went through these surgeries countless times, all with the same effect — hole heals closed, eye pressure from glaucoma skyrockets again, putting me in danger of the final death of optic nerve.  In the 1990’s, at long last, an artificial tube was developed that could be implanted in the eye.  If a plastic tube is sutured in the eye, obviously plastic can’t heal closed.  The excess fluid can drain through the plastic tube.  So the glaucoma problem was solved.

But…  But, but, but…  By then I’d had so many surgeries, that my cornea was nearly destroyed.  Back to Ophthalmology 101.  The cornea is the crystal clear layer on the outside of the eye.  If you know your eye anatomy, the iris is the muscular ring that gives your eye its color.  In the middle of the iris is the pupil.  The pupil is just the “hole” that gets smaller or larger as the iris contracts or expands due to changing light conditions and emotional state of mind.  (Yes, your eyes dilate when you look at someone you love.)  The pupil, being an opening, is what lets light rays into the back of the eye, where they are sensed by the rods and the cones (the receptor cells), and transmitted back to the brain via the optic nerve.  So the cornea is the clear layer that sits atop the iris and the pupil, protecting the surface of the eye, nourishing it with tears.  But obviously, if it becomes cloudy and opaque, no light will get through the pupil to the optic nerve to the brain.  That is the situation I faced.  I’d had so many glaucoma surgeries and other problems, that I could barely perceive any light at all through my clouded cornea.  And I was having a lot of eye pain.  (Remember how your eye hurts if you get a grain of sand in it or an eyelash?  The cornea is very sensitive to pain.)

So after my long travail of re-building my life after my psychopathic wife, and returning to Greenbelt, I was finally ready to tackle my eye problems, to find out if anything could be done — if only just to reduce the pain.  It was one obstacle after another….

It you are of the age where you’ve had a cataract operation recently, or you know someone who has, you understand that it’s a very simple procedure in these modern times.  In most cases, you go in, and have the clouded lens of your eye removed.  Note that the lens is not the same as the cornea.  The lens is inside the eyeball, behind the iris.  It’s like the lens in a camera.  To be useful, like the cornea, it must be clear and unclouded.  The lens is attached to muscles that make it fatter or thinner so that one can focus on distant objects or near objects.  A “cataract” is when the lens of of the eye becomes clouded rather than clear.  The treatment is to remove the lens completely since the cloudiness can’t be gotten rid of any other way.  A person who has had the lens of the eye removed is called aphakic.  Once the lens is removed, an artificial lens of some type must be used.  In modern cataract surgeries, a synthetic lens is implanted inside the eyeball where the natural lens had been.  In older cases, before the modern cataract surgical techniques were developed, an aphakic person had no choice but to wear thick “Coke bottle” glasses.  Later on, contact lenses were also a possibility.

How it’s done now, cataract surgery:  The clouded lens is first emulsified with ultrasound waves.  Then an extraordinarily small opening is made in the eye, after which the liquified remains of the lens is suctioned out of the eye through this tiny opening.  An artificial lens, rolled up tight, is inserted into that tiny, tiny opening, and unfurled.  Once unfurled, the artificial lens is sutured into place with microscopic instruments.  The patient goes home, and when all is said and done, the patient’s vision may be better than it was even before the cataract.

However, I didn’t have those modern luxuries.  In my day, at age 5 years, the clouded lens in its entirety has to be removed using tiny tweezers through a surgical incision large enough to accommodate the full size of the defective lens.  This meant it was a major procedure, with lots of scarring, and damage to the iris — and the secondary glaucoma because the drainage meshwork was also destroyed.  My surgery was done in 1962.  How many practicing ophthalmologists do you reckon have even seen the type of surgery I’d had?  The doctor who did my original surgeries probably retired in the early 1980’s, if not much sooner.

Pardon me for going down memory lane…  That eye doctor was named James Smith, MD.  His practice was in Little Rock.  Sadly, Google has failed me.  I can’t find anything about him or his retirement or death.  However, while I was a teenager, his son-in-law, Michael Roberson, MD, went into practice with Dr. Smith.  Found a video of Dr. Roberson:

So, yeah, Dr. Roberson eventually did some of my eye surgeries, but even he was not around to practice medicine yet as early as 1962.  The point being, my eye condition is from the dinosaur era, and very few if any doctors today would have seen the complications I’ve had — might have read about them in dusty historical books on ophthalmology, but not witnessed the details first hand.  So I knew I needed the best of the best to have any hope at all.

And that was my first obstacle.  The Washington, DC, area has some world-class doctors, but none of them are in poverty-laden Prince George’s County.  And I didn’t have transportation to the doctors who would have the expertise to handle my care.  I compromised, and saw a second-tier eye physician, who had not a clue, and she referred me to one of the doctors I would have gone to originally if I’d had transportation.

Made it through that hurdle, and finagled transport to a top-notch practice in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  In Chevy Chase, I was seen by Dr. Aisha Macedo.  But even there, with her expertise, she said I needed to go to the Wilmer Eye Institute (the “best of the best“) at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  If I was having trouble getting to Chevy Chase, how on earth was I supposed to get to Baltimore??

Press on, press on … got it sorted.  This is when I saw Dr. Esen Akpek:

Dr. Akpek gave me two choices, or really, three:

  1. Do nothing.  Eye will continue to decline and pain will continue.
  2. Cadaver donor tissue corneal transplant.
  3. Synthetic corneal transplant.

I was having too much pain to do nothing.  Dr. Akpek said that I would get the best results for my vision with #3, but there would be a great risk for losing my eye altogether.  I’d already had two failed corneal transplants, so the prognosis for #2 was not great, but there was less risk of me losing my eye altogether.  First practicality … could I get transport to and from the hospital for the surgery and the post-op appointments?  Lots of crying and pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth and creative thinking.  Yep, got that sorted, and decided on #2.

So, I had the cadaver donor tissue penetrating corneal transplant on January 13, 2015.  If you are not squeamish or faint of heart, this video is a must see (no pun intended, or did I intend it?).  It shows exactly how the transplant is done.  Very informative.

I was thrown a curve-ball on the day of the surgery.  But before I forget…  a couple of tangents.  My father was born on January 13, 1914 — and so if he had still been alive, he would have turned 101 years old on the day of my surgery.  That’s the first tangent.  I hadn’t chosen the surgery date — it had been randomly given to me.

The second tangent.  I’ve posted in the past about my dear friend, Meg.  She’s the one who was completing her postdoc work in microbiology at Johns Hopkins.  She was also pregnant with her second child, and due to complications, she went into labor a little early.  She gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but Meg died the next day.  Meg’s death eerily coincided with the exact dates and times of one of my trips to the UK — and with me finding out about her death on my birthday, in October 2010.  So, yeah, it was kind of weird with these synchronicities, to be walking the labyrinthine corridors of the institution where my dear friend and confidante has worked and had died.

The curve-ball…  Almost all of my past eye surgeries have involved a strong sedative with a muscle relaxant of some kind, but being awake during the actual procedure.  Quite contrary to what I was expecting, I was informed by the anesthesiologist that I was going to be completely “under.”  I had to sit and mull this over for quite some time.  I was supposed to be taken to the operating room at 1:30pm, but there’d been an emergency first thing in the morning, so all of Dr. Akpek’s cases were backed up.  I wasn’t wheeled into the operating room until ~4:00pm.

I can remember the anesthesia mask hovering over my face, the nurse looming behind it, saying, “Take slow, deep breaths….”  Then total blackness.  I have to admit, being awake during an eye operation is kind of fun.  You get to hear what the doctors talk about, the music they play, and then there was the one time when the surgeon decided to use my nose for an arm rest.  In one case, the surgeons were discussing an upcoming trip to Egypt.  But on this day, the 13th, just the blackness of being fully under.

When I “came to,” I was already in recovery.  A nurse was sitting by my bed.  He was very engaging, and the anesthesia…  Oh, my word!!!  I felt positively tipsy, bouncy, and befuddled.  Somehow, I was convinced that I was already back at home.  I thought I was talking to the nurse via Skype!  My hands were waving around as if I was searching for something (won’t mention exactly what in this particular post, big news later if I’m successful).

The poor nurse was trying to convince me that I really was still in the hospital, so I poked at his shoulder and giggled to prove to us both where I really was.  Yep, wherever we were, we were in the same room with glaring lights and polished hospital floors.  And even in the buoyant fog of the anesthesia, I recognized immediately that the nurse had a British accent.  When I questioned him, he was surprised — he said most Americans thought he was from Australia.  Nope — I know my accents by now.  I asked him where he was from and how long he’d been in the States.  Said he was from Manchester, and had only been here a few weeks.  I imagine he’s getting paid a heck of a lot more than he got paid by NHS.  We talked about crumpets and Yorkshire pudding and various cross-cultural things.  An absolute delight.

By the time I got home, it was quite late.  The surgery had been delayed due to the emergency at the start of the day, then there was the rush our traffic, and in the best of conditions, it’s an hour’s drive between my house and Baltimore.  Yet, my sweet doggies had not made even one oopsie, not one!!!

I was lucky I’d worked myself to the bone, ordering food, doing laundry, putting clean sheets on the bed.  Everything was as I needed it to be.  However… that’s when the rugged part set in, the daunting part, the who’s-gonna-hold-my-hand part.  I was given two vials of eye drops — one an antibiotic, the other an anti-inflammatory.  The latter was the most important.  I was instructed to use the anti-inflammatory drops every hour.  Yes, you read that right.  Of course, I could be excused during times when I was sleeping, but otherwise, the drops had to be applied hourly.  Because the greatest danger was another failed (rejected) transplant.

My eye was bruised and tender.  The full after-effects of the anesthesia hit me, total exhaustion.  And, I seemed to have picked up a cold or the flu.  I’ve been sitting in bed for days now, waiting on my strength to return and for my eye to feel better.  It’s coming along slowly.  The signs are very good.  This is not going to be a quick-fix project.  It may take a year before I reach maximum improvement in my vision — whatever the surgery is able to accomplish if it doesn’t fail in the interim.  But already, my light perception has increased at least two-fold.

So, I’m going to share a couple of photos … skim past if you are squeamish….

Two days after cornea transplant...

Two days after cornea transplant…

Two days after cornea transplant...

Two days after cornea transplant…

You can see my eye is pretty darn sore…  But if you’d seen what my eye looked like before the surgery, the cornea was so opaque, you couldn’t even tell the color of my iris.  So it may look pretty grotesque at the moment, but the cornea is clear so far, and you can now see the color of my eye!!

One more…

6 days after cornea transplant....

6 days after cornea transplant….

Well, it’s still clear, and it seems to be a bit less bloody.

So now I guess I’ve come around to what I really had to say, and it’s about mothering.  I’ve done a couple of posts about my mother and my circumstances growing up.   Honestly, I hate to speak bad about her, but the truth is the truth.  Everything she did has been long forgiven, and mostly forgotten, though it still impacts my daily functioning.

Just some random observations of things I might or might now have mentioned previously….  When my daddy died when I was 5 years old (yes, everything happened to me that year), we were in the car going home from the emergency room where we’d just seen his corpse laid out and my mother had ordered me to kiss his cheek.  In the car, she asked me, “Why aren’t you crying??  Don’t you love your daddy?”  But I didn’t understand what death was, and I was truly in shock.  What didn’t register at that young age was that my mother herself wasn’t crying.  In fact, I only heard her cry two times in all the years she had on this earth with me.  And neither of those tears were for someone else’s suffering, but feeling sorry for her own self.  So why was she faulting and shaming me for not crying when she herself was not shedding a tear?

After my dad’s death, I guess I was in a hugely major funk.  The only thing I can remember is that I had a regular doctor exam come up, and the doctor reamed my mother out because I was underweight.  Apparently, he thought she wasn’t feeding me enough.  After that, my mother would bring me a tray of food to eat in front of the TV every night.  We never ate dinner together,  Not ever.

My mother was not maternal or nurturing.  I was home from school with chicken pox when JFK was assassinated.  I recall she handed me a bottle of calamine lotion that I had to apply myself, but she did nothing to comfort me.  She wasn’t the type to make chicken noodle soup or to give hugs or comfort, to look for remedies for cold symptoms, or to sooth fears.  When I was sick, it was mostly a matter of toughing it out by myself.

When I got to be about 11 years old, give or take, my mother stopped cooking for me altogether.  I didn’t really know how to cook.  Oh, she might cook one meal on the weekend.  But through the week, I had to fend for myself, which meant this is what I ate:

Campbell's Spaghetti-O's

Campbell’s Spaghetti-O’s

Spam

Spam

Swanson TV Dinner

Swanson TV Dinner

Armour Vienna Sausages

Armour Vienna Sausages

I did my own laundry.  I was responsible for dusting every single piece of furniture in the house every weekend, plus sweeping and mopping all of the floors.

I remember one time, we were in a cheap-o dime store, and a metal basket protruded off the bottom at the end of a row of merchandise.  I didn’t see the basket and smashed into it.  Me and metal connected at the level of my shin, and blood dripped down my leg.  I was embarrassed and it hurt, but I didn’t cry.  I think I’d already learned that pain gains one no sympathy.  Anyhow, rather than comforting me, or really looking to see if I was okay, my mother dragged me to the front of the store and screamed at the manager, threatening a  lawsuit.  I just wanted to shrink into the background.  Nothing ever, ever, ever seemed to be about her genuinely caring about me, her child.

Needless to say, one of the gaps in my development has been learning self-care.  If one doesn’t get it when one is young, how does one learn it?  If a child gets the message, “You aren’t important, and you’re not loved,” how does a child overcome that?  Up until my eye surgery this month, I’ve always had at least one “someone” around me who I felt cared about me to some minimal degree — at least enough that I felt fairly comfortable asking for help, and naively trusting that help would be forthcoming if it was genuinely needed.  Such has not been the case this particular go-round.  Everything I’ve done, I’ve had to do for myself, or put together the scraps for getting help that I needed.

And in my case, this sense of “neediness” goes beyond the emotional and psychological.  It’s there in the practicalities of living with a disability.  So not only a developmental issue, but a practical, day-to-day issue as well.

I found myself slipping into what my friend L and I call the rabbit hole.  Here I was, supposed to be putting anti-inflammatory eye drops in every hour on the hour while awake, but the vial was getting low, and I was still too weak from the anesthesia to walk to the pharmacy, and I’d gotten a cold to boot.  Yep, that “I’m all alone and no one loves me, and I can’t do this by myself” feeling.

One of the ways that my wife love-bombed me was by taking care of me excessively.  She cooked for me, gave me my medicines after my stroke / Bell’s palsy, bathed me, made sure I had straws since I couldn’t drink out of a glass unaided, massaged me, and more.  When I’m feeling blue and alone, it’s hard not to look back on those times and begin to question whether I was mistaken about her.  I was not.  In the rearview mirror, it’s clear that the things I took to be signs of love were nothing more than my wife sussing out exactly what I’d missed out on as a child, and then using that knowledge to manipulate me for her own gain.  Love had no part in it. 

All those gestures came at a price.  I was berated for not “doing enough.”  Even though I was still weak from the stay in the stroke ward, I got up while my wife did her morning school run, and had the kitchen spic-n-span before Paula got home.  If I did it one day, she was thrilled, but if I was too weak to do it the next day, I caught hell for not “keeping it up.”  One day, I went outside to mow the back garden.  I felt like another stroke was imminent, but I was also being made to feel like I was somehow useless, not doing enough.  Sweating in the summer heat, dizzy, dehydrated.  The yard was a junk heap.  Broken appliances.  Rusted out tools.  Splintered beds.  Children’s clothes and toys strewn everywhere.  Crisp and candy wrappers.  It was not a safe place to be.

Yet I got down on my hands and knees and crawled around underneath the trampoline to pull out bags of rubbish.  I sorted the broken refuse into piles to one side, and the toys that weren’t ruined into another pile.  I went around with the edger and trimmed near the fence.  Then I mowed the whole garden.  But I was feeling so faint, I was on the verge of collapse — not a state anyone who’d just been in a stroke ward should hazard.  So, yeah, I tried and I tried, but it was never good enough, and my actual health never was considered.

But more so — the big picture.  So many things were done wrong, even if all the massages and food and baths were given out of love (which they weren’t), how many purposeful lies and deceptions can one person endure.  How many times can one be scammed out of money based on untruths?  How many vulgar names can one be called?  How many uncontrolled rages can one be exposed to?

Just to go back over old ground — and I apologize, this post is for me.  In May of 2010, I found Paula’s dating profile on the Smooch website, and it was obvious it was a new profile because in her photograph, she was sitting in front of curtains she’d just bought.  I watched her open the package and hang those curtains on Skype.

So when I confronted Paula about the profile on Smooch, she said she didn’t know anything about it.  That was her first “excuse.”  Then she came back and told me that her best friend, Nikki, had put up the profile to catch her boyfriend in cheating.  As I’ve written before, I was dubious.  Nikki and her boyfriend lived in Bournemouth.  If he was cheating on Nikki, what made Nikki think he’d look on the Smooch website??  And if he did look on Smooch, wouldn’t he pick someone closer to Bournemouth, rather than Shoreham-by-Sea?  But most of all…. why would he hit on Nikki’s best friend, my wife??

Of course, Paula had Nikki back up her story.  Nikki admitted putting up the profile, and I was very confused.  And Paula said that Nikki’s boyfriend had never met her, so didn’t know her.  That was the second leg of the lie.  The concept of someone lying for someone else was just not the kind of thing that happened in my world.  So, I put it to the side, and said to myself, “It doesn’t make sense, but this is the story that Paula and Nikki are telling me, so what am I supposed to do, what am i supposed to believe?”  I let it go.

So that incident was in May 2010, and then Paula came to the United States in July 2010, and we were married.  As already posted (probably a couple of times by now), Nikki’s boyfriend send me a message via Facebook because Paula had blocked him.  He was pissed that Nikki was babysitting Paula’s kids for so long.  So either Paula had lied to Nikki about the length of her intended stay with me in America, or Nikki had lied to her boyfriend.  But in the Facebook private message Nikki’s boyfriend, Mike, sent to my account, I was utterly stunned by his transphobic remarks.  And also stunned because Paula had clearly betrayed the fact that I was transgendered when we had agreed together not to disclose to anyone without discussing it together first.  I failed to notice that … gee whiz, Nikki’s boyfriend does know Paula.

So let’s just unpack this whole scenario, right?  My wife-to-be puts up a new profile on a dating website 2 months before we are married.  She lies to me about having done it, and brings in another person to falsely “corroborate” her lie.  In the whole fiasco, not only has Paula gone trolling for someone else on the eve of our marriage and lied about it, but she has also disclosed to a someone that I am transgendered without getting my permission, or even informing me.  I discover all this when I get the nasty note from Nikki’s boyfriend on Facebook after Paula and I were married.  I am so shocked by the nasty remarks, Mike calling me an “it,” and “wif…. husband,” that I failed to notice he definitely knew Paula, and so the whole thing about the dating profile was irrefutably a big lie.  Lies and betrayal.  Big picture stuff.

Now who does this to someone they love on the eve of their marriage???  Is this love???  No, it’s the opposite of love.  I don’t care how many dishes of shepherd’s pie my wife served up to me.  I don’t care how many times she massaged me.  She never loved me.  She doesn’t know the meaning of love.  What a sad, sorry, pathetic creature.

The examples of deception are literally countless.  They go from the rather mundane to the utterly traumatic, like the death of my dog, the physical violence, and my overdose.  I’m thinking of another little swerve along the path that floated up in my thoughts today.  I can’t remember exactly how it unfolded — when one is fed a constant diet of lies, stuff is naturally a bit vague.

In any case, Paula had done something that upset me greatly.  I can’t recall what it was exactly, but I know that I was afraid and I’d made another trip to a B&B for my safety.  I’d left while Paula was out on a school run, so she came home to find me gone.  Meanwhile, I had a casual FTM acquaintance in Brighton I’ll refer to as “J.”  I’d only met him once or twice.

Paula was insisting that we have a renewal of our vows.  But I was just a stick character in the production.  I was not consulted whatsoever about when, where, how, or who.  It was all being discussed and arranged behind my back.  Since I had no other real friends in England, Paula had taken it upon herself to invite J via text message.  I wasn’t happy.  I barely knew the guy.  And to be bluntly honest, the house was such a wreaking junk heap, I was embarrassed.

Then, whatever it was happened that sent me to the B&B.  Paula didn’t know where I was.  She seemed to make an assumption that I’d left her and was on a plane going back home to the United States.  And going home to the US was on my mind as my intention.  By then, I’d already been through more than I could bear.

While I was at the B&B, I received a text message from J.  He said he’d heard from Paula, and that she didn’t know where I was and thought that I’d left her.  As our texting unfolded, J told me that Paula had “come onto him.”  He forwarded me her text so I could see it for myself.  Indeed she had done what J said!!!  It was more or less to the effect of, “Terry has left me — I’m so alone, can you come console me?” with lots of innuendo.  I wish I still had the phone with the text so I could get the exact wording.  But believe me, it was clear to both J and me.

So I texted Paula and asked her why she was contacting J.  First, she claimed she hadn’t contacted him at all.  I told her I’d been in communication with him, and that I knew she’d been in touch with him.  So then she tells me she just wanted to let him know that the “renewal of vows” ceremony was canceled because I’d left, and she didn’t want him to make a needless trip to Shoreham.  Well, what she’d actually sent him was quite a bit more than that.  Denial, denial, denial.  Finally, I forwarded to Paula her own message originally sent to J.  Now she has no choice but to admit having authored it — but does she fully admit it???? No!!!  She said she’d written it, then thought better of it, and so had left it in draft.  She wanted me to believe that it had accidentally been sent from her “draft” folder!!!  Somehow, I’m supposed to be comforted that my wife wrote a salacious text to a friend, but then didn’t send it — had saved it to draft.  I’m supposed to believe this and be comforted by it, even though I’m sitting in the B&B, reading the actual forwarded text with my own eyes???

As best as I can recall, it was her lying to me about this texting with J that put me over the top.  Whatever it was that originally had me going to the B&B, I’ve forgotten.  But after she was quite clearly making inappropriate maneuvers toward an acquaintance, that’s when I decided to go on back to the US.  I booked my flight and got myself to London.  All the way there, Paula was begging me not to leave her.  Pleading with me right up to the time that I was sitting at the gate and they were boarding the plane.  You would have thought, to hear the way she begged, that she really cared about me.  That’s the cognitive dissonance kicking in.  She didn’t care about me, or she wouldn’t have lied about owning her house, she shouldn’t have lied about the dating profile on Smooch, she wouldn’t have lied about coming on to J, she wouldn’t have done all the other things that she did.  And believe me, as much as I’ve written about already, it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

The way it works with a psychopath…. if their lips are moving, they are lying.  If you catch them in one lie, they adjust it a little.  They keep trying something else, even if it is more outrageous, until they hit upon something you’ll accept.  And if that doesn’t work, you’ll be so confused by so many versions of reality, you won’t know which way to turn.

So, I’ve labored on about many things in this post.  However, the main theme I want to emphasize is how the mask of the psychopath relates to the love-bombing, which in turn relates to the cognitive dissonance.  In my case, I had a paucity of nurturing maternal experiences when I was young.  My wife zeroed in on that deficit, and made herself “my dream come true.”  So powerful was her leveraging of what I needed that even some fairly blatant lies and red flags were thrown by the wayside.

A psychopath is nothing more than a predator after prey.  They will assess their intended victim, find that target’s dreams and weaknesses, and exploit that knowledge.  The intense scrutiny of the predator feels to the victim like adoration, but it isn’t.  Once the victim is “hooked” with the tailor-made mask and love-bombing, the psychopath proceeds with the intended agenda, whatever it may be.  In my wife’s case, it was mostly to strip me of as much money as possible.  It was partly the thrill of the game.  “Look at what I can pull over him, stupid fool!!  I’m so brilliant!!”  The joy at deceiving people was part of her personal jollies — hence her own phrase when she attempted to scam cheaper airfare using deception and untruths, “Let me work my magic.”

The ending of a relationship with a psychopath is nothing like the end of any other romantic relationship.  The cognitive dissonance is what causes much suffering, and threatens always to lure the survivor back into the relationship, seemingly at any cost.  How many times have I weathered the emotional storms, only to have one friend or another say to me, “But she killed your dog!”  Like I was certifiably insane to still be thinking about my wife.

And the cognitive dissonance, which they masterfully create, is a form of temporary insanity.  As I’ve been recuperating from my eye surgery, I’ve been really blue.  Lonely, needy, even scared.  I couldn’t help but think back to when my wife made me a batch of burritos with sour cream and cheese and tomatoes, or some other special dish.  I couldn’t help but think back to the times when she would quite literally bathe me.

Her bath tub was quite large.  She’d fill it with piping hot water, lather shampoo on my head, then rinse away the suds with a pot of clear water.  We call them washcloths; she called them flannels.  She’d soap them up and scrub me from tip to toe.  She’d have me lean back and luxuriate in the steaming water.  It was blissful, I’ll grant you that.  After the bath, she’d turn on the shower and make sure the remnants of soap were washed from my sensitive skin.  Then she’d help me step out of the deep bath tub, and dry me, again from tip top to toe.  And after the shower, it might be some fooling around, or it might be a massage.  But was it love?  No!!!

What I can tell you now is that I’m a stronger person for having survived all this.  Yes, I still have my moments when vestiges of the cognitive dissonance arise.  Those moments come at low points when I’m feeling vulnerable, as I have been post-surgery.  But I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend, L, who truly understands, and who reminded me again to “look at the big picture.”  No lovely baths make up for being hit and being cheated on and being lied to.  None.  And I can honestly say, I’ve grown through all of this.  I’ve learned that I’m valuable, that I have good stuff to offer the world.  I might get lonely, but it’s loneliness on my own terms, and I’m working on it in my own ways.  It’s not the other kind of loneliness — of being utterly controlled by another person in a reality that makes no sense and sends out staccato messages of danger.  It’s my boundaries and my choices.

I also know a heck of a lot more about those things that made me vulnerable to my wife’s machinations.  So it’s opened my eyes to the necessity of me learning self-care and self-love.  I may have many limitations, including my legal blindness and being transgendered, but I also have many unique talents.  And one of those talents is the ability to love.  In losing my marriage, I really haven’t lost anything at all, because it was all a facade.  However, my oh-so-clever wife has lost someone who truly did love her, and proved it again and again.  How sad is that?  What’s even sadder is that this is the pattern of her entire life.  She has used, abused, and decimated every life she has touched.

That I have gotten this far with my surgery is a testament to how far I’ve progressed.  If somehow or other, this can give comfort to even one person, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

(For more on cognitive dissonance, see my last post here.)

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About DogDharma

Dog Dharma is written by a human who loves dogs and who believes dogs have attained enlightenment. The human behind Dog Dharma came from humble origins, has faced many trials, enjoyed many adventures, and taken a path less traveled. He claims no special privilege or expertise, and remains humble. Dog Dharma‘s author has learned a few things along the way, and has much yet to learn. He has been told by many people that he has a talent for writing, and aspires to write a book, but is a little too lazy and disorganized, so his blog will suffice for now. He opens a window into his life in the hope that some of his words may be of comfort, some may be a beacon or warning, and perhaps he will connect with like-minded souls. Everything shared comes from a place of openness and honesty, but with no claim that he possesses the Truth. People and places mentioned should be taken as pseudonyms. In many cases, details may be an amalgamation of actual events disguised to protect the “innocent.” Nothing written is to be taken as actual fact, but as the author of Dharma Dog‘s limited understanding. From the mouths of the Beatles: In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make
This entry was posted in Akpek, Alfred Hitchock, betrayal, cataract, cognitive dissonance, cornea, cornea transplant, glaucoma, Greenbelt, lying, Maryland, Paula Khier, Paula Simmons, Paula Vanzetti, psychopath, psychopathy, Shoreham-by-Sea, transgender, transgendered, West Sussex and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Self-Care, Mothering, More on Cognitive Dissonance (plus Cornea Transplant)

  1. Jamie Ray says:

    Terry,
    Sounds like your surgery was a success – and that you are taking good care of yourself all things considered. It is strange how one trauma brings back up all the others – as if they are lying dormant waiting for a vaguely similar experience to occur.
    Hope you get over the flu/cold stuff and recover from the surgery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DogDharma says:

      Jamie, yes — time will tell, but so far, the surgery seems to have had a promising outcome. Even *if* it flops in the end, half the success was taking the chance and accomplishing it on my own — truly an endeavor of self-care and self-love.

      With regard to traumas, it has seemed to me the Life is out to teach me / us / human beings lessons we need to learn to mature, grow, evolve, transcend. Until we learn each lesson, it’s repeated again and again. The “self-care” has been a big one for me. My wife honed in on that, and presented herself as the ultimate care-taker. And I was deceived because I wanted that so much — an aching hole that had never been filled. Well, by golly, I think I’ve mastered that one by now. It will always be one of my “issues,” and I’ll likely never be a master chef, but I have learned the value of being as self-sufficient as one can possibly be, given circumstances.

      Somehow or other, our traumas intertwine and interconnect, and ultimately, if we face them, lead us toward a place of wholeness.

      Thanks for enduring my long-winded post. 🙂

      Like

  2. mandy says:

    The photos and detailed lesson on eyes and your surgeries–whew. I’m a little squeamish but also need to really pay attention since I’ll be facing various eye things, with glaucoma hovering. I only wish success for you on this surgery and I’m encouraged with how things are going!
    I only wish Paula could soon be a distant memory for you–she brought so much grief to your life–you deserve happiness! ♥

    Like

    • DogDharma says:

      Good evening, Mandy. 🙂 I think that this has got to be my worse blog post *ever* — too many ideas saved up and competing to be expressed. So I’m surprised it wasn’t the post itself that made you squeamish. 🙂

      Don’t let my photos and descriptions frighten you. 99.9% of people won’t have been through all my ordeals, and those who have had it worse are a tiny, tiny fraction. In its typical presentation, glaucoma it easily managed. Using eye drops will suffice for the vast majority of people with glaucoma. As long as the eye pressure is controlled or kept near-normal, either there is very little visual field lost, or the loss is so gradual, it isn’t noticed and takes years and years to become debilitating.

      In short — for the overwhelming number of people who present with glaucoma, it’s not a huge deal. Just take your eye drops or medication as prescribed, and continue to have your check-ups to monitor your eye pressure and the health of your optic nerve, and you’ll be fine.

      I do thank you for wishing me well. I *am* very upbeat about the outcome of the surgery, and it’s a major turning point for me in reclaiming my life on my own terms. If anything, taking this step makes Paula more of a “distant memory” than she’ probably like to be. If anything, I want to “make a difference.”

      Thank you as always for reading and following, and mostly for *caring*. ❤️ I wish your book would come out already!!!!!

      Like

      • mandy says:

        Oh Terry, I’m so thrilled that the outcome of this surgery looks so promising. Anytime something makes us feel we can take back our lives, I say hold on and don’t let go! No matter what, you will always “make a difference.” I have an idea, you always always have! That’s just who Terry is ♥
        As for the glaucoma–I get my screening every 4 mo. so they stay on top of the pressure and I will start drops as soon as they say. Your perseverance in recovering vision is just another example of who you are–you never give up, and I know good things are ahead! ((Blugs!!))

        Like

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