Saturday, February 05, 2005

Paranoia and what it can do

I own a lot of hiking gear, such as a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, etc, including a hunting knife, which has a blade about 4 inches long. It’s funny, when I bought it I had about a million ways I could use it while out hiking, like setting up snares if I was lost and needed to catch my own food, building survival shelters, making a spear for fighting off rogue bears and cannibals (I’ve never seen a rogue bear, but cannibals are quite common where I hiked in Washington State), and all the crazy things a man can think of when justifying such a purchase to himself. Well, years later I was cleaning the garage and I found it in a box. I decided it needed a better place than that or it would get lost or maybe get wet and rust. It wasn’t cheap, so I decided that I’d bring it upstairs and put it in my armoire along with the other fifty-thousand or so other things I keep in there. Well, several weeks later I’m changing clothes and my wife walks by. She looks in the armoire and asks me “what is that”? I look to where she’s pointing, which is a pile of odds and ends, so I have no idea what she’s asking about. She reaches in and pulls out the sheathed knife with the tips of her fingers like it might bite her. I figure what she’s really asking me is “why do you have that?”, and tell her the story of how I got it years before. She looks interested, so I told her to be careful if she wanted to look at it because it is extremely sharp. I finished changing and went on my merry way without another thought.

Well, months later, in one of our sessions with the third (and last) of our marriage counselors it came up again. My wife had found out that a member of her family and I had talked about her strange behavior. She didn’t know who it was when it first came up, but called and confronted the most likely candidates and figured it out. The family member (actually a member by marriage, not blood), denied that she had approached me about it, but that I had initiated the conversation (I don’t agree with that, but it doesn’t matter). To my wife that meant that I had made up the entire conversation. So in our session she was claiming that I was delusional in thinking that there was anything wrong with her behavior. She said that I had been trying to convince people to help me get her committed like her mother had been years before. She went on that I had forced her to punch me in the stomach. Our counselor was trying to calm her down, but she was on a roll. Then she went into my plan to kill her. This was completely out of the blue and unexpected, and both the counselor and I just sat there as she outlined her proof. She described the “incident” with the hunting knife and described how threatened she felt by its presence. She was sure I had bought it just before she discovered it and that I planned to kill her with it. She took the fact that I had told her that it was very sharp as a threat to her life. She went on to say that I kept it in my armoire so she saw it every day and that I meant that as a continual threat to her.

For a few seconds after she finished there was complete silence in the room. I looked over at the counselor and saw a mirror of my face in hers, we were both confused. We started to discuss this, though it was more like the counselor asking my wife about what she felt made owning the knife a threat. At one point I mentioned that the knife was in the armoire and that the armoire doors were always closed. Also, the doors were only open when I was changing or getting something out of it. I didn’t understand how she could see it every day unless she went into the armoire. At the end I offered to give the knife to my father so it would not be in the house anymore. I would have done it too, if it didn’t disappear on its own. I have no idea what she did with it.

One thing I found strange about the whole thing with the hunting knife is that there are so many knives in the house that you would think she would be more threatened by – even the steak knives we owned have longer blades. We have a kitchen full of knives that are bigger and just as sharp, but she had no problems with any of them. And she never felt threatened by the ax in the garage, either.

Anyway, this was one of our last sessions. We had at least one more after that (my memory is a little fuzzy as to which session was which after this much time) in which we talked about her slapping me several times because I was loading the dishwasher incorrectly. She gave her standard “he forced me to hit him” answer, but also said she was just “fooling around”. Not too long after that she refused to ever go back.