Torment

Through years of planning honeymoons for travel clients I am always aware that the advent of spring weather brings the wedding season. I am consistent in my wedding gift giving and continue a tradition my husband began by choosing good quality knives that will last a lifetime to complement a couple’s well-appointed kitchen. I love to cook and find my kitchen knives indispensable.

I have always appreciated razor sharp knives as well, though I threw the sharpening stone in the garbage the day I moved back to the house in favor of taking my knives to be professionally sharpened. Like the cases of liquor that I insisted be removed before I came back to the house after the shooting, this small seemingly innocuous stone represented something that I could not live with.

There was something in the attention he gave the sharpening, which he did regularly, usually weekly. It was not quick and useful as you might when you pull a dulled knife from a drawer as you need it. It was long and purposeful; an uncomfortable energy, a vibration, a look as he sharpened them. In a way that I cannot explain, a danger was implied. Though he never once threatened me with a knife or held one near me, I developed a disturbing fear he would stab me to death.

He kept a hunting knife in the drawer of the bedside table. We did not sleep in the same room, but I was unsettled by its existence just the same. Only weeks before the shooting I touched it as it then lay on top of the bedside table and there was an unconscious understanding, without a word being spoken, any of the knives could kill me.

Internal clues as to what was to come were overshadowed by rational acceptance people we know and love don’t do these things; of course these were not weapons to someone who loved me. I wanted to believe I was safe in my house, with my husband. I could not comprehend the only true safety I felt was outside my home. My instinct as a mother was not to flee the house when the children remained in it yet the final day survival overrode that instinct as I fled, uncertain if they were safe.

I remember fights that began in the kitchen, following me into the bathroom or the bedroom. Kitchens with sharp knives. Dead ended bathrooms. Chairs in bedrooms in inescapable corners. I just wanted to get away as I moved further and further away from doors that exit outside, not conscious of the danger of being assaulted in these rooms. I didn’t think about being trapped until he blocked me from getting out. I only wanted to feel safe.

I cannot go to bed with a knife in the sink, or in plain view. I always put them away. Though I know my threat to be gone, even as a guest in someone’s home, knives in a block on the kitchen counter or on magnets over a stove, a knife sharpened before carving a roast; these every day scenes still fill me with lasting fear.

Having successfully escaped the snare it is a surprise to now find the enemy I seek refuge from is only me. Indelible images permanently branded into my mind as memories intrude at inopportune times. As I have become more relaxed, overriding the terror is like trying to stop a speeding train by standing on the tracks. Indeed I refer to these episodes which transport me back as riding the crazy train, where the baggage cars immediate follow the engine with no stops in sight. Despite knowing it will eventually run out of steam and pass without event, the urge to jump off is challenging to sit with, to wait it out.

It is in these times, when we most need help, that we are unable to ask for it. I am ever grateful for friends who reach in and grab me off, my rescuers who rally around me again and again as my triage team and re-frame my own distorted perceptions by reminding me how far I have come. Friends who when I am at my worst, love me the most.

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends. Yeats

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