I had talked to the police the same day I talked to legal aid. Having guns in the house has been making my anxiety worse. I wanted to know if I’d be allowed to legally remove them and store them with a friend or family member. The answer was yes. Everything in the apartment belongs to me, too, even if they’re in his name.

So I planned to gather my things, and the guns, and head over to M’s place, having obtained permission from her to bring the guns, too. Tuesday morning after our youngest was safely on the bus and away to school, I headed back inside, intending to begin collecting the things I’d need to transfer to my car.

The guns were gone.

It had looked like the rifle’s box, at least, had still been in the closet the day before due to something still being draped as if to hide it. Now my husband had piled a bunch of Christmas gifts into our closet and I had no idea where he’d moved the guns or why he’d bother, there certainly didn’t seem to be a safer place to store them.

Except there was. A gun safe he hadn’t bothered to mention having purchased that had been quietly placed in the room some time when I was not there, hidden away behind the filing cabinet and the table with the TV and barely visible unless you were standing right in front of the table with the TV and looking beyond it. I knew he’d talked about getting a gun safe in IL but the fact that he’d gone ahead and done it and set it up when I wouldn’t be there to see was really freakin’ weird. Had he expected I might remove the guns?

H, I think, commented that at least they aren’t easy to get at when inside a gun safe. I said I wasn’t really worried about spur of the moment violence – but I was worried that maybe somewhere inside my husband was a man capable of premeditated violence.

Honestly, at that point, I started freaking out. I started a long conversation with A and H about it. All the things my husband has said and done over the years that made me worry maybe he had been a high functioning sociopath, and maybe he was planning something, planning to hurt me.

I understand I’m dealing with anxiety. I know I’ve been prone to catastrophizing. Was I going out of my mind? Was I being paranoid and delusional? I ran over so many things with them in that conversation, and they listened, patiently. Finally A said that she didn’t think my husband was a genius mastermind keeping two steps ahead of me, though he’d probably be happy to make me think he was. She said I shouldn’t be spending energy worrying about what he might be planning, and not getting anything accomplished because of it. I should instead be spending the energy working on my escape plan.

I explained I wasn’t trying to figure out his plan – all the processing had been because I was wondering if I was fucking crazy or if he really could be dangerous. It was fucking with my head so much. Was I the paranoid, delusional one? Was I taking a bunch of random facts from our relationship and using it to craft a profile of someone that might be dangerous and willing to hurt me?

At the same time, I have all these facts jostling around in my head – the case recently where a man raped and murdered a woman that didn’t respond favorably to his catcalls. The fact that my sister J’s ex has come after her for 12 years now. When my therapist in IL was going through a divorce, her husband pulled a gun on her. When C was going through a divorce, her husband pushed her violently into the wall.

A pointed out that even if my husband wasn’t going to become violent, he’d already done plenty of things that demonstrated his lack of concern for my safety, well-being and consent. He has done things that cause me harm physically or psychologically. So that even if he had no intention of doing something like shooting me, I wasn’t crazy to think he could harm me. I wasn’t being paranoid.

I started thinking about how evidence showed my husband had constructed a narrative in his head in which I was probably a bad person that was out to get him. While pondering how he could have convinced himself of this, I realized it would be an ego thing. My husband hated his mom’s father, a cold, abusive, controlling man. He loathed his bio dad and had attempted to distance himself from his physical progenitor – he never drank, for instance, so that there would be no risk of him becoming an alcoholic like his bio dad.

If my husband faced himself – faced how he treated me over the years honestly, faced how he was treating me now honestly, he might see a connection to the abusive men in his past, the men he’d distanced himself from.

It would be easier to just make me the bad guy.

And maybe my husband was just indulging in a fantasy that he could be a sociopath if he wanted to be. Maybe everything he’d done was because he’d been his own Iago, whispering poison in his ears, and acting accordingly. Thinking he was being offensively defensive in order to prevent his manipulative, sociopathic, cheating wife from ruining his life in the divorce and stealing his happiness.

And that made me wonder if there was still a way to reach him, to reassure him that I was not plotting against him. Maybe if I could convince him to meet with a mediator and we could start discussing things like custody and assets so he’d see I wasn’t trying to do the opposite of what I’d stated.

H suggested we might want to try a therapist specifically intended to guide us through a divorce – if my husband would go along with it, and be honest about what he thought was going on (unfortunately I think those are pretty big ifs). He said he didn’t think I’d be able to succeed on my own just as I was typing something to that effect.

With that in mind, ultimately, I decided I’d hold off on any ultimatums or changes at this moment. If there’s some way to reach my husband inside his bubble of paranoia, I need to try that, first. I can survive another three weeks of him fucking with my sleep, and then we’ll tell the kids and I’ll be able to move my mattress elsewhere.

I felt much calmer. No longer like I might be going out of my mind.

My husband having constructed a narrative based on his paranoia that I was the bad guy, indulging in a fantasy of spy vs spy, fighting a phantom of me, would offer a reasonable explanation as to the bewildering behavior I’d been receiving from him.

Ultimately, I’ve been living as though I’m dealing with a rational actor. I’m not. My husband is making irrational choices that have nothing to do with facts or evidence.

During the conversation I have to confess many jokes were made at my husband’s expense. He must think H and I are secretly plotting together to murder him and cash in on his life insurance policy. Probably bought the gun safe so that I couldn’t shoot him.*

H has a box of magic cards sitting around he’d been planning to hand off to me for my kids. I told him he’d better not give me that box any time soon, or my husband would probably think H was trying to undermine him with his kids.

H said that seemed reasonable, then corrected himself that it seemed like a reasonable assessment of my husband’s response but that the response would not be reasonable.

A promptly quipped ‘what, you don’t want to seduce her, murder him and raise 4 kids on the insurance money?’

I let out an involuntary, shrieking laugh as soon as I saw that, because that is about as antithetical to H’s personality as one could get.

Later that day, I messaged a friend, G, that has known me for a very long time, and my husband as well. I hadn’t been talking to him much this year because I hadn’t wanted to drag him into my drama or make him feel like he might need to choose sides. I found out my husband had reached out to him, and his wife J, and talked about me and the divorce. They might have had some false impressions about what was happening because of it, but it sounded like G had maintained some skepticism about the whole thing. Without being accusatory or going into my husband’s toxic behavior lately, I explained what had ultimately led to our decision to split.

We then had a nice conversation updating each other on life. I talked a bit about the mental health symptoms I’d been experiencing, and the positive signs of recovery I’d been having – including the part where remembering the trips to St. Pete Beach all those years ago had brought with it the memory of how joy in existence felt. When I mentioned the mind fuck it had been the time it seemed like all my emotions disconnected, G said that’s how he’d felt after his failed relationship with L years ago. So I think he had some understanding of where I’d been, where I was trying to get, and that I was not acting out of malice towards my husband. Hopefully he realized I wouldn’t purposely try to hurt my husband, either.

When he had to go because his wife was going to be getting home from work soon, he told me not to go silent on him again. That was comforting, because it showed he wanted me to stay in touch, that my husband hadn’t said anything that had irreparably harmed our friendship.

I wrapped up my day watching more episodes of S3 of The Dragon Prince with my husband and our kids, and was able to thoroughly enjoy the show and the time spent with my children. I’m feeling as though clarity is allowing me to reconnect and be more present even with my husband’s immediate presence and its chilling effect.

After they’d gone to bed around 10, my husband kept watching TV. I messaged A and H that I knew I’d said I could survive another 3 weeks of him fucking with my sleep, but at this point, I wasn’t sure he’d survive. Fortunately he only went 37 minutes over and then turned the TV off and went to get his shower, and I was able to keep the anger from becoming overwhelming and begin relaxing, instead. I avoided the fate of still being awake at 1 or 2 in the morning due to anger, anxiety, or a combination of both.

*For the record, I literally can’t shoot the guns. That’s why I’ve never been concerned about their presence in the house should I experience suicidal ideation. My husband bought them years ago without having me try them out, first, and it turns out I have very weak hands. But of course I wouldn’t be surprised if he forgot that, or thinks I’ve become stronger.

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