"Meetings": On self love & self hate

{liberatormagazine.com exclusive feature}

by Sheena Steward

I’m awake in bed playing a friendly game of pong with my eyes. It’s difficult for them to stay fixed on one object for more than three seconds. The light outside my window is just bright enough for my game to take place. I wonder if tonight will be a “meeting” night or if I am granted immunity. I hear a slow creak as the door opens followed by a slow moan as my bedroom door is gratefully thrust ajar. As the wind from the door sends a gentle breeze throughout the room, I know it’s the only pleasant occurrence that will take place tonight.

The light that beamed outside my bedroom window knew it was a “meeting”; so, he quickly tucked tail and went away for the night. It’s as if he knew the “meeting” would be so horrific that darkness was the only appropriate companion for this frequent encounter. I hear a voice whisper in my ear, but I refuse to focus on the words that are spoken. Instead I prepare myself for what is about to unfold and instantly set my mental timer for thirty minutes. If I can persevere through thirty minutes it will be over, and I can finally sleep and elapse 20-25 years and return to the life of a child. As I felt the warm, sweaty, forceful hand exploring my prepubescent body, I tell myself, “stay strong it will be over in 27 minutes.”

If I don’t fight back does that mean I’m giving consent?

But if I kick and scream someone will hear me and my secret will be revealed.

I’m almost there ... my mental ticker just gave a 10 minute warning. I know I can dig deep and find the courage to get me down the homestretch. My mind wanders to my family. I have to be strong for their sake. If my secret is revealed it will destroy our foundation, and everyone will be angry and resent me. Tick, Tick, Ding! I MADE IT! Without so much as two words he leaves, and I’m FINALLY alone.

A rush of emotions comes over me, and my ears become a basin for my tears. I must admit the release of emotions is therapeutic. All of the sudden, the beam of light reemerges to lull me to sleep and back to the carefree arena of childhood.

I’m driving in my car with the music blasting while I’m loudly singing off key. All is well; then all the sudden I get these mental images flashing through my mind. The images come rapidly like those of when a child looks through a viewfinder. I pull over on the side of the road. I’m frustrated, because I thought I locked those unpleasant memories away. They are apart of my past, and I never sent them an invitation to my present or future. As the tears begin to fall more frequently and with more abundance, the images become more explicit. “Why won’t they go away, somebody please make it STOP!“

Fifteen minutes have passed, and I’m still stuck on the side of the road watching the most painful home video ever recorded. I wiped my swollen red eyes and evaluated the traffic passing by. After this 18 wheeler passes it will be safe for me to jump back in the fast lane and continue my journey home. I finally pull up at my apartment complex. I sit there for approximately five minutes or so. Staring into the open space trying to wrap my head around what just happened, but the summary isn’t coming fast enough.

I slowly pull down the mirror in my car and look at the mess staring back at me. Who is she? Where did she come from? Before I have an hour long conversation with my alter ego from the wrong side of the tracks, I assess the scene and notice the coast is clear for me to sneak into my apartment without any odd looks or whispers from my neighbors.

The living room floor looks like the perfect spot to continue my reflection. It’s like the levees of my mind broke and all at once flooded with a tidal wave of thoughts and emotions. I realized the “meetings” of my childhood are a part of me that can’t erase from my memory. Although erasing it from my memory is not the answer, my current approach hasn’t been working either. I can’t go through life letting it dictate me.

As I think about my life thus far, I realize that you sketched the blueprint for it many years ago. I followed the plan set before me. I walk through life with my favorite accessory, my shield. I use it as my protection against the “bad” things in life, but what I failed to realize is that everyone and everything isn’t “bad”. There are countless numbers of experiences, people and opportunities that I missed out on because my mighty shield prevented me from getting close. I’m often described as cold and lacking the ability to display emotion. It’s simply because your blueprint required me to leave my emotions behind years ago.

I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep when I was younger wondering how could one person have this much control over me and cause me to display this much emotion. So, I told myself no one would ever have control over me and my emotions. I remember as we packed our boxes and moved out of the white house I scrambled to find the perfect box for my emotions. I locked them safely away not knowing that this played right into your plan.

Emotions are a part of human interaction and with mine locked away I was unable to give them to the next person. So, in reality you still had control of them as well as me. Often times I sabotage relationships. When things are going great I realized I’m not equipped for the next phase so I devise a scheme to get me out of the situation. Once again ... you win! I believe that I have to be in control of every situation. You took control of me and from that moment on I told myself if I have control of every situation then no one can hurt me. That’s unrealistic and truthfully sometimes the best lessons learned are when we are wronged.

I must’ve laid on the floor for hours, but from my deep thought surfaced a flash of insight. I love myself just the way I am. I realized I’ve hated myself for so many years because my biggest insecurities were an extension of you, but the strangest thing is that I actually believed all the qualities I love most about myself came from you too.

Liberator Magazine contributor Sheena Steward is a Nashville-based writer who speaks with victims of abuse around the country about the impact sexual abuse has had on her life, how she overcame it and the part-rewarding and part-grueling transition from survivor to thriver.