Living with HIV for the past 12 years has been full of ups and downs. I been through periods of loneliness, periods of anxiety and depression, and periods of feeling left out. I feel that I have been through it all. Eventually I got tired of it because I was losing Nikki, I was losing who I was at the time. I was so upset and didn't know where to go. There was something missing. To an outsider, I should be quiet; I had a dream job, a husband, my family was around and I looked as though I didn't need a thing. There was no one that could actually see me. It wasn't that I was hiding or anything, I just didn't have anything or anyone to lean on to talk about my real issues.
Before I was Nikki J. the author, speaker, and HIV advocate that gave a voice to a lot of people who felt they couldn't use theirs, I was the voiceless. I was the girl without friends by choice not force. I was the one who was happy that every winter she survived, because the thoughts of death plagued her mind. I was the girl who was fighting to show that she was worth it to anyone who would listen. I was completely losing it. I tried so many things to fix this. I changed my hair, tried to lose weight, even tried to change my identity. I tried to disconnect from my real story as a woman living with HIV. What was happening was I thought it was just me. I thought I was the only woman suffering because I knew nobody else living with HIV. I didn't know that it was common for women living with HIV to be dealing with some form of mental illness. It was devastating to be in this place.
One day I was tired of this, I was tired of being like this. I was tired of the depression and the heaviness that just wasn't my real self. I soon realized I was missing community. I was missing sisterhood women who understood what I was going through. So I decided to create what I didn't see. I opened my mouth and my community, they found me. They flooded my inbox, they added me on Facebook, they added me to support groups. I finally had somewhere to go and I soon realized there were people like who I was becoming. There were women who were just like who I was losing. It was amazing.
As I continued in my community, I started to notice a huge disconnect. Women living with HIV were not connecting like some other demographics. Online it looked like it, but we were not showing up to the tables, the events and other things. I soon realized the word stigma was real and this is why I couldn't find my community without disclosing. Now after advocating for over two years I finally found where I fit in this world of advocacy. I see there is a problem I would like to resolve. I think if I decided that I didn't want to ever share, how would I find what I need? I don't believe everyone should have to share their status publicly but I believe in having safe spaces for us to come to. Isolation can kill a person and if we don't get bolder about what we do and who we do it for, what are we really advocating for? So although I was losing Nikki at one point in time, I found Nakeisa, the true identity of who I am. The girl whose heart is ready to help lift up the next woman no matter how it looks or what she been through. I too have been there feeling like I had nowhere to go.
If you are a woman living with HIV, feeling like this today, I challenge you to look for a local event hosted by an advocate, inbox an advocate, or go to a meeting. It's time to make a move so your Faith can see you through.