Where Does an Advocate Go?

Submitted on Sep 19, 2019 by  Nikki J

I remember the first 10 minutes after I hit upload from my phone to tell the whole world of YouTube that I had been living with HIV. I was so nervous, happy, scared and free. I know - a lot of emotions at once. I had been battling about the timing for months. I decided in February 2017 that it was time to stop sitting on my gifts and write my story. I didn't expect a book to turn into me announcing on YouTube, but it did. I soon realized that I couldn't just write a story without also providing my story to people who may not get my book but needed my story. Here it was the early part of June and I couldn't breathe. Before posting I didn't really get to cross all my T's or dot all my I's. So I didn't know the reactions I would receive. I didn't have anyone to lean on which was part of the reason I was even sharing the video in the first place. So I waited and maybe an hour later my notifications blew up. It was like the world was waiting on my voice, waiting on me to share. It was overwhelming but here I am, two years later, still here, still striving.

Now that video has been seen over 90,000 times by people in so many countries and I have gotten an array of emotions. It has been amazing to help other women while also navigating me. As I was thrown into this great world, the sea of expectation was dumped upon me. Since I did not have a place to go, I was immediately the expert. My inbox on Facebook flooded, my YouTube channel flooded and my phone blew up. It was overwhelming. I was expected to carry myself a certain way, I felt pressure to answer every message in a timely fashion and I just couldn't be a woman living her life trying to impact change. Over time, I started to attract more people that were advocating like me in different capacities. It was beautiful, but then I saw the other side. I saw many advocates burn out, I saw them feeling unappreciated, wanting to quit. I began to soon feel it as well. I felt that I didn't have a place to rest my head.

It made me wonder, where do advocates go when they need a break? Is there a place for me to just breathe and rest my head? Where can I get support to just be me. How can I communicate to my community and tribe that I need a break, I need support? I soon realized on this journey that it can be lonely and it's one less traveled. I also learned I needed other advocates to teach me what works for them and for me to share what helps me. It's important that advocates take care of ourselves and the other women who advocate as well. We have a big burden and we are the face for so many other women. So, as you seek support from other women living with HIV and hear our stories, remember that we too sometimes need a place to go.

As I advocate for the women who need my work, I will remember the countless number of advocates that also need support, that also give everything to be on the forefront. First and foremost, I will make sure that I am able to withstand and take care of me as well.

Nikki J.

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