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Featured Writer: Viktoria Tekielak


Growing up, I was a flower that was sundered with scrutiny and judgment. I begged to be dealt a hand of congenial warmth and acceptance in a toxic and abusive household. The water and the sun had neglected me. My bullies yanked my roots, making my path towards healing cloudy. I was setting myself on fire to keep others warm. After many years of bottling up my emotions, I became acquainted with the roommates that resided in my brain: my mental health struggles. These roommates ripped out my petals. I became convinced that I was worthless and my roots were stuck.

During the height of the pandemic when masks were mandated, this new requirement did not seem foreign to me. After all, I wore a mask my whole life. This mask concealed my droopy eyes that wreathed in exhaustion, my malnourished and emaciated, frail body, and the waterfall of tears that escaped my eye ducts and rolled down the peaks of my cheekbones that were carved like rocky mountains. I had to appear “perfect”. I had to be “perfect”. I felt like a fawn lost in an isolated forest, trying to navigate a world that was full of woe and thorns that impaled the depths of my soul. I would find myself lingering in the narrow and opaque woods that showered droplets of fear from the mystical branches. I embarked on a path towards recovery, hoping to find an entity that would heal me like the magical, golden sundrop that diffused through Rapunzel’s hair as she healed Flynn Rider. I needed my soul and the demons in my brain to be drenched in this magical sparkle. But as the breeze basked in the hazy afterglow of my trail, the wind spiraled up my spine that was as bare as a naked mole. I felt small and weak like an ant in a horde of Black Friday shoppers. But as my eyes became glued to the vast environment around me, I was showered with insight when I realized that nature was my hero, specifically taking photographs of it’s heavenly wonders and writing poetry that correlated to it. It became a coping mechanism in which I could pop the balloon and express my feelings whilst being vulnerable and open. So I would sit and write poetry as I gazed off into the horizon, watching the colors of the sky blend like watercolor paints as the sun sang farewell. The sky metamorphosed from an innocent blue shade to an ombre piece of mesmerizing art. I felt as though I was pouring my soul out to all the divine sectors of life that thrived outdoors. I was sharing all the parts of me that I was too apprehensive to reveal to anyone else. Nature and I became one. We became intertwined. I would reach out and crumble the leaves near me, and it was as if we were holding hands. When the breeze tickled my ear, it was as if we were having a conversation. So, I continued to let the ink dance all over the paper so breathlessly as the sunset illuminated the sky, as the birds chirped, as the cars whooshed on by, as the leaves crunched, as the dogs barked, and even as it rained.

As I wrote, I realized that my words were healing. I never felt heard and had my voice stripped away from me at a young age, so I knew I wanted to help others feel heard and validated. That is when I decided I wanted to be the flower that would share nectar with the bees. I knew I possessed the strength, perseverance, and nurturing persona to share my story; furthermore, I wanted to aid and guide a community. I wanted to be a leader. In the fall of 2020, I started a mental health club called LTTB—Louder Than the Brain—to spread awareness and educate about a highly stigmatized and taboo topic. In addition to providing resources, supplements, and presentations, I started a mental health school newspaper and reached out to legislative representatives after starting a petition to make mental health courses mandatory in the K-12 curriculum. Due to my hospitalizations, I became aware of the immense flaws of the mental health system and the role of insurance companies in treatment. But during my inpatient stays, I would glance out the window, craving the feeling of my feet melting into the grass just as much as I craved for the growth fungus of stigma to die. That is when I thought back to a question someone had once asked me. They questioned, “As a therapist, what new things will you bring to the table to help your clients?” To this, I responded with a glitter of hope in my eyes, “Nature and poetry healed me, and I want to show others that it can heal them too. Not only do I want to write and share my poems, I want to encourage them to do so too. I want to open up a private practice and have our sessions outside, as long as the weather permits. I want them to become one with nature as well.”

Consequently, I found my purpose in helping others, and in the process, I discovered that nature liberated me. It made me feel like a dove being released from the hands of a luminary. I flew off realizing that my seeds were planted, not stuck, and that they could burgeon into progress and recovery. Those petals that were once ripped now found home in blooming buds.

I am Viktoria Tekielak, and I reside in Roselle, IL I enjoy writing poetry and taking photography. I also enjoy running my mental health club, writing the school mental health newsletter, and playing tennis.

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