A Letter To The Kids Growing Up With A Disability

A Letter To The Kids Growing Up With A Disability

Living with a disability will be the hardest and most rewarding experience you will ever have.

To all of the kids growing up with a disability,

No matter what your disability is, you are probably already starting to realize that your life is different than the other kids. You might need an aide in school to help you do your work. You might need extra time on each test you take.

You might not be able to do all the things the other kids do in gym class or on the playground. But that’s okay. You don’t need to be like everyone else.

I’m not going to lie. There's going to be times when you wish you didn’t have your disability and you wish you had a different life. There will be times when you wish things were easier for you. But you will get through it. God always chooses the strongest people to go through the biggest battles.

Remember that when it feels like things won’t get better or when you start to get overwhelmed trying to manage your disability.

As you go through life, you’re going to have to figure out how to adapt to each new situation. Some things will be easier than others. But always try to be as independent as you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you really need it.

It’s not worth it to wait hours for someone you know to come help you, especially if it’s something physical that you need. You will learn how to ask strangers for help and to know which people are the ones that will help you.

It won’t be easy, but you can learn how to get around in this world by yourself.

If you have trouble doing simple things by yourself, you will learn how to do them. You might just have to figure out another way. It doesn’t matter how you do things as long as you can do them.

Always try to do things yourself. Don’t give up when you can’t do something on the first few tries. You will figure out how to do the things you want eventually, it just may take some time.

Be patient and remember it’s okay to do things differently than everyone else. And when you finally learn how to do something yourself, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Be strong, my little warrior. You will win this battle.

Cover Image Credit: Melissa Young

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.


Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

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That's Right, During Summer Break, I'm Learning How to Cook on a College Budget

A weekly column invested in sharing the most interesting moments that occurred during this week.


I have decided to continue the trend of writing about my personal experiences living away from home and the journey I have embarked on to become a "real" adult. In my best interest of looking back on the summer once it is complete and being able to reminisce all of the amazing memories, and not so amazing memories that were created along the way, I have decided to write weekly columns with updates pertaining to any amusing events that occurred throughout the week. Without further ado, let's begin.

The one thing I've started to gather during my hiatus from home is that food won't magically appear on a silver platter. You have to either go out and buy it or make it yourself. I usually chose the former. However, being a broke college student, that is not always something I can treat myself too. As a result, I have begun to start cooking very basic meals. Rice, pasta and frozen pizza rolls have become a high-class meal for my roommates and me. When I add my own chef's personal touch of salt and pepper, well, I'm surprised no top-tier chefs haven't reached out to me begging for the recipe yet! There is one valuable lesson that I have learned through my minimal cooking experience and that is to make sure you turn on the right stove when you set something on it. My friend and I decided to divvy up the tasks one day when we made tacos for dinner. I would cook the meat on the stove while he boiled water and made rice.

We both started off around the same time and the grind was on. I had laid down some ground beef on a pan and slowly watching it start to cook. As time passed and my meat had almost been cooked to perfection, I noticed that the pot with water was not even close to boiling yet. I thought that was odd but tended back to preparing my taco meat. Shortly after, I looked up and saw smoke starting to arise from the general vicinity where the water was. I thought to myself, "Finally, our meal is shaping into form." But, I started to waft in a weird scent. My senses were in full effect now. I looked over at the pan of water and noticed that it wasn't boiling, rather, a lid for the pan was placed on the burner and it was starting to melt. We quickly rushed to turn off the burner just in time to watch the plastic lid handle melt into a deformed shape. We all broke into a laugh of hysteria realizing the burner beneath the pan of water hadn't actually been turned on.

As the weekend neared, talks of our house hosting a party began to spread like wildfire. In a mass debate, we contemplated whether we should actually have one if people would show up and if my friend would finally be able to get with the girl he's been "in love with" for 8 months now. Finally, we decided to give it a shot. The party went pretty well. I will spare the details on how my friend did with his dream girl, but I will leave you with one final thought, as she was leaving to go home, my dear friend was bent over on his hands and knees puking his brains out. With plans to hang out with her next week, miraculously I know, I will be sure to keep you in the loop and let you know how that plays out.

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