Dear "Dad:" A Letter To My Estranged Father

Dear "Dad:" A Letter To My Estranged Father

The day I was taken out of your house is the day I started regaining my strength.
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Dear Dad,

I have contemplated numerous times about all the things I would say to you if I were ever able to sit down with you and just speak. However, right now, all I would love to say to you is thank you.

I want to thank you for telling me that I have no common sense, that I am stupid, and that I will never be anything more than someone’s baby mother. I want to thank you for telling me that I can’t, that I will never, and that I am not good enough. Most people’s motivational quotes are verses from the Bible, while my motivational quotes are the words you would say to me. I had heard those words so many times that I believed them myself. The day I was taken out of your house is the day I started regaining my strength.

The first Father’s Day after we stopped communicating, I had a soft heart. I was about to leave for my first semester at school. I texted you “Happy Father’s Day” to which you responded, “You must have the wrong number.” You disclaimed me as your daughter. That is what prompted me to prove you wrong in everything you ever told me. Without you shutting me out, I would not have the drive in me that I do today.

Thank you, “dad,” for being there with me when I study in the library until 4am, when you telling me “you have no common sense” would play in my head when I just couldn’t get that Sapling problem correct. Thank you for helping me realize that writing is something that I love, being able to share my experiences with others is something I love to do. Thank you for putting so much negativity in my life that I am able to find positivity in the little things. Every time I get frustrated or want to give up, I remember how you hurt me and I persevere.

I have experienced so many amazing things since you stopped being in my life, and that is only because I was able to move on. I cannot wait to see where life will take me, and if I am to one day become successful, I want you to know that you are the reason why. Without you doubting me and bringing my self-esteem to the lowest points, I would never have as much devotion and passion as I do to prove you wrong.

Sincerely,

The Daughter You Wish Wasn’t Yours

Cover Image Credit: Just Jenna Rose

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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.

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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.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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You're never too old to hang out with your parents

"Family is key in my life"

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The bond you hold with your parents is a special one. I was raised in a family-oriented household where I am extremely close to my parents and my two brothers.

When teenagers think of parents they typically think naggy or strict. When I think of my parents, I think of my role models and my number one supporters. For those of you who know me, you know family is key in my life.

You'll either see me posting Snapchat videos of my younger brother Chris being his silly self, or you'll see me post the more sentimental pictures. I share special relationships with both Christopher and Matthew, and my mom and dad.

My mom, Linda is a great mom and my best friend. You can catch us on the weekend singing and dancing to country music and 80's hits in the family room as late as 1 am. You'll see me with my dad laughing like crazy at his corny jokes. As mentioned, you can find Chris and I on Snapchat capturing our true selves—silly. Lastly, you will find Matthew watching over me as the overprotective big brother.

We share family traditions that forever go down as keepsakes within my memory. From the annual beach trips to Point Pleasant, visiting the aquarium and playing mini golf to exploring the boardwalk at night while having dinner at the hot spot, Martell's Tiki Grill; or the family dinners we share every night, as we discuss our day in length.

You are never too old to hang out with your parents. We continue to take car rides to the mall and have family game night with my parents.

I don't see my mom and dad as just the people who raised me, I see my parents as the people who are selfless, hard working, dedicated, intelligent, compassionate, and the loving people who raised my brothers and me to be thankful for everything and just to be kind, considerate people.

Sure we are entitled to our "alone time" locked away in our rooms, but I find that I call, text or FaceTime my parents more often since being in college. When I receive good news, I can't wait to share it with them in our group chat, or when I need some guidance I reach out to them for advice.

I suspect I will always do that, even when I'm on my own, or raising my own family one day. Making time for daily check-ins with my parents just to say hello or seek advice wilI be part of my routine. I know that they will always be there to support me and guide me through life.

Cover Image Credit:

Victoria Mysholowsky

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