An Open Letter to My (Ex) Best Friend

An Open Letter to My (Ex) Best Friend

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Dear (Ex) Best Friend,

It has been about three months since we've talked, which is pretty crazy to think about, considering we used to have week-long sleepovers last summer. I used to know what you were planning on wearing for a date a week in advance. Now, I couldn't even tell someone what you did this past Friday night.

What happened? I get that we met when we were in grade school and both grew up into different people, but even with all the changes that came with growing up, I always thought we would be the two to stick together. We even thought about having our big hurray as the maid in honor runner up at each others' weddings (both our biological sisters won the crown on that maid of honor title). It's sad to think that we won't be the crazy old ladies at the nursing home when we are eighty, and you won't be the godmother of my child.

Why we grew apart would probably be two completely different stories, depending on who got to tell it. Besides the douches, distance, and other drama, I just think we both needed a breath of fresh air. If you think about it, we were basically dating since first grade. I loved you like my sister and you experienced all of my emotions first hand -- good and bad. I experienced all of yours, too. We heard all the horrible stories we wouldn't dare tell anyone else, and still supported one another when we stuck with the boyfriend that broke our heart.

Growing apart was rough. Like sisters, we both knew exactly what to say that would sting the harshest. You knew what to say to make me laugh in a heartbeat, but also knew how to make me cry in a second. Same goes for me. So, as you certainly remember, an argument over something stupid led to bringing up our most sensitive heartbreaks and throwing the sharpest knives. With me hanging up the phone on you, that was it. No more Snapchats sent at 7 a.m. for outfit approval before your first day of work, or late night ice cream crawls. You were out of my life as quick and surprising as you came into it.

However, like that one time I decided to get bangs and completely regretted it, we have stages we eventually grow out of. I hope the next few months, years -- or however long we aren't in each others lives -- are happy and good. I hope, in time, we can catch up and relive carefree goofy the moments we used to share.

Love ya,

Your (ex) bestie

Cover Image Credit: thoughtcatalog.com

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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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Dad, You Aren't Just My Dad, You're My Best Friend

Forever and Always Daddy's Little Girl
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Dad,

In my nearly twenty years of life we have been through a lot. To be quite frank, a lot of my childhood you weren't here for or you were more of a background character. Our time spent together has often been short and a little unconventional. While we had a lot of struggles one thing that has always remained constant is that I have always shamelessly been Daddy's Little Girl (I have the t-shirt to prove it!) . Despite our sometimes rocky relationship and our frequent arguments because we're too similar, I have come to love and appreciate you, both as my father and as my friend.

We are more alike than we are different, which is a tough thing to admit. We both love the Steelers (you more than me), we're both incredibly stubborn, we are both extremely silent and keep to ourselves, and we hate to admit that we have actual feelings like normal people. Don't even get me started on how much we look alike. How many sets of father-daughter pairs have the exact same birth marks, freckles, facial structure, body type, head shape, and ears? Until I hit puberty we were basically twins.

We're usually on the same wave length. You can always tell how I am feeling based on a look and vise versa. We tell the same jokes and have the same dry sense of humor that no one else seems to understand. We get frustrated over the same things and excited over the same things. We pick on each other and make faces to show affection. You're the one person in the world that actually manages to understand me as a person because most of my personality comes from you.

As my dad, you've supported me in nearly every endeavor. You've attended chorus concerts since the fourth grade, plays and musicals. You trained me when I thought I wanted to be a track star, despite the fact that I dropped that dream very quickly. You've encouraged me to follow my dreams and make the most of my life in every way possible. You've basically been a cheerleader for me for most of my life.

You taught me plenty of valuable things. You taught me how to box when I turned seven so I could defend myself against bullies. You taught me that it was okay to be shy and not have as many friends because you're the same way. You taught me that there's no shame in who I am or the color of my skin, no matter what anyone else says. You taught me to take pride in myself and who I am, even if I have made mistakes. You taught me that no matter what I go through in life, I have the strength to come out on top.

As my best friend, I've always been able to come to you with any problem and know that you'll keep my secrets and always be there to back me up in any way that you can. I have been able to tell you about all of my boy troubles and heartbreaks. All of the bad things I have done that I am terrified to tell mom. You've always been my shoulder to cry on and my secret keeper.

We have always bonded over watching football games, our hatred for crowded places and our undeniable love for dogs. Somehow despite how serious and sometimes intimidating you can be, I have always managed to get you to be a goof ball and be weird with me. We play with toys in stores and dance in public despite that neither of us have any sort of rhythm. We rough house and act like kids when I am home from school and it's so much fun to see that side of you. It's a side that only our family sees and it's probably my favorite side of you.

As a parent let's be honest, you weren't the greatest. But despite the cards we've been dealt as a family, you've done your best with what's resulted. A lot of our relationship is spotty and there are holes where memories should be, but you've done your best and owned up to mistakes you've made. I admire you for that. That's why I write articles like these and give you long emotional cards on birthdays.

Essentially, while you weren't the Gold Medalist in the Parental Olympics, you are still my dad and I am beyond thankful for you and the relationship we've been able to build. Love you always and forever.

Your little girl.

Cover Image Credit: Alexi Sanderlin

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