An Open Letter To My Abuser

An Open Letter To My Abuser

You tried to clip my wings, but you only let me fly higher than I had before.
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Dear Stranger,

I imagine sometimes what your life could be. What does your day entail? Do you have children, and how could you even bare to look in their eyes knowing you corrupted the innocence of another? Sometimes I wish I was a little more strong, a little more brave, and I had told someone sooner. Maybe I could have prevented someone else from getting hurt by your same hands. 7 years old is a hard age to be brave at. Sometimes pool water makes me anxious. Weird, right? The smell of chlorine becomes sharp and pricks at the memory I had long tried to forget.

But no, this letter is not about forgetting. This letter is not about shoving an old flashback into the back of my brain. And this isn't a letter asking for your sympathy. I'm not here to bash you. I'm not here to tell my sob story. You didn't think I would let you tear me down, or did you? You did anything but.

I want to thank you, stranger, for making me realize that this wasn't my fault. I used to think that sometimes I deserved what happened to me, but then again, what 7 year old girl in a women's locker room deserves the violation of a man? In fact, what woman deserves the violation of any man, regardless of age?

I want to thank you for helping me find my purpose. Life experiences subconsciously shape you into the person you will become in the future. I want to help young women who have gone through traumas. I want to share my experience and let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The journey is hard, but the destination is beautiful, and better than anyone could ever imagine. The moment you are at peace with yourself is a moment of bliss.

And lastly, I want to thank you for making me the person I am today. I want to thank you for teaching me how to be strong. I found my strength through this experience, and I continue to grow stronger. I don't want to give you the satisfaction of knowing how deeply this impacted me, but I can't hide. I didn't tell anyone what happened for 9 years. Holding a secret for that long made this process a whole lot harder. But in the end, I opened up and got the support I needed. You tried to clip my wings, but you only let me fly higher than I had before.

Sincerely,

The scared 7 year old girl who grew into a strong, beautiful, fierce, and tenacious 17 year old woman.

-

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Cover Image Credit: Shutter Stock

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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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A Mirror With No Reflection

Trying to figure myself out is like looking into a mirror with no reflection.

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For some reason, people like to think of me as a blank canvas onto which they can paint their perception of me.

But that's what everyone does, right? We perceive people differently from what they truly are. But what happens when that person doesn't know who they truly are? Maybe they're struggling to find their voice or are still figuring out who they are. That person is me.

People like to project whatever personality they like onto me. Sometimes, I'm the fashionable gay man with an eye for fashion and a love for all things designer. Other times, I'm the innocent little church mouse who bleeds rainbows and is full of teddy bear stuffing. It's always nice to have an outside perspective on yourself, but I just can't help feeling like I'm being belittled or having my personhood taken away.

At the ripe old age of 22, I still don't know who I am.

A lot of my friends have themselves pretty much figured out and I seem to be behind them all. They all run ahead confidently while I trail behind with my cautious step and faltering trot. Sure, there's a lot of people in the same place as I am, but it's difficult to not feel like I'm all alone on this.

I know I'm not supposed to have it all figured out by now, I know that for certain. There are countless sitcoms about 20-somethings who are still trying to navigate the world even after they've gotten high powered careers. But, there will always be that real-life news story about the 18-year-old who started his own restaurant and is now a Michelin star chef.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: the road to "finding yourself" is a long and arduous one.

Maybe you'll find the person you want to be when you're in college, or maybe you'll start your journey there. Don't feel discouraged when you see your friends or others blossoming into the person they want to be before you do. Instead, feel happy for them and continue to support them. You'll feel much better when you do.

I feel hopeful for the future.

That, one day, I too will have discovered myself. It's okay if my journey takes longer than others, there will be stumbling blocks along the way, but I'll get through them like I always do. For now, my mirror will just be a mirror without a reflection.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/DY2miYwMchk

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