The True Meaning Of Family

The True Meaning Of Family

Family isn't just blood related.

As I left the nursing home, where my birth mother currently resides, I was angry. I’m always angry when I see her, even though it's once in a blue moon, and only because I have to. You see, the nursing home is just her current scheme to gather attention and pills. It’s a vicious cycle with her, where she moves from one plan to the next, yet somehow always accumulating those two things. And then eventually she gets tired of it, and moves onto the next.

Currently, she wants to move out from the nursing home into an assisted care facility, where she is “independent.” Tensions are always high with her, but I was just extra angry leaving today. As I arrived home, my stepmother, Holly, was able to tell I wasn’t too happy. I usually just return home and shrug it off, and continue on with my life. But today, I shared a moment with my stepmother. She pulled me aside, and she just goes “We’re your real family.”

I pulled her in for an embrace and said into her ear that I love her. “We’re your real family.” Indeed she was. Indeed she Is. She is, and her soon to be eight year old daughter is, too. Because family isn’t just blood. Family is the people who you love, and love you. I mean, yes my real mother gave birth to me. But I think truly loving someone and being family has more than a physical aspect. There’s a mental, and emotional aspect to it. It’s about a bond.

A family member is someone you love and someone you can count on and that is always there for you no matter what. Blood does not define that. We all have people in our lives that are family. Your best friends, your family friends, the ones who look over you. Perhaps you have a best friend who practically lives at your house, or a step-parent who has taken you in as their own. I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who love and care about me, and I’m lucky enough to call them family. I think in the crazy twists and turns of life, we often forget the meaning of family. We also often forget that family isn’t just blood.

The most influential people in our lives are our family, actually related or not. In the midst of my anger, I realized it was silly to be upset. I mean, yes my birth mother is aggravating and challenging, but at the end of the day, she is just another crazy life twist and turn. My real mother, and my real family, is sitting right beside me, supporting me every step of the way. I hope that you too, can sit back and relax, and take a second to remember who your true family is too, no matter what the situation is, blood related or not.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Smith

Popular Right Now

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.

Cover Image Credit:


Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Getting Through The Loss Of A Friendship

You may doubt that you'll ever be close to anyone again.


When a romantic relationship comes to an end, there's usually no shortage of people there to support you with ice cream and flowers. You can read plenty of articles directed towards healing from a broken relationship. Telling people "I'm going through a breakup" will elicit sympathy, concern, and understanding.

What happens when you lose a friendship? Anyone who has had to grieve a close friend will know that it doesn't hurt any less than a breakup; however, it seems as though there isn't as much support out there to help people who have lost their pals. Most people, upon hearing that you're no longer friends with someone who was important to you, will say things like, "friends come and go" or "you'll make new friends in no time." While these statements are well-meaning and usually spoken by compassionate individuals, they can feel invalidating.

Depending on how long you were close with your ex-friend, it could take quite a bit of time to fully move past the pain of losing them. There are no hard and fast limits to grief. In a lonely time of uncertainty, how do you grieve your old friends in a healthy way?

Start with allowing yourself to feel. It's easy to wonder why you're so upset. After all, these people are still alive, and you weren't romantically involved with them. Understand that losing a friend is a very real and painful experience. You shared your life with them, and now all your happy memories seem to be tinted by sadness. It's doesn't hurt any more or less than losing a significant other; it's just a different kind of ache. Your feelings of despair, of anger, and of longing are normal.

Then, process those strong emotions. What has really helped me is writing letters you will never send. Pour out everything you would like to say to your friend. The letters can be sad, desperate, scathing, anything--after all, they're private and won't be shared with anyone. If you're tempted to send the letter, rip it up as soon as you're done writing. Write as many letters as you need until you start feeling some sort of closure. Don't worry, it will come.

Remember to avoid the trap of nostalgia. It's okay to think about all the times you and your friend had together, but it's important not to get stuck in your head. What happened has happened, and there's nothing you can do to change it now (if the friendship is truly over and you're not just imagining it). Find all the mementos that remind you of your friend and store them somewhere you won't see them every day. That way, you can start to move forward and think about the future rather than the past.

That being said, don't try to replace your friend. Everybody on this planet is unique, which means that nobody is going to be just like the friend you've lost. Feel free to surround yourself with other people who can support you during this time of grief--it's healthy--but avoid comparing past and present friendships. You'll only feel more dissatisfied and lonely. When you can appreciate people for who they are individually, and understand that friendships as close as the one you lost take time, you will start to heal.

It's going to be a process. Some days will hurt more than others. You may doubt that you'll ever find good friends again. It's true that nobody will replace who was lost; however, you will find close pals who can provide an equally satisfying but different sort of companionship. Just hold on until then, friend.

Cover Image Credit:

Related Content

Facebook Comments