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Cyntoia Brown

“… When I would do good, evil is present with me.” -Romans 7:21 kjv

I first became aware of Cyntoia Brown’s story a few years ago, while watching a series of documentaries on YouTube. I was shocked by the entire story. I was mostly shocked at the sentence that she received.
Cyntoia Brown was a sixteen year old girl who’d experienced a life full of hardship since conception. She was born to a teenaged mother who drank during her pregnancy, and used drugs after her birth. Cyntoia’s birth mother also suffered from mental illness, which had been genetically passed down for at least three generations. At eight months old, Cyntoia’s mother gave her up for adoption. Cyntoia lived with relatives and family friends for the first three years of her life; even being kidnapped at one time by relative. Needless to say, Cyntoia developed some abandonment issues as well as trust issues. Cyntoia was raised by Ellenette Brown, a family friend. And while things seemed picture-perfect on the outside, that was not the case. Cyntoia claimed that she was being physically abused by her adoptive father.
At the age of sixteen, Cyntoia ran away from home. She was exploited and trafficked for sex by a pimp named “Kut throat” for three weeks, before he told her that she needed to go make some money. Cyntoia went to a part of the city, known for prostitution, where she met a forty-three year old man. This man offered her (a girl- twenty-seven years younger than him) $150 dollars for sex. Cyntoia, young, desperate, and afraid agreed. She got in his car and went to his house. He told her about all of the guns he owned, and how well of a shooter he was. As Cyntoia recalls, the man became aggressive during the transaction. When he reached over to grab something, Cyntoia, feared for safety and grabbed a near-by gun and shot and killed the man. Afraid to go back to Kut throat empty-handed she stole, the man’s wallet.
These are the events that led to a sixteen year old girl being tried as an adult and convicted of 1st degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery.
My heart completely broke while watching this documentary. Imagine my shock while scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I noticed Rihanna sharing a post about Cyntoia. I’m so happy that once again, someone is giving a voice to Cyntoia. She didn’t let a failed system take away her life, though it took away her freedom. She studied and received her degree while in prison. She is still fighting for her freedom and now few celebs have joined her. It is my hope that Cyntoia will be freed from prison, not at age 69, but in the near future. It is also my hope that the justice system in America will never again criminalize a victim. It is absolutely incredible to me how many times the system failed this girl: at birth, throughout her childhood, then in her adolescence.

To learn more about Cyntoia Brown’s story go here.

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Again

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There she goes again
another sacrifice
she’ll lose it all tonight
tears hang in her eyes
her throat burns
silent cries
there’s no turning back now
she’s committed
won’t hold it down
just a little bit
more
sings the choir in her head
they’re screaming encore
from the stands
red eyes and blurry vision
cooking white lies
in her kitchen
but her eyes will adjust
like the skies opened up
and she’ll rise
from the dust
© Jocsalyn Janay 2016

Trichotillomania

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The first time I’d ever heard of trichotillomania was in the early 2000s. I was watching an episode of Boston Public, where a student had been wearing hats to cover up the fact that she’d been losing her hair. The other students began to think that she had cancer until one day she’d gotten sick in class and coughed up a hairball.
After seeing this episode I wanted to know more about this disorder, but unfortunately I was only able to find very little information on the subject. I never abandoned my search to find out more about trichotillomania. I recently began my search again and found all sorts of information.
So what exactly is Trichotillomania? Trichotillomania is a body-focused disorder which results in a compulsive urge to pull out hair strand by strand, often leading to baldness and emotional trauma. The hair pulling is not specific to a certain area on the body. It could be from the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or anywhere on the body. The severity of the disorder also differs from patient to patient. The eating of the hair after pulling it out is an extreme form of the condition known as trichophagia. In 2008, ABCNews.com reported that a 10 lb. hairball (trichobezoar) was surgically removed from a girl’s stomach in Mumbai, India. However, most trich patients do not eat their hair. Although trich is an anxiety/stress related disorder, the cause is unknown. It typically begins late in childhood or early puberty and primarily affects women.
Today, youtube is full of brave people sharing their stories about their struggles and triumphs with trich. BeckieO, a youtuber, said in a interview with ABC News that, “Pulling makes me feel better, but then you see the damage afterwards and you think no, that’s actually making me feel worse.” That seems to be a common pattern with trich patients. Shame, guilt, and embarrassment follows the pulling. I think that’s one of the reasons why people who suffer from trich don’t get necessary treatment right away. It’s embarrassing to have to explain to someone that you’ve been pulling out your own hair without even knowing why you’re doing it in the first place or how to stop. Trich patients are not helpless. 60 to 80% of trich patients can be effectively treated with behavioral therapy and medication. There are also toys called “fidgets” that are used to help relieve stress and to keep hands distracted from pulling. Trich patients sometimes feel that they are suffering alone but it’s not true. Several celebrities have also been diagnosed with having trich including Olivia Munn, Charlize Theron, and Justin Timberlake.
You can find out more about trichotillomania at trich.org. Also, you can head over to youtube and follow the trich journals of brave “trichsters” like BeckieO and many others.

Swimming pools & Chandeliers

DSCI0031In 2012 rapper, Kendrick Lamar released his single, Swimming Pools, which peaked Billboard charts at number 25. In his song he talks about people who “live their lives in bottles.” He says, “Some people like the way it feels, some people want to kill their sorrows, some people want to fit in with the popular, that was my problem.” Kendrick Lamar was by no means alone in using alcohol as a way to fit in. Studies by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that in 2009, about 10.4 million young people between ages 12-20 drank more than “just a few sips” of alcohol. Studies have also shown that on avaerage, young people have about five drinks on a single occasion. This is considered binge drinking and is addressed in the hook of Lamar’s song as the question is asked, “Why you babysittin’ only two or three shots? I’ma show you how to turn it up a notch”. Near the end of the song, we hear a conversation that takes place between Kendrick and his conscience. He is warned that if he doesn’t stop, he is going to die. Every year, 5,000 people under the age of 21 die due to alcohol-related incidents. This song, while explicit in language, takes a very different approach when it comes to alcohol references in music, but Kendrick isn’t the only one sounding off on alcohol abuse.

In 2014, a song entitled, Chandelier, by singer, Sia peaked Billboard charts at number 8. Unlike Kendrick Lamar, Sia’s reason for drinking isn’t centered around being popular. Sia wants to “kill her sorrows”. Chandelier opens with this verse, “Party girls don’t get hurt. Can’t feel anything. When will I learn? I push it down, push it down.” She is using alcohol to numb whatever pain she was feeling before she began drinking that night. She then continues, “I’m the one for a good time call. Phone’s blowin’ up, ringing my door bell. I feel the love…” She not only uses alcohol to to cover up her pain, but also sex as a way to feel loved; which is no coincidence since, drinking causes impaired judgement and leads to poor decision making. Sia echoes the notion of binge drinking in the pre-chorus, singing, “throw ’em back ’till I lose count.”

Whether you’re drinking to fit in or you’re trying to mask a deeper problem, you are compromising your values to become someone another person will like. Once you start sacrificing yourself to become someone you’re not, it gets harder and harder to find your true identity. Alcohol provides a false since of contentment, once it’s gone you’re left feeling worse than you did before. Sia illustrates this well in verse two, “Sun is up. I’m a mess. Gotta get out now. Gotta run from this. Here comes the shame, here comes the shame.” Remember Proverbs 23:20, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” -NIV