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Jake Sullivan

From an early age it was clear my mind processed a little differently than others. By the time I entered high school my days were consumed with obsessive thoughts, controlling compulsions, and anxiety ridden fear. The world around me had no idea I was suffering. What the world saw was a star athlete. A top 60 collegiate basketball recruit in the country for the class of 2000. An individual who scored over 3,000 career points in high school, and would go on to receive a division 1 scholarship.


I was living in two competing worlds. The one world that people saw and gravitated towards. However, there was another world far from the applause of men that was slowly stripping my life away. By the time I was senior in high school my obsessive thoughts and compulsions would consume my day. I feared white things that would litter the ground from wrappers to pieces of paper. I could not stand 90 degree angles. I would sit in classrooms and complete elaborate counting rituals from 7 to 7,777 all throughout the day just to quiet the anxiety.


By the time I was a senior in high school I could not fight any longer. Oh, I maintained the perception of who the world thought I was, but inside my home I was done fighting. As my parents found out the battle I was going through they sought out help. I was soon sitting in front of psychologists and psychiatrists none of which I ever thought understood my battle.


Soon I would be put on medication, and internally I thought healing would come. My whole life anytime I became sick and was given medication within days I would be healed. However, mental illness does not work this way and no one ever told me. As the doses of medication increased my despair also increased. One night I decided I was all done fighting and was ready to take my own life. That night as I was just moments away from ending it all I hung on to the hope things would change once I left home and head to college.


I would soon discover it was a false hope, but none the less that hope saved my life that night. In the fall of 2000 I arrived on the Iowa State University campus thinking I had left the battle of my of mind back home in Oakdale, Minnesota. The first few weeks I was captivated with everything that was new. New city. New friends. New basketball team. New experiences. New opportunities. I would soon discover that new always wears off and old sets in again.


Before I knew it I was walking around the Iowa State campus with fear, trembling, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and compulsive actions. How would I ever leave this life behind. In the months and even years ahead I would suffer in silence. I maintained the life I perceived the world wanted to see. Star Athlete. Academic All-American. Team Captain. Known. Liked. Looked up to. In it all was just a lie. A façade to hide who I really was. Broken. Depressed. Alone. Fearful. Crazy. Suicidal. Without hope.


In it all I did decide to study psychology with the hope of learning what was wrong with me. Through my years of silent suffering and studying I learned that the only way I was going to walk towards healing was through behavior/exposure therapy. But, how could anyone walk through pain and anxiety like that with no guarantee of healing on the other side.


This was when a great collision occurred in my life. It was the reality of behavior/exposure therapy accompanied with the possibilities of strength in the Christian faith. I began to wonder is this faith thing real? Is Jesus who he says he is? Does the Word of God hold the power it says it does? I was now on a mission to find out.


I began behavior/exposure therapy in 2003 and walked through it the next three years. I could never describe the pain in those years, but I can describe the strength I found through the Word of God in the darkness. I came out the other side of the journey with healing. I would not say behavioral/exposure therapy healed me, and I would also not say that my faith in Jesus and the bible healed me. What healed was the collision of both in my life. The therapy brought me through the obsessions and the compulsions, and the realities of the Christian faith gave me the strength I needed to fight for what is true.


In 2009 the Lord set my feet in Ghana, Africa for the first time. As I looked around I saw suffering. As I saw suffering I also saw little hope. I knew what that felt like. I knew what it was like to suffer without hope. I knew I was now responsible. From this point on it led to the formation of Royal Promise – www.royalpromise.org to help those in vulnerable situations find hope and healing.


What I learned from my battle with an anxiety disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is that it was the greatest gift I could have ever received. My suffering was used to position me for a much greater purpose, and that is to bring hope in the midst of suffering. Mental illness does not always have to be seen as a curse. I can now stand and look back on those days, months, and years and be thankful for the gift that it was. There is healing. There is a plan. There is a purpose in it all. If you are interested in learning more about my story of living with hope in the midst of mental illness please check out our podcast – Live It with Jake Sullivan https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-it-with-jake-sullivan/id1495245787. You can also find us on Spotify and Google Play.


Thank you @onedayinmyworld for bringing light to those suffering. Thank you for bringing hope in the midst of pain!