Journaling Zippy: from suicidal thoughts to award-winning books
Published 9:38 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Once upon a time, local author Candida Sullivan did war with physical pain, emotional torment and shame over the fact that she “was different” from all the other kids. But, there would be no Zippy books to uplift today’s youth if not for the struggles to live a quality life with Amniotic Band Syndrome.
The disease occurs when the fibrous bands of the amniotic sac becomes tangled around a developing fetus. In Sullivan’s case, it affected her fingers and some of her toes, making everyday movements like walking, writing and typing nearly impossible. Some of the fibrous bands also wrapped around her right upper arm, cutting into the bicep and tricep. But it didn’t stop her.
“It’s about modifying things and learning a different way to do life,” she said.
Sullivan has it pretty much together these days, but she struggled as a young person with suicidal thoughts.
“I was so afraid of my future. I was afraid I would never get a job, that I would never get a driver’s license; that I would never find anyone to love me. I wouldn’t have kids. I had such fears. All the things that I so greatly feared, God took care of every one of them.
“I think it’s so important to give Him time to work things out and just trust him with our lives. Now, I can speak of that as well, just to give people hope. Sometimes, it is really dark but we can take that darkness and we can use it in a positive way to help others and turn that into a light.”
From a small child, Sullivan used words on paper to escape a moment here, an hour or two there from the disease. She endured bullying in school from kids who just did not understand her physical differences.
“Writing was always one of those things that, whenever something was bothering me, I could write about it. I did a lot of journaling. Writing has always been a part of my life.
“When my son was born, I wanted to be the kind of Mom he could be proud of. That’s when I really started looking for my gift. Like, ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ I always wanted to be a teacher. I tried to go down that route but nothing worked out for me. That’s when I prayed and asked God ‘give me something that would be mine; that I could use to help other people.’ And that’s what he gave me – the gift to write.”
And write she did. The culmination of some 20 years of professional writing has produced three award-winning children’s books in the Zippy series and another two award-winning adult books aimed at encouraging others to overcome.
Sullivan says she hit a writing wall of sorts and was struggling to finish her next book. She says she managed to finish two books but was not happy with either one.
“I asked God for clarity. This challenge came up (the 75 – day challenge) and I really resisted it. But I felt it was what God wanted me to do. I know my whole life I’ve overcome things but I never really understood how I did it. Now, I’m writing the book while doing the challenge.”
The new book follows Sullivan on her personal 75 days spent overcoming obstacles. The challenge involves two 45 – minute workouts each day – the first a daily outdoor walk no matter the weather, the second workout indoors involving strength and flexibility exercises. Sullivan says one of the challenges – drinking one gallon of plain water each day – was almost as hard as the workouts.
The formula also includes reading 10 pages per day of a self-help book. Sullivan chose the Bible. Sticking to a healthy diet is another part of the formula.
Sullivan managed the challenge despite her full-time job, her family duties and writing. She also produces three blogs per week and manages her website as well.
“I got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to be able to get it all in. And then there were times when it was really cold. During one particularly bad weather prediction, I knew that a storm was coming through. So, I set my alarm clock at midnight and actually got my outside workout done before it hit. My family thinks I’ve really lost it. But, it’s like you figure it out. I think that’s what God was trying to show me.”
Sullivan says it’s a mental game. That game was stretched to the limit during the holidays. She managed to get in both workouts and the one-gallon chugging of water – even on Christmas Day with the morning visit to her parents’ home and a one-hour drive back so that she could prepare dinner for everyone.
“I got all my stuff ready to go in the oven. Then, I went outside to walk while it was baking. You figure it out.”
Sullivan commented on the irony of her life’s journey and of her eldest, who is a professional photographer.
“When he was taking my pictures the other day (to accompany this feature), it kind of went full circle for me. I thought ‘I started writing so that I could be somebody you (Cayden) would be proud of. And, here you are, using your gift to take pictures of my gift.’”
With well over 100 speaking engagements under her belt, Sullivan is available to book for your special event.