Spotlight Jake Gu.
by Jake Schw.
When asking Jake – who fellow residents of Beit T’Shuvah jokingly refer to as “Young Money” – what has been the biggest change he sees in himself over the past six months he told me, “I am able to step back and see the beauty in things. I have fun now. I get to look forward to my life.”
Raised in a beautiful gated community in Encino, California, Jake was the middle child between his two sisters. He lived a seemingly idyllic life. He had friends, kept his grades up, and loved all things sports—especially basketball. “I was the next Kobe Bryant,” he says as I look down at the adoring Laker fan’s yellow Nike sneakers.
Although Jake and his younger sister were blessed with good health at birth, his older sister was born with Epilepsy, a condition that includes spontaneous seizures, and cerebral palsy, which rendered her non verbal. This amplified his mom’s instinct to protect her kids, and although understandable now, came through as overbearing to Jake in his teenage years.
Jake’s controlled environment made him feel different than his friends at school. He started separating himself from the social norms and began throwing all of his energy into buying and selling high end sneakers, basketball cards, and other collectables. This became Jake’s identity. He distanced himself from his friends and got more involved in this niche community. It gave him a certain freedom and satisfaction that his limited social life was not able to provide. Although Jake found plenty of succes, he had a hard time thinking about the life he wasn’t afforded.
When Jake was in 11th grade, he was introduced to smoking marijuana. “Shortly after, the pandemic hit. It was the perfect storm,” he described, telling me of his time in quarantine locked in his room, smoking pot, and obsessing over the resale business he created. It gave him the feeling that he had control over something for the first time.
By the time quarantine restrictions were eased, Jake found that he was much more comfortable isolating in his room. Although he was a great student, he did not have the same passion for school he once had. Anxiety and depression were starting to dominate his life. “Smoking pot helped me lighten the load,” Jake says, “the thought of college was already so daunting.”
Jake decided to power through, finishing up high school and on his way to experience his first taste of freedom at Northeastern University. He enjoyed the ability to do as he pleased without checking in with anyone, but he was not able to leave his marijuana dependency in California. He was often stressed out and did not find much joy in the courses he was taking. “I was smoking through classes—I couldn’t keep up,” Jake states, sounding disappointed in his former self.
Halfway into his first semester, Jake took a leave of absence and headed back home. As his smoking persisted, his mental health started to deteriorate. He was feeling overwhelmed and losing his grasp on reality. He became manic and paranoid, which snowballed into a state of psychosis. “It was definitely weed induced, I thought I was being followed, or that I was receiving messages through the TV,” he explains.
All of this was bleeding Jake dry. Not only was his mental health at an all time low, but he was starting to get stomach ulcers and throwing up bile. It didn’t take long before he ended up in the psych ward at UCLA Medical Center for 10 days.
Working with his therapist Doug Rosen, a BTS alumni, alongside his treatment team at UCLA, he reluctantly agreed to give Beit T’Shuvah a chance.
Jake was nervous about the path he had laid out for himself, but decided to keep his head high and see what Beit T’Shuvah had to offer. It didn’t take long for him to get into the swing of things. He started attending groups, making friends, and dominating on the ping pong table. “The one thing I’ve really picked up here is a sense of community. I’ve always rejected the fact that I needed people in my life,” he related as he reflected on all the relationships he’s cultivated in the past six months he’s spent at BTS.
Jake will be taking his new life skills with him back to Northeastern for the fall semester to study economics and philosophy. He says he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do, but is excited to see what life has in store for him. All of us here at Beit T’Shuvah are excited to see him succeed and live up to the name Young Money.
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