Teen remembers turbulent past, looks to brighter future
Golf invitational will help raise money to benefit school
It was a beautiful, bright summer day when Abby Anderson sat down to talk about her life, which, according to the soft-spoken 19-year-old, started out as anything but bright and sunny.
Anderson appears at first glance to be a typical up-and-coming college student: Her favorite color is green, and she enjoys writing, reading Harry Potter and listening to country music. But to those who know her best, like her friend and mentor Maureen Bryant, Anderson is a paragon of inner strength. Anderson's warm, friendly smile belies a turbulent past dealing with a lifetime of emotional and physical abuse.
"I was really sad and depressed a lot. I've been abused most of my life," she said quietly during an interview Aug. 13 in Bryant's Bethesda office. "I started trying to commit suicide — I was five the first time I tried — and [it all] ended with me in hospitalization. From there, I went home and ended up [back in the hospital] a couple more times."
Anderson, who is one of the most recent graduates of the Adventist Behavioral Services' residential treatment center for troubled youth, came to the center in 2005 after she was hospitalized for abuse; more information on the nature of the abuse cannot be revealed due to an ongoing investigation, according to Adventist Behavioral Health spokeswoman Clarencia Stephen.
Arriving traumatized and hesitant to trust others, Bryant said Anderson underwent an amazing transformation at the Rockville center, where students live and receive help from therapists and other behavioral specialists while attending classes at the nearby Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health School. The next four years allowed Anderson to gain self-confidence in her love of creative writing and emotional therapy through her friendship with Bryant.
"Abby is incredibly bright, incredibly motivated,'' said Bryant, who is a foundation board member for the program. "There's not a darn thing wrong with her, not a thing; it's just her circumstances just kept pushing her into this dark corner.''
Anderson said the school and the center have made a dramatic difference in her life. She has compiled several journals of creative fiction, poems and journal entries in the past few years, works she said have helped her learn to express herself and document her success.
"Now I'm more motivated," she said. "I don't let the little things slow me down…. Rather than feeling sorry about myself for the past, I look forward to the future and what I have coming."
Having graduated from Potomac Ridge's high school in June, Anderson will begin studying oncology at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus of Montgomery College in the fall. She eventually wants to work at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where she dreams of helping children suffering from cancer.
"I don't want to see kids suffering," she explained. "Even though I'd like to change the world, it's impossible … so rather than trying to change the world, I'd rather give back to those that I can."
-The Adventist Behavioral Health Foundation Golf Invitational will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Whiskey Creek Country Club in Ijamsville. Proceeds from the annual event benefit the students and staff at the Potomac Ridge school.
-Sponsors and golfers are encouraged to register online at www.adventisthealthcare.com/health under the fundraiser link. For more information, contact the Potomac Ridge Foundation at 301-251-4510.