Friends!! Hello!! My name is Abby Arend and I am SO glad
you are here!! Before we get into the deep stuff, I thought
you might like to get to know the girl behind the screen.
For starters, my favorite color is pink, but sometimes it’s
yellow. This has been a dilemma of mine for quite a while.
I am 20 years old. I laugh at my own jokes. I love taking
pictures, going to the beach, watching The Vampire Diaries
(for the hundredth time). I adore the sport that is volleyball,
so much actually that I play in college! I am a sophomore
volleyball-er at Nova Southeastern University where I am
studying communications and digital media. I am a born and raised Texas girl, no I do not have an accent, sorry to disappoint. I have two siblings, Will who is 21 and Claire who is 17, as well as two selfless and supportive parents, Bill and Kira. I have grown up surrounded by not just my immediate family but also my 12 other cousins who all live within 15 minutes. My childhood was one I hope I can give my kids one day. There was never a dull moment, always a popsicle to be eaten, movie to be watched, game to be played, and always a shoulder to lean on.
Some of you may be asking yourselves how a girl who seems to have a wonderful little life could have a story to share. First, I hope you know we all have a story. There is always more to someone’s heart than what you see on Instagram. Second, I do have a wonderful little life. I am blessed beyond measure. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an internal battle or an internal messiness. I would consider my story to be a mess. Truly. I have been a mess, I am a mess. There is a whole lotta messiness on the inside and true transparency, there is a whole lotta messiness goin on in my closet and/or room… sorry mom.
My mess however, has turned into my message. It has turned into a testimony. And it has brought me to the feet of Jesus.
So yes, I do have a story and I want to invite you into it. I want to share some of my heart with you, like I would to a friend. I want you to see that even the silliest, happiest looking person has scars too. They may not be visible, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. I think that is an all too familiar feeling for a lot of us. Hiding the struggle to come off as put together. At least that's how I spent many years of my life living.
In 5th grade, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety disorder and depression. This is my greatest battle, my longest fight. It does not come from God. It is not heavenly. It is not something God decided to place in my heart just to hurt me. I want to make that clear. Anxiety and depression, mental health disorders, pain, hurt, sorrow, comes from the enemy, not from Jesus. But it is Jesus who has turned it to be used for good. And without knowing anxiety and depression the way I do, I would not have found God the way I have. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good.
When I was diagnosed, I was ten. I probably didn't even know how to spell depression let alone overcome it. But the second a title was put on my illness, a title was put on my life. I soon became this girl who knew nothing but her battle. I hid the fact that I went to a counselor. I never told a soul that I was taking medicine. I wouldn't dare say I had anxiety and depression, not after growing up in a community that praised perfection. And definitely not after Instagram became so big and SnapChat became the main form of communication. So I stuck to what I always did, I would say I felt sick when I was having an anxiety attack at volleyball, tell my friends my mom wouldn't let me sleepover because we had "plans" in the morning, say I was happier than ever in my Instagram caption when in reality I was more depressed than ever. Anything to avoid using words that tied me to mental illness.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 that I finally began to see my illness as my strength and not my weakness. This was the summer I started Project40thirtyone. This was a huge turning point for me. Probably THE turning point. Project40thirtyone doesn’t just serve you all, Project serves me just as much. I finally began to speak out about my battle with anxiety and depression, I shared my struggles, I took off my mask, and I stepped into the calling God placed on my life. That calling; to be the person I needed when I was ten, to be that voice, to be a light.
Over the past three years of Project, I haven’t been perfect, but I have grown.
My senior year, I “quit” volleyball, my grandma suffered from a stroke, and I sat in depression for six months. That season changed me. Long story short, I started playing volleyball again three months after I had quit and in April I committed to Ohio University to play college volleyball (read the full story here).
When I got to OU, I struggled with wanting to continue Project because I wasn’t the girl I was when I started this journey. I also felt embarassed
by my struggles, embarrassed that I was depressed for as long as I was. It truly took me a full year to be able to speak up again.
I spoke up, but then felt my voice get more quiet and quiet as the school year went on. My heart began to grow tired,
my soul wasn’t well and I was not happy. Ohio University is an amazing place to study, I was apart of a super talented team, but the environment I was in was dark. None of this is news to my friends and old teammates from Ohio.
They knew OU was a very hard place for me to be. So in February I got in the transfer portal. This basically meant any school that needed a 5’8 setter could contact me. Things got complicated when quarantine hit.