The internet can be a scary place. There are so many issues that come to light like pedophiles and child pornography. That said, the internet can be the sprouting ground for beautiful friendships and that's how this story begins.
My friend Hailyn and I met through the fandom of Paula Abdul, aka the PAmily. I was never super close with her until we met face to face in 2015 when we went to an event that Paula was appearing at together. We grew closer and closer and found ourselves talking on FaceTime every night and constantly making plans to see each other. But my friends, Hailyn has never had it very easy.
Hailyn has struggled with an eating disorder, clinical depression, anxiety, and insomnia for much of her adult life. There have been days where she goes without sleeping or eating or taking care of herself in general. After moving away from home at the age of 18, her life took many tumbles.
"When I found stability, I ran from it. I went through years feeling worthless, I lost A LOT of friendships over it, I pulled people in and then pushed them away; they eventually got fed up. I was too destructive. I always thought to myself, 'Who in the right mind would love someone that can't even love themselves? Why would I want anyone to ever have to deal with me when I can't even deal with myself, for someone else to endure my pain, when I can barely handle it myself, how can I make someone stay through the turbulent storms of emotions that I face every single day when my life has been anything but stable?'"
During her early 20s, things spiraled so far out of control that she felt more at home at the hospital than in her own bedroom. After trying to find healthy ways to cope, Hailyn simply gave up.
"Instead of forming relationships with people, I formed them with empty bottles and my reflection in the mirror, and my weapons of choice hidden in a box, in my bathroom cabinet. I had an unmistakable ache in my chest that never went away, and I didn't know how to make it stop because I didn't know who I was without it. For me, it was a whole lot easier to drink half a bottle of vodka or leave a few scars than it was to ask for help."
The cries for help didn't stop there, after trying to commit suicide for years, in April of 2014, Hailyn finally had enough.
"In April 2014, I ended up having to go to a mental institution when I tried to commit suicide for the third time—I've never been to prison but if I were to guess, 12A was pretty close and I will never forget being forced to go in because I was a harm to myself, and not being able to control yourself or what is happening to you is the worst thing. I thought I was the problem, that's why I thought I needed to go."
In the year 2010, Hailyn joined what she thought was a fan site for Paula Abdul. Suddenly, Hailyn found her outlet. She made friends. She found a way to look forward to her days again. These friends, known as the PAmily, have brought Hailyn comfort, but there are still days where it's a struggle to survive.
"They've been there for me when I felt broken and as though the only thing left to do was to just give up. I got so used to the fact and went so long with dealing with things alone, I sometimes forget that I now have multiple shoulders to lean on who care about me. I have to remind myself that we've all dealt with a battle in some type of way, and we truly aren't alone. They're my support system, my cheerleaders, and I have to learn to program myself to know when to ask for help."
In 2011, Hailyn had the chance to thank Paula Abdul in person for literally saving her life. After driving 21 hours to Seattle, Washington, Hailyn and Jessica went to the auditions for The X Factor USA, where Paula had recently signed on to become a judge.
"Meeting Paula literally changed my life for the better; you meet her and it's like all of your problems just disappear... but honestly, I don't think I could ever fully comprehend how much meeting her has changed me as a person or how much she means to me—there couldn't be a person with a more generous, beautiful heart. She's everything I would like and aspire to be. I am still in awe she's in my life. I thank her because she made me fall in love with life, and she made me love myself again, which I never thought I ever would."
So although you may not understand if you aren't a member of a fan club or if you think that kids are severely misunderstood for joining a fan club, just remember that by joining that fan club or being obsessed with that celebrity just might save them from their own personal hell.
"She is pretty much my angel and the most beautiful thing that's ever happened to me. P is always in my heart, because she helped form my heart."