All of us here at Fangasm are especially proud to be pitching in with a charity auction to help Jared and Gen Padalecki raise money through #RunPadsRun for Dream Big, an organization that provides girls from low income households with the equipment and program fees that are necessary to participate in sports and physical activities. Many young women want to participate, but their economic situations prevent it. Uniforms and equipment are expensive, and so are the soccer and volleyball camps, dance classes, sports clinics and gymnastics classes that allow young women to excel in their sport of choice.
Why is this so important that the Padaleckis are running the Boston Marathon to raise money for the cause? With my psychologist hat on, I decided to find out – and it turns out the research is pretty compelling.
Multiple large-scale studies over the past decade have found a gender gap in youth sports, with girls from urban and low income environments the most impacted. Historically, sports have been an area in which women’s participation is sometimes limited, including access for racial minorities, GLBT+ persons, and women and girls. Girls have faced resistance to their participation, and women’s sports have often been devalued.
This year’s Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans was the gift that just kept on giving for Supernatural fans. Our very own Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) was crowned King by the Krewe of Bacchus, making him Bacchus LI (51) and introducing him to a whole new group of people who probably have never heard of that little CW show he’s on. I have a feeling that Supernatural came away with lots of new fans, because Ackles seems to have charmed the entire city of New Orleans.
With his customary humble attitude, Ackles made the traditional visit to the local Children’s Hospital, joyously tweeted about by several teenagers and nurses who were beside themselves that Dean Winchester himself was right there in the lobby. From his first appearance as he stepped off the bus and was greeted with a high school band that then amusingly followed him around playing the whole time, Jensen seemed as thrilled to be there as others were to have him there. He tossed doubloons with his face on them into the air and grinned his way through interview after interview, expressing his gratitude for such an honor and thanking wife Danneel for having the idea and helping make it a reality.
When the first photos appeared online of Ackles in his Bacchus regalia, the fandom lost its shit. Not gonna lie, some people were worried that no one could really pull off the sort of traditional over the top garb that Bacchus wears, but guess what? Ackles did. Boy, did he ever!
I never knew I had a thing for Jensen in white tights and boots but there you go.
It wasn’t just the outfit though. From the moment he climbed up on that float and began to toss beads and doubloons to the screaming crowd, Jensen looked every inch a real king.
Tell me this isn’t the benevolent King Ackles greeting his loyal subjects. With beads.
Along with much of the fandom, I watched the various livestreams of the parade, amused by the commentators who clearly weren’t sure who he was (but at least had done their homework, unlike some others…) When their livestream on Facebook began, one said “Oh wow, someone is watching from California.” Pause. “Oh someone is watching from Maine.” A second later, “OMG someone is watching from Australia!”
May I introduce you to the SPN Family, lovely commentator?
Jensen himself looked entirely in his element up on that float. He fist bumped when they paid homage to Supernatural with ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ and some other classic rock, and burst into giant grins when he saw someone holding up a Supernatural-related sign. Plenty of SPN Family made the trek to New Orleans and braved a very rainy day to make sure that there were lots of people cheering Jensen on.
Ackles enjoyed every moment, and got so into it that by the time they neared the end of the parade route, he was dancing on top of the float!
That same exuberance carried over to the party celebration after the parade, where Jensen joined the DJ to rile up the crowd – and did more of that dancing he’d been doing all weekend. I saw several experienced Mardi Gras partiers say that they have never had the reigning King leave the VIP area and just party with everyone. Not surprising to anyone who knows how down to earth he is though, is it?
I saw a post on twitter that commented on how much Jensen has “come out of his shell” and how comfortable he seemed being in the spotlight at Mardi Gras. The post compared this weekend to the chapter Jensen wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, in which he talked about his struggle to overcome his anxiety and especially his fear of speaking in front of other people. He credits the SPN Family for helping him feel more comfortable with that — and I guess Mardi Gras weekend really shows how far he’s come!
Here’s an excerpt from Jensen’s chapter, about how the fandom has changed him:
Before this experience, even at family events, I was anxious. I remember at my brother’s wedding, when I had to give a toast, I was so nervous it was like I had cottonmouth. I couldn’t even speak! I remember thinking, What’s wrong with me? I was already a professional actor by that time, so I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just get up and give a toast. It was like Bizarro Jensen!
…The first awards ceremony that I had to do. I was so nervous I felt like I was just going to pass out right on the stage. Even though I knew the lines—and they were on a teleprompter! It didn’t matter. I felt like I was about to faint just trying to do that.
…Fast-forward to ten years later. Supernatural, and my experience with fans and doing conventions, has changed that for me. And it’s because of the interaction between us… It’s because of the flow of love between us. We get so much energy from you. It’s fuel. That back and forth of emotion between us is fuel for me. And that emotion is genuine; it’s real. That makes all the difference….That comfort has carried over. You see, you’re not strangers anymore. You’re not strange to me. Of course, we’re all a little strange—and we take the little bit of strange in each of us and mix those little bits all up together, all of us, and that’s why we love the relationship we have. You’re family. And you’ve changed me.
I thought of what he wrote as I watched him hold court and toss beads and give interview after interview and shake his ass as he partied, a gigantic grin on his face.
It felt so good to know that we have been a part of his journey, a part of why he’s now able to be a King of Mardi Gras and enjoy every minute of it. Nobody deserves the honor more than Jensen, and I love knowing that we helped him get there.
Ackles is back at his day job now filming Supernatural, and castmate Jim Beaver has already joked that he’s refusing to take his “sparkly suit” off, so that means all is back to normal on that show I love. But really, can you blame him?
I’m just waiting for Creation to announce “Bacchus Photo Ops” with King Jensen because hey, sign me up!
Party on, Mr. Ackles!
Source credit on video (www.instagram.com/p/Bul5OlancWE)
Today is the fourth anniversary of Supernatural actor Jared Padalecki’s ‘Always Keep Fighting’ campaign, which has been life changing — and life saving — for so many people. It took tremendous courage for Jared to not only launch a charity campaign to fight the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety so people can get the help they need, but to open up himself and share his own struggles. The campaign itself was important, spreading the message that is a theme of Supernatural, but nothing is more powerful and more validating than knowing that someone you admire has also faced depression and anxiety, and come close to giving up. That’s what Jared had the courage to share.
Jared began to talk about his own mental health struggles in a few interviews, and then he decided to do something unprecedented — share his story in detail, written in his own words, in a book. I’m honored that he trusted me to edit and publish Family Don’t End With Blood. If I had admired him before (and I did), the experience of working alongside him to tell his story made me admire him a million times more. It is not an easy story to tell, intensely personal and not the kind of story that a “celebrity” often shares so candidly. But Jared knew that the only way for his story to make a difference and truly inspire someone else was if he told it exactly how it happened – even when that was difficult. He was anxious the whole time, wanting the chapter to be perfect and simultaneously questioning how it would be received. All I could do was validate his anxiety and provide a metaphorical shoulder to lean on when the task was almost overwhelming for him.
The chapter that he eventually wrote, after two long years of working on it and struggling with it, is more than thirty pages long. In it, Jared writes about his lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, starting the AKF campaign, and about his own darkest, most hopeless times. It’s a struggle that many of us can relate to.
Throughout the campaign, I still knew I wasn’t yet okay. I was able to function at a high level: I finished the filming of season 10, fulfilled my day-to-day duties as a husband and father, even did another AKF campaign with Jensen, but I still didn’t feel 100 percent. Something was still eating at me and beating on me. I could sense that, though my head was above water, I was sinking.
Those of us who have encountered bouts of depression and anxiety know that the demons can remain at a lull for months (or years) on end, and then reach a boiling point inside of a day.
That is what happened to me.
On top of the weeks, and months, and years of feeling the need to break down, but not feeling that I had permission to.
Plain and simple.
I sat in a park in Geneva, surrounded by thousands of people, young and old, celebrating their beautiful day off, and I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. All my pain, all my self-doubt, all my insecurities, came to a head. I hated myself.
The next part of his chapter is heartbreaking, a moment by moment account of just how bad it got and how he managed to eventually crawl his way out of that darkness and hopelessness. By the time he managed to get on a plane and head for home, he was barely holding it together.
I had god-awful anxiety the entire time, and no one to turn to for help. I found myself LITERALLY mumbling “Always Keep Fighting” to myself and even grabbed a pen from my bag and did something I hadn’t done since high school: I wrote on my arm. “AKF” up and down my left arm, over and over and over again. It seemed to calm me down better than listening to music or reading, so I did it, and I didn’t stop until I ran out of space.
Just like so many others, it was the mantra of “Always Keep Fighting” that got Jared through that difficult day. I know countless fans who now have those words on their own arms in a tattoo that they can touch and see to remind themselves to keep going.
None of us can do it all alone. We all need someone to have our back sometimes, to support us when we’re struggling, to carry us when we need it. Jared found the courage to speak up so he was able to connect with people to lean on that day. With his encouragement, many others have found the strength to share what they’re going through and ask for help — leaning on his words and inspiration so they too can always keep fighting.
Fandom wanted to give back to Jared and let him know just how big a difference AKF had made in many people’s lives. At San Diego Comic Con that year, fans held candles and the entire gigantic Hall H chanted ‘Always Keep Fighting’ over and over to let him know what he’d accomplished. Jared writes about that moment in Family Don’t End With Blood — his awe when he realized what was happening, his gratitude for all that the fandom has taught him and given him.
The light that was given to me that day still sits in my office (as does the note that was handed to me on the stage explaining what was going on). It always will. It is more valuable to me than any award or accolade ever will be. It helps put to rest one of my greatest fears: that I’ve let the fans down. Sometimes, when I still feel like I’ve failed somebody, or let somebody down, I’ll walk into my office, and see it, and remember that I have an entire family out there that wants me to know that “just” me is “just” fine.
It’s the same message that Jared sends to all of us in the chapter he wrote. I have heard from thousands of people that when they were at their lowest, feeling like they truly could not go on, reading Jared’s words and knowing his personal story gave them the strength to keep living. I’ve heard from many who found the courage to reach out and get help because of Jared’s example. That’s what he wanted to accomplish, both with the chapter and with “Always Keep Fighting”, and I hope he knows just what a big difference he’s made in so many lives.
Reach out for help if you need it – and Always Keep Fighting!
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
The past several days have been a whirlwind of articles and videos and spoilers and lots and lots of excitement about the little show that, for much of its existence, few people had ever heard of. And yet, despite those years of flying under the radar, sometimes happily, Supernatural is about to air its 300th episode – and going into its 15th season! As I scan through article after article in mainstream publications from Variety to USA Today to EW to TVGuide and everything in between, I’m astounded by what a wild ride this has been and how far this little show – and its fandom – have come.
I remember being similarly astounded when the 100th episode was about to air, feeling so proud of the show and its cast and crew and fans for hanging in there and achieving such a milestone. I remember being over the moon when the 200th episode aired, blown away by both the number of episodes I’d watched over the years and by the episode itself thanks to Robbie Thompson’s genius. I cried a lot as the beautiful haunting version of ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ played and the Winchesters looked on (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles just as emotional as the rest of us). I didn’t think at either of those times that there was much chance of making it to episode 300 – but Supernatural has surprised everyone from day one.
For those of us who have been watching in ‘real time’ since the start, the longevity of the show has made it more than just a favorite television series. If you love Supernatural and are part of the SPNFamily like I have been for many years, the show becomes a touchstone for all the important milestones in your personal life as well. I discovered the show thanks to a few close friends, and made more lifelong friends through online fandom and conventions; I’ve traveled the world with these people, collaborated on creative projects, squeed over favorite episodes. More importantly, these people have been there at the times when I wasn’t squeeful; they were there when I was sad and hurt and angry and scared. The friends I’ve made through this show and this fandom are the people I know I can turn to no matter what.
I write a lot about that benefit of fandom, the community that we all find in fandom and how important and life changing that can be. What’s also impactful about this show is that when you love fictional characters with all your heart and soul, they become very real to you. (Not in the delusional way, my psychologist self is yelling in my ear, but in a healthy and adaptive and helpful way). When you love them, they’re an inspiration and a validation and a comfort to you when times are tough. This show itself is a comfort, and a reminder to many of us to “Always Keep Fighting” even when it’s difficult.
I’ve had a lot of tough times in the past fourteen years, as we all undoubtedly have. My love of this show and its fandom community helped get me through those times when my children were struggling and my heart was breaking not knowing how to help. Through the stress (and frankly terror) of changing jobs and daring to do things I’d always wanted to do, like writing books and actually trying to get them published. Through the insanity of the tenure track rat race and the unrelenting stress of constantly having to prove yourself that is still part of it. Sometimes it was enough just to have the escape of watching a new episode, or revisiting a favorite old one that feels like a warm blanket and never fails to soothe me. Sometimes it was reaching out to fandom friends or just sharing my feelings or reading fic for three hours to de-stress – or maybe writing it myself. Supernatural has always been there for me, in so many ways I can no longer count them.
One of my toughest losses in these past fourteen years was losing my dad. My mom died long ago, and my dad was my rock. He was my biggest cheerleader while I put myself through grad school with three jobs and later when I said I wanted to write books – on a television show he’d never seen. It didn’t matter; he was behind me all the way. I got the call that my dad had unexpectedly passed away when I was at a Supernatural convention. I put down the phone and literally stepped off the airport shuttle and into the con hotel, numb and in shock. It seemed like the worst timing possible; in fact, it was the best. I walked into the arms (literally) of the most supportive group of people on the planet. Friends took my hand and helped me stay calm. Creation staff brought me ibuprofen and literally walked me to my seat and kept checking on me to be sure I was okay. The actors who play the characters I adore heard the news even though I didn’t tell them, and one by one they came over to tell me how sorry they were and to give me a hug. One of the worst days of my life is wrapped in memories of feeling loved and taken care of, because I happened to be immersed in the Supernatural family.
I’m grateful. Grateful for everything this show has given me over these many many years. Grateful that the actors and the fans trusted me enough to help them write a book that told their stories of how the show and the fandom had changed their lives too. Writing Family Don’t End With Blood was a labor of love, and I know somewhere my dad is smiling that it’s dedicated to him and that its sales benefit the work of Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse. Grateful for the amazing friends I’ve made and the stories I’ve been privileged to hear and learn from and the fictional characters who will forever be as real to me as you can get – and as cherished.
I wish I could thank every single person who has kept this show going for 300 episodes – the most dedicated and talented crew in the business, the most eloquent writers, the hard-working producers and staff behind the scenes, the CW and WB and everyone else who didn’t give up, the most passionate fandom in the universe (with all the good that brings and sometimes a bit of the not-so-good too) and the Best. Cast. Ever. For never phoning it in, for never giving up, for never not caring. Someone said early on that this Show is lightning in a bottle – and they were so right.
There have been so many moments over the years – these are just a few that the most fabulous con photographer ever happened to snap. Thanks Chris Schmelke.
Happy 300th episode, Supernatural. And many many MANY more.
When I was asked to write an entry for the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign, I thought a lot about that phrase and what it means. It seems appropriate for my own experience with the ups and downs that life throws at all of us, but for me the words also have multiple associations. And the first day of a new year seemed like an appropriate time to write about holding onto the light and what that means to me. It is, after all, what we’re all trying to do this year.
The first thing I thought of when I read the hashtag #HoldOntoTheLight was less a thought and more a picture – a streaming video of the many clients I’ve worked with over the years as a psychologist. Images of people – all sorts of people – breaking down, falling apart, reaching out. Getting up, getting through, getting past. Lots of tears, but lots of smiles too. Sometimes the journey, which it was always a privilege to share, was all about not just holding onto the light, but finding it in the first place. When you’ve been in the dark a long time, that’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes that’s where I came in, a co-traveler in the search for whatever would light the way and warm the heart. The images are full of heartbreak and pain, but they are also full of amazing courage and persistence and sometimes – the best times – of finding that warmth and light. Every single person taught me something, and I’m forever grateful. I don’t talk alot about my work outside of writing, but I love what I do and am continually inspired by the amazing human beings I’ve met along the way.
The second thing I thought of was my own experience of holding onto the light at the times in my life that were the darkest. (And yes, it’s probably significant that I didn’t think of my own experience first – you can analyze me later). It’s an image too; me on my knees, feeling unable to get up. Terrified of being alone and ready to give up. At the worst of those times, it was only the awareness that there were two little children depending on me that got me off my knees and forced me to put one foot in front of the other. People often refer to me as an “upbeat” person. I’ve been called a relentless optimist, someone for whom things “roll off my back”. Some of the time, that’s even true. But probably not as often as it seems. I was the oldest child in my family, and I understood from a young age that I was the one who was expected to take care of everyone else. Sometimes that included my mother, on the days that were the worst. That’s a hard lesson to un-learn, and one I still struggle with every day. When you grow up with uncertainty about being taken care of, the fear of being abandoned never really lets go; when it actually happens, one way or another, that’s when you end up on your knees.
Eventually, I got up. I got help. I found therapy long before I became a therapist myself, astounded that maybe I didn’t have to “do it alone”. It felt utterly foreign to be the helpee instead of the helper, and I fear I wasn’t the most proficient client at allowing help, but I had some persistent therapists who didn’t give up on me. I thought of them when I walked across the stage myself years later and the doctoral hood was slipped over my head; that PhD was as much a testament to their relentless insistence that I was neither helpless nor hopeless as it was to hitting the books so goddamn hard. It was dark for a long time, but eventually – with help — the light came back, and I’m still holding on.
The third thing I thought about was also an image. San Diego Comic Con, 2015. The gigantic cavernous Hall H packed full of people, all fans of my favorite television show Supernatural. As the stars of the show took the stage, the lights went low and the room suddenly lit up. Thousands of points of light illuminated the room, held by the fans. In my hand, I held one too, on the verge of tears because of the message it conveyed. As Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Jared Padalecki looked out over the spectacle, not understanding, we all began to chant: Always keep fighting. Always keep fighting. Jared Padalecki understood suddenly; his eyes grew moist, and he picked up the little plastic candle that he too had been given, hand over his heart, clearly overwhelmed. Always keep fighting is the slogan that Jared coined for his Represent campaign to bring awareness to suicide prevention. He also bravely acknowledged that he too had struggled with depression and had to fight to keep going. That day we all held onto the light – for Jared, and for ourselves.