In celebration of the anniversary of Castiel’s debut on Supernatural (which isn’t really his birthday because we all know he’s WAY older than that), here’s a throwback to what Misha Collins had to say about that fateful moment and Castiel’s epic entrance in the season premiere of Season 4 in a little excerpt from the chapter he wrote in our second book, Fan Phenomena: Supernatural.
I didn’t expect being inducted into this world to be anywhere near as strange, wonderful or overwhelming as it has been. I didn’t expect any of it. I remember watching the season premiere of Supernatural Season 4 – the episode in which my character was introduced – with the producers and writers at a little screening party at producer McG’s offices in West Hollywood. Sera Gamble, a writer and producer on the show, was standing next to me as we watched. When my character came on-screen, she leaned over and whispered to me, ‘Your life is about to change.’ I thought, ‘That is a truly arrogant thing for a producer of a CW television show to say. I’ve been on plenty of television shows. My life is going to stay exactly the same, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Well, Sera, I think I owe you an apology for that thought.
I think Sera probably just chuckles when she remembers that now. Not only did Misha’s life change, but the character he brought to life changed the lives of many fans as well. Sera Gamble has good instincts.
You can read more of Misha’s thoughts on his character and how Supernatural has changed his life in the chapter he wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood. That book benefits Random Acts, the real life change that this show and this character have created in the world.
As a psychologist, I’ve had the privilege of helping many people come out on the other side after considering suicide. As a psychologist who researches fandom, I’ve experienced firsthand how the television shows and films and bands and books and celebrities we love can also inspire us to keep living, and how the supportive community of fandom can provide a safety net while we fight through those difficult times. What those two realms of experience have in common is someone else encouraging us to talk about it. Not to keep those thoughts and feelings and hopelessness to ourselves, but to share it so that someone can help us through. There is still a tremendous amount of stigma and shame around talking about suicide, and there’s nothing more important than changing that. I teach my students who are learning to be counselors every the importance of creating a safe space within which their clients can share ALL their feelings. I’m honored to work with Attitudes in Reverse to try to erase that stigma and start the important conversation. I was also honored to be able to work with some of the people I proudly fangirl (the cast of Supernatural, my favorite television show) to put together a book that shares their most private, difficult to talk about, even shameful feelings – to inspire those who read the book to also share theirs. None of us can find the help we need without first opening up and letting someone else know we need that help.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, I wanted to share some of the messages from that book, Family Don’t End With Blood, that people have told me have helped them to “always keep fighting”. Some are from the chapters written by the actors and some are from the chapters written by the fans, because there’s tremendous wisdom in both. It can help to know that even the celebrities who we idolize have fought through debilitating self doubt, depression, insecurity and anxiety. It can help to know that other fans, who are just like us, have struggled with the same – and how they managed to keep going anyway. Every time someone tells me, or tells Jared or Jensen or Misha or anyone else, that reading what they wrote in this book saved their life, it means so much. So here are a few of those messages, in the hopes that they’ll keep inspiring us all to keep fighting.
The chapter that Jared Padalecki wrote is the longest one in the book, by far. More than 30 pages long. He worked on it for almost two years, repeatedly wanting to add to it and edit it even though I kept saying that it was already amazing. He knew, I think, that if he didn’t have the courage to share the depths of his own experience with depression and anxiety honestly, that his chapter wouldn’t help anyone. And so, courageously, he did. I still can’t read it without crying. Over the years, countless fans have told me the same – and that Jared’s words are the ones that inspire them to ‘always keep fighting’.
Jared writes about how the fandom and the show have changed him, about his struggle with anxiety and not feeling good enough, about the times he’s broken down. In one powerful part of his chapter, Jared writes about the time he pushed himself to go to Europe for a convention at a time when he knew he wasn’t okay, but didn’t want to let anyone down. When he found himself with one day free and looking forward to going to the watch museums in Geneva – only to realize the one day he was there was a national holiday and they were all closed – the pressures that had been building for a decade overwhelmed him. Here are a few small excerpts from his chapter:
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