Love, Passion, Fandom and Lighting the Way for Each Other

 

Holding onto the light.

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.

Tweet, William Shatner

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Happy Holidays SPNFamily!

A Message to our SPNFamily

In this holiday season, we wanted to take a moment to wish you peace.

It’s the thing we hoped for when we wrote Family Don’t End With Blood – that everyone who reads the book will realize that you truly are not alone, and find the peace that comes with that validation. We’ve all experienced that uncomfortable feeling of being the only one – the only one who’s ever felt a certain way, or struggled with a certain thing, or been unable to do something that the rest of the world seems to do effortlessly. Sometimes the best way to get past that feeling of aloneness is to realize that you’re not the only one – that someone else feels that way too. We need to know that others have stood in our shoes and faced similar difficulties in order to feel validated. When that someone is an actor on your favorite show who you admire, it’s even more powerful. That’s why the Supernatural cast wrote a book that’s so personal and so candid.  The actors opened up when they wrote this book and shared very personal things about themselves, including their most difficult challenges and struggles, because that is the only way for people who read it to know they are not alone. When the “others” who have faced a similar challenge are Jared and Jensen and Misha, or Kim and Briana and Ruth and Rachel, or Matt, Mark, Rob, Gil, Jim or Osric – then that validation is powerful in a different way than what we usually get.

Sometimes we think that the actors we see onscreen are spared from the sorts of things the rest of us struggle with – anxiety, depression, self doubt. But it turns out that we all, both actors and fans, have faced hopelessness, sadness and that persistent fear of not being good enough. We all need to find acceptance and feel like we belong and we all have felt like we didn’t. The cast and the fans who shared their stories in this book have all been there. They shared those stories with great courage – so we hope that when you read FDEWB, you can feel it.

All of us, both actors and fans, wanted the book to reach people and inspire them. We also wanted FDEWB to support some of the charitable organizations that are out there doing good in the world every day, so a portion of every sale of FDEWB goes to Random Acts (spreading kindness and helping those in need worldwide) and Attitudes in Reverse (fighting to end the stigma around talking about depression and suicide so more people can get help). In addition to those donations, we have also been able to donate to some causes very important to the SPNFamily and cast during the past year by auctioning and donating signed copies of FDEWB, with over $5,000 donated to Team Levi, Random Acts, the National Suicide Hotline and the Bad Idea Tour thanks to the generosity of this amazing fandom.

If anyone needs a reminder of what this SPNFamily is all about – to give you the inspiration to keep going through tough times, or a reminder of how much these actors care about the fandom and each other – I thought I’d share a few of the things that Jared, Jensen and Misha wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, for those who haven’t read their chapters. (And yes, this is why we have the Best. Cast. Ever. And the best fandom too!)

In his chapter, Jared opens up and tells the intensely personal story of his struggle with anxiety and depression – and how the Supernatural fandom taught him what he needed to know to keep fighting:

The fandom has taught me to Always Keep Fighting. More often than not, the fight sucks. But I guess that’s why it’s a fight. The fandom has helped me realize that there will be a brighter day on the horizon. It may be further off than you’d hope, but it’s there, and if you believe that and commit to fighting through hardships, you will find that peace.

As Misha says in his chapter:

Not everyone has a supportive family around them to help get you through the hard times. But luckily, in this SPNFamily, you may have landed in a supportive and loving community – a community that has your back.

That’s also why FDEWB benefits Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse – because we are a community, and we do have each other’s backs.

Jensen puts it this way in his chapter:

You see, we’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.

Now that we’ve seen the Ackles family’s eccentric and utterly awesome house, what Jensen wrote about the little bit of strange in each of us seems even more heartwarming!

We hope that every time you read Family Don’t End With Blood, you remember just how much difference this little television show and its unique family have made in so many lives, both cast and fans. And we hope it brings you some peace and joy.

Happy holidays from all of us at Fangasm, and we look forward to seeing and hearing from all of you in 2019!

FDEWB23

Lynn

If you’d like to read Family Don’t End With

Blood, and benefit Random Acts and AIR, it’s on

sale on Amazon at the links on our home page!

Holiday Shopping Supernatural Style!

The holiday season is here! If you have a Supernatural fan on your list (or you’re making a wish list for yourself because really, you deserve it!), then one of our Supernatural books just might be the perfect gift this holiday season! From Family Don’t End With Blood to Supernatural Psychology, we have several books to choose from, plus other FDEWB merchandise such as t-shirts, phone cases, tote bags and more.

Many of the books are now at special holiday sale prices. All the information you need – plus links to take you right to ordering – below!

 

Family Don’t End With Blood – This is the only book actually written by the Supernatural actors. Jared, Jensen, Misha, Kim, Briana, Ruth, Rachel, Mark, Matt, Rob, Osric, Jim and Gil (plus a dozen Supernatural fans) all share their stories of how being on Supernatural and part of the SPNFamily has changed their lives.

We’re so grateful to the actors for their courage and candor in sharing such personal stories of how they’ve grappled with depression, anxiety, and self doubt and found the strength to take risks and keep fighting thanks to the support of the fandom – and to the fans for sharing their stories of how the actors and fellow fans inspired them to do the same.

We love hearing that reading this book has inspired others to keep fighting too – and every purchase benefits Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse to help make a difference! Click Here to Order!

Did you know there’s also FDEWB merch? If you love the book or love the cover art, we have a shop on Society6 with a variety of products, including t-shirts, totes, mugs and more featuring the beautiful cover design by talented artist Cris Griffin.

Order here (instructions for how to see ALL the many FDEWB products are at the top of the page) Click Here to Order!

Supernatural Psychology – If you’ve ever tried to figure out why Supernatural is the best show ever, then this is the book for you. Written by a variety of psychologists who are also fans of the show, this book explores how the Winchesters, Castiel and many other characters deal with the challenges thrown their way, and what drives these characters to always keep fighting. The book also includes a moving introduction by Mark Pellegrino (Lucifer).

Click Here to Order!

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Family Don’t End With Blood and National Suicide Prevention Week

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds. One of the biggest impediments to people getting help is reluctance to admit to struggling with depression and feeling like you can’t go on. The stigma around talking about depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts prevents people from reaching out and getting the help they need – it is crucial that we challenge this stigma and let everyone know that it’s okay to talk about how you feel, without judgment or criticism or censure.

As a psychologist, I’ve worked to eliminate that stigma and help people individually to find a reason and a way to keep living. One of the reasons we put together the book Family Don’t End With Blood was to challenge the taboos around talking about depression and suicide on a broader level – in a way that would be powerful to readers. Sometimes we think of “celebrities” as immune from those difficulties, so Family Don’t End With Blood is written by the actors from the television show Supernatural.  The actors who wrote chapters were all courageous in refusing to allow stigma to silence them. They wrote, with candor and emotion, about their struggles with depression, anxiety and self doubt. They allowed readers into their worlds, into their darkest hours, so that anyone reading the book would know that they are truly not alone. That it’s okay to speak up and tell people how much you’re hurting, and it’s okay to ask for help and to accept it when it’s given.

Sometimes we also think, mistakenly, that people who are “like us” are nevertheless much happier or more successful or more loved or whatever; we don’t think that they’re struggling in the same way that we are. So Family Don’t End With Blood also has chapters written by fans, who are just like you and me. They too write with courage about fighting against depression, anxiety, addiction, the feeling of not being “enough” – and of how they managed to keep going even when it was very hard.

Jared Padalecki’s chapter stands out for his willingness to speak openly about the time he almost gave up – and how he was able to let his friends and family and fans give him the support that allowed him to Always Keep Fighting. We hope, and all of us who wrote the book hope, that his words and his courage inspire others who are having trouble not giving up to keep fighting too. That everyone who reads his chapter feels validated in their own struggle and encouraged to continue on.

There are organizations out there that are doing amazing work trying to change the world. That’s why every copy of Family Don’t End With Blood benefits Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse, an organization that aims to educate about depression, to erase the stigma around mental health, and to prevent suicide.

For his birthday this year, in appreciation of Jared’s chapter and his AKF campaign, we also decided to do a fundraiser in Jared’s honor. He asked that the proceeds go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Most of the actors who wrote Family Don’t End With Blood signed a copy, and a very generous fan contributed almost $2000 to purchase it. We also sold a few tee shirts designed by Angie Siketa, and we were honored to donate all the proceeds to the Hotline, to support the important work they do providing a lifeline to those who need it.

It’s important to remember that we all need to hear encouraging and supportive messages from time to time. We all need someone who cares about us to have our back and to lift us up when we’re in danger of falling and carry us until we find our footing again.

So we wanted to give something to Jared too. Thank you to everyone who wrote him a heartfelt message about what his #AKF campaigns and his chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood have meant to you. We gave those messages to him in book form at the last con (with beautiful cover design by Cris Griffin, who also did the gorgeous cover art for Family Don’t End With Blood). I hope your words encourage him just as his words have encouraged so many of us.

You can donate to any of the organizations below that are working to provide help to anyone dealing with depression and to prevent suicide, or give a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood to someone who needs to know that they aren’t alone, and that even lead actors on a successful television show struggle with depression and anxiety and need support sometimes.

Ask about it. Talk about it. Make it okay to talk about ALL emotions openly and honestly, and to ask for help when you need it.

And #AKF.

Jared and Jensen show each other how it felt to read the other’s chapter

There’s help if you or someone else needs it. Don’t be afraid to reach out for it.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Attitudes in Reverse: AttitudesInReverse.org

To Write Love On Her Arms: twloha.com

IMAlive: IMalive.org

Random Acts Crisis Network: randomacts.org/crisis-support-network/

— Lynn and Kim

Click Here to Order!  your copy of Family Don’t End With Blood

 

Vote For A Hero! The 2018 Change Maker Awards and the Supernatural Connection

When we decided to write Family Don’t End With Blood, one of the main reasons was to break the silence around mental health challenges. If nobody talks about their challenges, we all tend to think we’re the only ones suffering, and thus we keep silent. That means we don’t reach out for help when we need it – and that is a dangerous thing. As a psychologist, I know the tremendous value of hearing other people’s stories, so that our own can be validated. So that WE can be validated, and thus feel worthy of the help we so deserve. Many of the chapters in the book are written by people who have dealt with a significant challenge – and have come out on the other side. Some of those are Supernatural fans, and some of those are Supernatural actors.

Jared Padalecki was the first Supernatural actor who told me that he had something to say and a reason to say it in Family Don’t End With Blood. He wanted to tell his own story of coming up against significant challenges of anxiety and depression, so that others would be emboldened to tell theirs to someone who could help – so that others who were struggling would truly know “you are not alone”. Jared had partnered with two important organizations to help get that message out there, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and Attitudes in Reverse (AIR). Both organizations do amazing and important work in fighting stigma, educating people about mental health, and providing a route for people who are struggling to find the help they need.

Because everyone who wrote a chapter for Family Don’t End With Blood was passionate about making a difference, we decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to two of the charitable organizations the cast supports – Misha Collins’ Random Acts and one of Jared’s partners, Attitudes in Reverse.

AIR was started by Tricia and Kurt Baker after they lost their son Kenny to suicide. AIR volunteers, along with Trish and Kurt and their therapy dog Miki, speak at schools and universities about suicide prevention and mental health, and have put together a powerful exhibition called “In Their Shoes.” Each pair of shoes in the exhibit is from someone with an important message, written in their own words on their shoes, and helping to increase understanding and empathy for those who are struggling. You can literally “put yourself in their shoes” and understand the need for help and breaking the silence.

I’ve donated a pair of shoes, and so have many of the Supernatural cast. Gil McKinney, Samantha Smith, Mark Pellegrino, Carrie Genzel, Rob Benedict and Louden Swain, Jason Manns, Lauren Tom, Chris Schmelke and many others have written their messages on a pair of their shoes.

Samantha Smith donates a pair of shoes
Gil McKinney
Carrie Genzel

Jensen Ackles donated a worn pair of sneakers, with the message “My brother, I’ve got your back….Always.” When Jared was struggling, Jensen was there for him, and his message reflects his unwavering empathy, understanding and support.

Jared Padalecki donated a pair of boots which have travelled all over the country to help raise awareness. His message: When life breaks you down, never give up. Always Keep Fighting.

Jared and Jensen’s donated shoes and heartfelt messages
Miki feeling safe and comforted between Jared and Jensen’s shoes 🙂

In the chapter he wrote for Family Don’t End With Blood, Jared opens up about his own anxiety and depression, and how sometimes it has been difficult for him to keep going. He writes with extraordinary candor and vulnerability, taking the reader along with him on a lifetime journey of self discovery starting with his own childhood and continuing through Supernatural and the present. Jared shares his story so that others can feel like it’s okay to share theirs – and to accept help, just like he did.

I’ve had an ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression most of my adult life… it did win a few battles along the way (though I am proud to say, I am winning the WAR!). One of those battles was in season 3, during the filming of “A Very Supernatural Christmas.” It was a day like any other: I woke up, worked out, memorized my lines, and headed to the set. But something I couldn’t identify (or, maybe, that I was choosing to ignore) was eating at me. Beating me down. Convincing me that it was going to win, and that I didn’t have a chance to stop it. I made it through my daily hair and makeup and was taken to set for a rehearsal and blocking of our day’s first scene. I got in the car and rode to set, and then I was sent back to my trailer to finish changing into wardrobe and to wait while the crew set up the lighting. I walked into my trailer, sat down on the couch, and I couldn’t get up. I could no longer, on my own, muster the will to carry on. I heard the knocks on my door and I knew my crew was ready for me on set, but I couldn’t make it out of my trailer. After a bit of time, Jensen came into my trailer to see what was going on, and he knew I was not okay. He had the assistant director call for a doctor, and he sat with me to talk. The doctor showed up a bit later and sat with me in my trailer to ask me a few questions. After some time, the doctor told me that his professional opinion was that I was clinically depressed, and I should take some time off from filming.

That’s when it hit me.

I couldn’t stop filming.

I couldn’t put my crew out of work for a day, a week, a month.

I also couldn’t face, or admit, what was going on in my head.

I met the doctor in the middle. I went home, and we pushed that day’s scenes to another time. After a long sleep and a long jog and a long bath, I was ready to show back up for work the next day. Supernatural has continued for many years after that. And then, seven years later, we went back to film at the very same house we were using the day I sat in my trailer and couldn’t make it to set. That day was the day I also launched the first Always Keep Fighting campaign. In over 200 episodes, over 1,600 filming days, and hundreds of locations, what are the odds?

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