Happy 4th Anniversary, Always Keep Fighting!

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.

I broke.

Plain and simple.

I. Broke.

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.

 

Graphic Dr. SPN PHD

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

To Write Love On Her Arms – https://twloha.com/find-help/

Crisis Support Network – https://www.randomacts.org/crisis-support-network/

IAmAlive Text Chat – https://www.imalive.org/chat.php

— Lynn

You can find Family Don’t End With

Blood at the links on the home page

and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Emotionally Powerful, Just How I like It – Supernatural Byzantium

 

I watched last week’s Supernatural episode at a Supernatural convention in Jacksonville with my friend , YouTuber Alana King. That meant we recorded our reactions live for her video, much of which consisted of me making stunned faces and needing lots of tissues, which our helpful friend Christina kept tossing over from off camera. Alana and I were in shock half the time, so there are long stretches of us frozen with our jaws hanging open (which is not very attractive NGL) but when we did get animated, there was a lot to say.  I’ll link the video at the end if you’d like to laugh at us. Feel free!

Now that the con is over and I’ve had time to do a rewatch, I’ve got some deeper thoughts and some praise for pretty much everyone who had a hand in crafting this episode – and that makes me one happy fangirl!

The episode begins with Jack’s three dads sitting at his bedside, doing just what Rowena said – watching over him as he dies.  (Cue my first wobbly lower lip).  Sam is right there next to him, so much sadness in his expressive eyes. Dean is across the room, struggling to hold it together, hands gripping the sides of the dresser telegraphing all the emotion he’s trying not to show. Cas stands watching over all of them, blue eyes troubled.

Jack is the one dealing with his impending death the best, saying that maybe this is how it’s supposed to be and asking his dads not to be sad.

Dean: Don’t give me that meant to be crap.

Jack starts to cough, having trouble breathing, and Dean walks out, unable to watch someone he loves suffering. He’s angry, as he always is when life hands someone he cares about a raw deal.  He punches the wall like he did when  Bobby was dying, even as Jack asks Sam to tell Dean that it’s okay. The role reversal here at the end of Jack’s life is painful, Jack trying so hard to comfort the three men who are already grieving him.

Jack: Sam, what happens next, for someone like me?

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The Winchesters Are Together Again in this Week’s Supernatural, ‘The Scar’

 

This week’s Supernatural brought a divided reaction from fans, which is almost always the case for this show – but I really enjoyed it. Writer Robert Berens kept things mostly canon-compliant, so I had fewer head scratching or WTF moments. And while the back and forth between story lines still jarred me, at least this week there were only two story lines running simultaneously instead of three or more. So instead of a scene by scene analysis, here are the things I loved, the things I liked, and the things that didn’t work for me in this episode for each of those two storylines.

Story line number one is Sam and Dean together again and in pursuit of something that will harm Michael. Story line number two diverges after the first few scenes to follow Castiel and Jack at the bunker trying to save a hapless young woman who the hunters have rescued from a witch. (Nick is off trying to find himself or his family’s killers, so thankfully no story line number three. He apparently left a note and isn’t returning Castiel’s phone calls, which isn’t ominous at all… but that’s okay, I’m just glad we only have two stories to bounce back and forth between this week because that’s enough!)

I have a lot to say about the first, so let me start with the latter. I continue to like the exploration of Cas and Jack’s relationship that this season is undertaking. Jack continues to struggle with finding his place with the hunters, so hurt after Dean dismisses him that Jack decides to run away. He’s such a teenager sometimes, and I find that endearing. He packs up his little backpack and prepares to leave, writing a note out for all three of his “dads”, but then hears Cas and AU hunter Jules trying to help Laura, a young woman kidnapped by a witch and dying from an aging spell. Jack, who can be quite empathic at times, decides to stay, drawn in by the woman’s dire circumstances and his desire to console her.

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Are These Twenty Things Wrong with Sam and Dean?

 

There’s an article over on ScreenRant  provocatively titled “20 Things Wrong with Sam and Dean Everyone Chooses to Ignore” which has a lot of people talking today. I rarely weigh in on other people’s articles because everyone has a right to their own opinion when it comes to this fictional show and these fictional characters – your interpretation, my interpretation, YMMV. And considering its provocative title, the controversy is probably exactly what the author was going for. A number of people have weighed in in the comments and made some very good points, so I also don’t want to belabor those points, but I will admit that when I got to the No. 1 thing I started shaking my head so fast I nearly gave myself whiplash. Then a few people asked me to weigh in with my psychologist hat on, so I thought, why not. However, my fangirl hat is definitely on as well, so I look sort of funny right now balancing two hats at once.

Anyway, let’s touch on these one at a time. I don’t disagree with everything in the article, but I do have a different viewpoint on some of the assertions.

20. They always come back to life. More a criticism of the writers than Sam and Dean, who even if they were real and had any agency, most likely wouldn’t be the ones to blame for this. Yes, it dilutes the emotional power of death scenes somewhat, but it also keeps a show on the air for 14 seasons. (Also I still sobbed like a baby when Sam died in the tunnels last season and Dean couldn’t save him, both while I watched it be filmed and when I saw it onscreen. I as a viewer may know that Sam will be back, but Dean the character does not know any such thing, and it was in empathy for him that I sobbed. Like a lot.)

19. Dean’s history with women. Is it problematic? Sure. Not in all the ways asserted here, I don’t think. But what I quibble with here most is the assertion that “it’s an aspect of Dean that fans try to ignore.” Not in my fannish circles, that’s for sure! I have a new book coming out all about the evolution of female characters on Supernatural, so my perspective may be a bit skewed, but we’ve all been talking about this since Season 1, way back on Live Journal meta commentary communities.

18. Sam always gets knocked out. Okay, I kinda agree with this one. My reviews often contain rants about Sam or Dean not being the smart and capable hunters we know they are. It’s a contrivance that keeps the story going, but it can create some head scratching.

17. Dean idolizes their abusive father. I think that was true at one time, but not any more. That’s been part of Dean’s evolution as a character, coming to terms with his idolization of both John and Mary. The thing is, it’s not unrealistic. I’ve worked with many children whose parents were a lot more overtly abusive than John, but the children still love the parents. We’re wired that way; we’ll do whatever mental gymnastics we have to do in order to maintain our view of our parents as people who love us and will take care of us. The alternative is just too terrifying. The way Dean was raised, he had to step up early on and push things like anger and disappointment and longing for love out of the way in order to survive, and to ensure that Sam survived. A defensive blanket acceptance of everything John Winchester told him was the perfect way to do that. However, Dean hasn’t been frozen there; he sees both his parents now more as flawed humans whose motives and behavior can be questioned instead of blindly accepted.

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Catching Up With Supernatural alum Sera Gamble and company – The Magicians at Comic Con 2018!

 

The Magicians returned to San Diego Comic Con to celebrate the upcoming Season 4, and I couldn’t wait to chat with the cast and producers again. It’s one of my favorite shows – I love the creativity of it, the imagination, the willingness to go wherever the story takes them even when that is sometimes the last place you expect it to go! Not to mention the amazing actors and writers who bring the sometimes surprising story to life, based on Lev Grossman’s fascinating books.

The press room for the show was first, so I headed to the Hilton Bayfront and grabbed a table.  First to our table were showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara. I was ecstatic to see Sera again – she’s the former showrunner and writer for Supernatural, and was literally the first person from Supernatural who took the time to talk with me when I started researching fandom and writing books about the show, and she contributed some valuable insights to my first few books. I will be forever grateful for her generosity in answering my questions, facilitating my research, and always encouraging my writing over the many years since.

Sera and John summed up where we ended the last season, which was with everyone in quite a dilemma.

John: No one knows who they are.

Sera: Alice does, but she’s locked in a prison in the library. So it’s a very interesting first episode because our characters have no fucking clue who they are.

Not to mention Eliot is now the monster…

Me (with my psychologist hat firmly on): Are you treating this like the characters have amnesia and it’s almost like a trauma for them?

John: It’s more like you are that person, an entirely different human being.

Sera: They even look different.

John: When they look in the mirror, they see someone different.

Sera: We’ll explain why in the first episode, but we’ve actually got two sets of actors. It required a lot of explaining when we were producing the first episode, but it makes sense when you watch it.

Me: Oooh that’s intriguing…

John and Sera: (cagey grins)

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