Always Keep Fighting – A Message of Hope for World Suicide Prevention Day

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:

Read more

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