Sunday at Supernatural Nashville – The Last Con “Before We Knew”

 

My partner in crime, Kim Prior, wrote the Friday and Saturday wrap ups of Nashcon since I’ve done nothing but fly back and forth across the country, so this is the first time I’m sitting down to do my own write up, and finding that my perspective is different than it would have been, had I written this up as soon as I got home.

Nashville will forever, for me, be the last con before we “knew”. Before we had to recognize what we’d known all along, that this is finite — and that the Show will end after Season 15. Everyone, including the actors, has assured us that the conventions will continue at least for a while, but there’s no doubt it will be different. We won’t have current canon to argue about, for one thing. Jared and Jensen may be working on different and exciting projects, but most likely they won’t be co-leads of another show, so they won’t be working together. Misha will be off saving the world (or possibly being President) and the three of them won’t have any “let us tell you what happened during filming yesterday” tales. Of course they’ve accumulated a lot of those over fifteen seasons, but still, not the same.

At Nashville, I didn’t have that knowledge that things would be changing in a year. All I knew was that we were finally getting to see the best cast ever again after what felt like a long gap – since 2018, in fact. Seattle didn’t happen, so it felt like it had been a very long time since we’d had the actors onstage ‘touching base’ with the fandom, either in person or on video. A long time since we’d been able to ask them questions and see them laugh and enjoy their camaraderie. Maybe that’s why Nashville had an energy to it that took your breath away.

That energy was very evident on Sunday. It was so clear that the J’s had missed doing conventions almost as much as we’d missed them. In Jensen’s chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood, he writes about all he gets from being with the fans – that it’s energy to fuel them. They had been a long time away from their fandom fuel with Seattle con cancelled, and they were almost giddy to be back in the welcoming arms of fandom again. And damn, did that feel good.

March 2019, before we got The News, was a very good month for Supernatural fandom indeed. We’d had tons of photos and videos and tweets from J2M, including a glorious day of Jensen reigning as King Bacchus at Mardi Gras with news coverage and videos from the parade and the charity visits the day before. I don’t think any of us will ever forget King Ackles in full regalia (including white tights and boots!) regally tossing doubloons and beads to his loyal followers. Local New Orleans news teams were like “who the hell is this guy?” but we already knew. It felt like the world was discovering what we already knew is incredibly special, and we really were the fandom on top of the world. That’s where we were when Nashville con kicked off.

[Gorgeous photos ahead by Kim Prior. You’ve been warned.]

The morning began with the Gold panel; the stage and mics were decorated with Mardi Gras beads in honor of Jensen’s recent reign as King Bacchus, and most fans wore gold crowns as we sat in the audience. Jensen got right into the spirit of things, donning one of the crowns backstage and then walking out and doing a little Kingly wave for the fans.

Jared: Ladies and gentlemen, appearing for the first time, King Ackles! All hail.

Jensen rocked his crown and his kingly wave. Jared dropped the crown Jensen gave him then wore it like a belt for a hot second.

A fan asked about Jensen’s experience being Bacchus and we immediately knew this was going to be a day to remember and panels that would be some of my favorites of this entire wild crazy ride.

Jensen: I must say I was expecting more of a skin show than I got.

Jared: I would’ve shown you my chest.

Jensen: I know you would. He does it all the time.

Jensen to Jared: I must say you look fetching today (his luggage didn’t come with him)

Jared: I showered Tuesday.

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On Losing Supernatural – Heartbreak, Grief and So Much Gratitude

 

There’s a psychological phenomenon that happens when we have an experience that shakes our world so much that our brains encode it as a “flashbulb memory”. It’s an old term, and some of you have probably never seen a camera with a flashbulb, but back in the day it used to go off and illuminate a scene you were capturing with a photo, freezing it in time forever. That sort of memory is so important, and often so upsetting, that it too is frozen in time forever in our brains. The sights, the sounds, the emotions of that moment. It doesn’t fade like other memories, or lose the emotional intensity that was there when it was encoded. Instead, it remains as clear and vivid as if it happened yesterday – we remember the clothes we were wearing when we heard the news, or exactly what we were doing or thinking, or who we were talking to. We remember our initial shock and then the moment when our emotions kicked in.

Usually we think of flashbulb memories as things like the moment you found out about a world-changing event like 9/11 or you got the news that a loved one passed. That’s the level of importance. And yet, I think I may have had one on Friday afternoon  – the moment I found out that Supernatural would finally end a  year from now. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not making the ending of a television show equivalent to those horrific circumstances, but that’s not how our brains work. When something is important, it’s important. Especially emotionally important. Our brains don’t judge. And for many people, that little television show that lasted for 15 seasons is personally and emotionally important.

I’ve seen quite a few posts essentially saying “what the hell is wrong with these people that they’re grieving a TV show, get a life!”  There are lots of posts from fans whose family and non-fannish friends are dismissive of their sadness and critical of them for grieving a television show. Sometimes these people mean well, but let’s face it, they really don’t understand. Luckily, there’s a lot of support in the fandom community, in all its various forms. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that Supernatural is so important in the first place. Yes, fans are incredibly sad to be losing Sam and Dean and Castiel, the fictional characters who mean so much to us. But it’s more than that. Supernatural created a family over these past fourteen years. It’s where many fans found their best friends, their support systems, the people who finally “got” them. It’s where they felt like they belonged, maybe for the first time. That is powerful. Life changing sort of powerful.

When I was putting together Family Don’t End With Blood, it was originally going to be a book written by just the fans. We would all share our stories of how Supernatural and its characters and actors and fan community had changed – and literally saved  – our lives. So there are thirteen chapters in that book written by fans that describe how important the show has been, from helping a fan get “sober for Sam” to battling cancer, from leaving a cult to having the courage to change who you are and go after who you want to be. Testaments to the way their lives changed when they became involved in changing others’, through Random Acts or GISHWHES, volunteering for a charity or even starting one.  Over the years, I’ve heard thousands more. It’s not the only show or film or book that has changed lives, but thanks to its unprecedented fourteen years on the air and hundreds of conventions, Supernatural has had a greater impact than most.

That Family Don’t End With Blood turned out to be a book written by the Supernatural actors as well as the fans is an indication of just how unique and powerful the phenomenon is. Because it’s not just us who were changed by the show. It’s not just us, in fact, who have had our lives saved by the show and the fandom. It’s the actors who bring the show to life too. And unlike many who work in a judgmental industry that demands perfection, these actors felt close enough to their fans to want to share that – in an actual book that they wrote themselves. That’s extraordinary. Jared, Jensen, Misha and so many other Supernatural actors opened up and wrote about how their lives have changed – finding the courage to pursue things they’d always wanted, finding the validation to become who they really are, surviving a life-threatening stroke, and even finding the support to get up and “always keep fighting” when one of them was at the point of wanting to stop. I don’t know another television show whose actors have been that real with their fans, or another show that has changed its cast’s lives in such a powerful way.

But as I often say when talking about the book, these are not your ordinary actors. It says something so important about Jared, Jensen and Misha that when the decision was made to end the show after next season, they told their long-time crew the news first, the people who are like family to them and whose livelihoods depend on this show. Then they took to social media themselves, recording a video for the fandom explaining that the fifteenth season would be the last. Although all three were clearly struggling with their own emotions, they wanted their fans to hear it from them. It’s the same reason they wrote Family Don’t End With Blood in their own words, because this is too important to telegraph through someone else. I respect the hell out of them for making that video.

The impact of this show doesn’t stop there, however, with the fans and the cast. Over the past few days, actors who have been on the show once or twice or have not been on it at all have weighed in on social media with messages of respect and support, thanking Supernatural for being the exemplary thing that it is and inspiring everyone in the industry. The BC film industry itself weighed in, with gratitude for what the show has done for that industry and Vancouver, including huge financial benefits and providing a talented and hard-working crew with a job they could count on for fifteen years – and one they could love. Journalists from many of the publications that cover fan-favorite shows also shared their own stories of how Supernatural has impacted them; for many, the show was responsible for them entering the field, and for some, it was a personal support over the years just like it has been for many fans.

It’s been four days of shock and grief for the Supernatural fandom as we all start to cope with the impending loss in our own ways. Fandom, ever brilliant and creative, immediately began expressing our intense emotions with art and photos and graphics and heartfelt posts.

Who made a deal, that the show Kripke originally planned to end after Season 5 will go exactly ten seasons longer?

Fans looked back at recent episodes, and wondered if the words were prescient.

“Humans burn bright, but for a very brief time. And eventually they’re gone, even the very best ones, and we have to carry on.” – Castiel, 14×14, Ouroboros

There were clips of Rob Benedict as Chuck, singing that soulful version of “Fare The Well” that now takes on new meaning.

There were gifs and screencaps of that pivotal scene where Sam finds out that Dean made a deal to save his life, and that he’ll go to hell for it – that scene that made so many of us realize just how different and special this show was. The first time I saw it posted on Friday, it hit me like a gut punch.

Fans reached out to other fans, offering a safe place to talk, a shoulder to cry on, whatever support might help. Within the fan community, there was instant understanding that this was an important loss that people were facing, and that it wasn’t something to be dismissed or ridiculed.

Then, as fans began the inevitable process of grief adaptation, they began to look back with gratitude on what Supernatural has given each of us and to celebrate the remarkable accomplishment that this little show has been. The hashtag #SPNGaveMe immediately sprang up on Twitter, and fans started sharing all those life-changing things that Supernatural brought to their lives. Some fans said that they had pulled out their copy of Family Don’t End With Blood to re-read the words of the actors and the fans that memorialize for all time just how special this show and its fandom have been. All over social media, fans reached out to other fans with support and comfort and empathy. I saw many posts from fans of other shows who had never even seen an episode of Supernatural, but as fellow fans, they understood the depth of this loss and reached out with sympathy. As always, fandom took care of each other.

I did my own looking back, my own assessment of what #SPNGaveMe and why this Show is so special to me. I’ve written six books about the show that trace my own journey with Supernatural and how the show and the characters have inspired me and changed me, but I don’t think I’ll ever have enough words to truly describe how profoundly this little television show has changed my life. I found my voice – and myself – through this Show and this fandom. I found courage I’d never had – to speak up, to be real, to change jobs, to call myself a writer and get published. I found friends who have challenged me and supported me, and who I’ve traveled the world with and had the most amazing, life-changing adventures. I’ve had to open my eyes to my own blindnesses and biases and start to make progress in putting them aside. I’ve learned that I can be criticized and not fall apart, and sometimes even learn from that criticism! I’ve gone from being the painfully shy girl who once failed geography class because I literally never spoke the entire time to giving panels at San Diego Comic Con and all over the country – and actually enjoying it!  I’ve gone from someone who was too anxious to travel on my own to someone who has navigated airports and train stations and bus stations all over the world – because seeing my fellow Supernatural fans and this cast was just that worth it. The mantra of the Winchester brothers and the Show to “always keep fighting” has been my mantra too, and it has made all the difference.

I am, quite literally, a different person than I was in 2005 when this little Show began.

And that makes the announcement of its ending very important indeed.

The first promo I ever saw for this new show…

So where was I when this flashbulb moment happened?

I was sitting at the Project Fancare table at Lexington Comic Con, surrounded by copies of Family Don’t End With Blood and fellow fans. Project Fancare is a nonprofit which gives fans a forum to talk openly about how television and film and books and all sorts of fandoms have helped them get through tough times, and why that’s a good thing.  I had just finished talking to a woman who stopped to tell me what the book and the show had meant to her, which I will never get tired of hearing.

As the woman walked away, my friend Kim leaned over and said softly in my ear, “You need to take a break. Take your phone and go to the bathroom and watch the video that Jensen just posted.” That’s all she said, but instantly I knew. I knew from the genuine emotion in her voice, and the concern for me that I could hear there. I knew because there’s a part of me that has been waiting for this and anticipating it and knew it was coming sooner rather than later. I knew because my stomach instantly fell and my brain kicked into survival mode, blocking all my emotions and making me feel oddly calm even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t. I can vividly see the table in front of me, the books spread out there, and the woman walking away. She was wearing one of the first Represent ‘Always Keep Fighting’ tee shirts and she had red red hair and a bag with the protection symbol on it. I can see it like it’s a photo frozen in time like a flashbulb, and I can hear Kim’s voice and her words like she just finished talking, even though it’s four days later.

I stood in the alcove by the bathroom in the giant convention center and pulled out my phone and found the video – and as soon as I saw their faces, there was no doubt in my mind. Jared, Jensen and Misha are extraordinary in how open they have been with their fans, that’s why they wrote FDEWB after all. I could see all the emotion they were struggling to contain in their faces before I ever hit play to listen to the message. And I am forever grateful that I got to hear it from them.

Within minutes, my phone blew up with people wanting to know if I was okay or wanting to express their own shock and sadness. My fandom friends texted and tweeted and posted and called. My family members, who do understand now that this is important to me, reached out too, checking on how I was doing even if they don’t truly understand why the loss is so deep. I reached out to some of the cast too, who were as emotional as I was feeling. I did a panel with Ruth Connell the next day, so I was able to share with her in person, for which I felt lucky. Even in the midst of grief, there was a sense of “we’re all in this together” that was comforting, even if we might have wished we weren’t in this particular something right now.

It’s four days later as I write this. We are all trying to find the coping strategies that work for us now. Make sure you do so without shame – not everyone will understand how people can grieve for a television show or for fictional characters who don’t exist or for friends you’ve never met in person, but that grief is real because the loss is real.  There’s research in one of my books about how we get the same emotional satisfaction from spending an evening with our favorite fictional characters as we do having dinner with family or close friends. Fictional characters play a role in inspiring us and fictional stories are a way of making sense of (and possibly rewriting) our own life stories. Friendship can transcend the physical and online communities can be amazing sources of support. All of that is real, and all of that is healthy. If you’re struggling with a way to cope with fear of losing those things, do what every single person who wrote a chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood advises – tell someone, talk about it, and get some help. There are resources at the end of this article, and don’t be afraid to use them.

It’s also helpful to remind ourselves of the important thing that Supernatural’s very own “dad” posted after the news broke. Eric Kripke, who created this show and these characters, was the empathic father figure on Friday who reached out to tell us all that what he’s most proud of is the family created by his show – and that family is not going anywhere.

@TheRealKripke:

please remember: shows end. But family is forever. That never changes & that’s what you’ve created here. All my love & thanks to the cast & crew & most of all you, the family. @cw_spn@jarpad @JensenAckles @mishacollins @andrewdabb @serathegamble @ben_edlund

He’s right.

Things will change, but not everything. We may not gather together to dissect the latest episode or argue amongst ourselves about which way canon “should” go, but we will have fifteen seasons of rich and nuanced and fascinating adventures to keep watching and keep talking about. As with all fandoms, a lot of what my SPNFamily friends and I talk about on a daily basis doesn’t even have anything to do with Supernatural – we talk family stresses, job challenges, kid questions, politics, that awesome thing we found at Target – whatever!  They are the people I can reach out to for support, no matter what the problem.

Fandom friends become forever friends, and the friendship is all the richer for that amazing show that brought us together. Ten years from now a bunch of us will say hey, let’s all watch the Pilot, or The French Mistake, or All Hell Breaks Loose, or the Finale. And no matter where we are in life and who we’ve gone on to become, we’ll all pause and be reminded of all the ways that Supernatural changed our lives. Maybe we’ll get a little teary and reach for the tissues, and maybe we’ll share some hugs as we dab at our eyes, either virtual or in person. Because we’ll always have this in common, and we’ll always “get it”. Nobody can ever take that away.

For now, I’m gonna cherish every single moment I get to spend with the Winchesters and Cas and company for the next year, stock up on tissues, and remember to be very very grateful for this Show and all it’s brought me.

–Lynn

To Write Love On Her Arms: twloha.com

IMAlive: IMalive.org

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

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Attitudes in Reverse: AttitudesInReverse.org

And remember, Family don’t end with blood.

Jared and Gen Padalecki and Dream Big Team Up to Help Dreams Come True!

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.

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Jensen Ackles Reigns as King Bacchus LI at Mardi Gras

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.

Photo Chris Granger

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.

Photo Steve Randon

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!

Photo The Advocate
Getty Images
Photo Kenny Lopez

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.

From Danneel Ackles IG
With the Princess – From Danneel Ackles IG

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)

–Lynn

You can read Jensen’s chapter along with

Jared’s, Misha’s and many others in Family

Don’t End With Blood – links on the home page

Cover image: Kenny Lopez

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

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