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:

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One More Time While Filming – Supernatural Vancouver 2019! (Part One)

Thursday, Friday and Saturday at SPNVan….

I love when Vancon is in August, because that means I can head up there a few days early to just have FUN. My first flight was cancelled and it took five hours to get it straightened out and get off the ground, so Wednesday was pretty much a no go, but I did get there in time to have a nice dinner with my friend Betty (who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport). After we’d indulged in lots of good pizza, we drove by the filming location for that evening, a nearby school. Due to our prioritizing of food (okay, it was my prioritizing, tbh) we arrived just as they were wrapping filming for the night – but in time to wave cheerily at the vans and trucks as they pulled out. Oh well.

Betty dropped me off at the Air BnB I was sharing with my friends Alana and Illy, who had spent the day braving the Vancouver rain and searching for past filming locations (all captured on Alana’s @_KingBooks_ Wednesday blog if you’re curious). We had the tiniest little Air BnB ever with a portable air conditioner that required us to leave a window open so its flexible tubing could protrude when we ran it but the shower was lovely and there was a fridge and two beds so we were happy fangirls.

Thursday we got up (relatively) early, walked to the little shopping area a few blocks away to a) get Lynn a latte before she gets too cranky and b) drop off clothes at the laundromat. The laundromat made me picture human!Cas stripping down to do laundry and that made me smile. The latte helped too.

The three of us then piled into the car (Kansas plates, and yes that made us giggle) and hit the road, armed with Alana’s list of past filming locations thanks to a generous fan on LiveJournal who has painstakingly logged them all for going on fifteen years. Fandom, y’all.

We got incredibly lucky at our first attempt, finding the iconic fence by the river where Dean famously told Sam that their father had said that if he couldn’t save Sam, he might have to kill him. If you’ve read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’, there’s a chapter in which Kathy and I and some friends also try to find this fence, but have a lot more trouble (without the benefit of any directions). We finally found it at midnight that time, only to be stopped and questioned by flashlight wielding police officers who were sure that a bunch of women scrambling down an overgrown bank in a wooded area at midnight could only be up to no good.

The place has changed a bit – the overgrown banks are now just grass, with a lovely park bench, and there’s now a paved pathway along the fence. The fence itself, which was just a couple of ramshackle boards on posts, is now four new-looking boards. It’s an incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot – which made such a striking contrast when Dean has to say something so horrible to Sam.

The posts were still there so we could use those as a reference as we did what we’d come to do – reenact that iconic moment, of course! Illy set up the camera and she and Alana took their positions while I got to play director.

“You need to be on the other side of the post, Alana. No, I don’t care if there are a bunch of stink bugs there, move over!”

“Lean in more, Illy. Now look at the bridge, be somber. You’re tormented by this. Alana, you look at Illy.”

Photographer @superinspired67 sets up the shot

I kinda liked playing director, can you tell? I think the results speak for themselves.

Photo: @Superinspired67 (but I pushed the button…)

Alana left her video camera running the entire time we were there, so god knows what other footage she has of us being total idiots – and having the time of our lives. It’s what fandom is all about, after all.

A man and his wife were sitting on a nearby bench and came over to compliment our ‘work’, which was such a Vancouver thing to do. They are the nicest folks!

Our next search missions weren’t quite as successful. We found the field where the gigantic boat from the Wayward Sisters episode is run aground, but it’s on the most forbidding sort of private property you can imagine. I wanted to just get the hell out of there but Alana and Illy are more intrepid, so we got of the car and walked a ways down the gravel road (which WAS a road, so it was technically okay – the private property signs were on the cornfields all around us).  But as we passed by a few sketchy looking guys and foreboding looking farmhouses – think The Benders –  (were they glaring at us or was that my imagination?) and more signs, I got more and more anxious. Finally we reached a sign that in big letters said “PRIVATE PROPERYY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.” And then said something about trespassers being violated!

That was it, I was outta there. We later found a vantage point where we could at least see the ship and take a few photos from far away, and that was as close as I was getting!

Next we found the river bank where the Wayward girls skipped stones but – you guessed it – another private property sign. Oh well.

After that we had more success, finding the school where the 200th episode was filmed. The Russ Hamilton set tour earlier that day had been able to go inside to the auditorium and even sing “Carry On” on that same stage, and of course we couldn’t do that, but just seeing where the Impala had been parked and the entrance where the Supernatural sign had been was a thrill. We are nothing if not easily amused.

Our final stop of the day was a complete success, and SO much fun – the field where the climactic fight scene of LARP and the Real Girl took place (which, by the way is adjacent to a little swim club). We found the exact place, which is much smaller than it looked in the episode, and decided to reenact that wonderful moment when Dean, painted and bedecked, gives his Braveheart speech – and gets interrupted by a non-LARPer playing Frisbee. You see, the field is a real life Frisbee course. And what happened just as we were setting up the camera to film? A real life guy tossed a Frisbee right onto the field! I was freaking out about how perfect that was, and immediately directed Illy or Alana to go convince the two young guys that they needed to be in our film. (This whole director thing is hard to let go of, tbh…)

They did – and the two nicest guys ever were happy to help.  They threw the Frisbee, Illy channeled her inner Dean, Alana her inner Sam, and me my inner Felicia Day – the results are frankly hilarious. If Alana hasn’t posted that video yet, be sure to check it out. Just so you can laugh your ass off at us. We don’t mind.

(Sincere apologies, Felicia Day, if you ever see the video…)

Illy and Alana channel their inner Dean and Sam

After that we headed to the con hotel for pre-reg, but every so often I’d remember what we just filmed and just burst into laughter.

I met up with my friend Alicia for a late dinner and lots of catching up and reminiscing, and then it was time to get some rest for Friday.

Friday I got to sleep in and have a nice breakfast, then the con kicked off with Rob Benedict holding down the fort (Richard Speight Jr. was busy with directing Supernatural). Poor Rob ended up introducing himself when there was no one else to do it, but all the props because he played all his multiple roles seamlessly.

Rob: (sheepish)  Don’t hate me too much, I know I took a turn last season…

Everyone: We could never hate YOU, Rob!

As if.

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Back to Chicago, Where It All Began! Supernatural 2019

The very first Supernatural convention I went to was in Chicago. Well, actually that’s not true. There was a fan-run and all-fan convention of about 30 people in Vancouver in 2007 a few months before the Creation one in Chicago, where I met people who also loved Supernatural and who I still call friends today, twelve years later. But Chicago was the first one with Jared and Jensen, along with a few other SPN guests and some folks from Buffy and Angel too (because Creation wasn’t sure this new little show could pull off a con on its own). My friends and I stalked the website for literally months, waiting for the tickets to go on sale so we could snag some. We had no idea what to expect really – would the actors be as nice as they seemed in the few interviews we’d seen? Would they be entertaining onstage? I want to laugh so hard now, knowing the answers to those questions – but I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how NICE they really are or just how entertaining they would be!

Through the years, I’ve been back to Chicago for a Supernatural convention many times. One of my good friends lives there – we met through a con, when I found myself stranded after the convention ended and a hurricane blew in, cancelling all flights and leaving me without a hotel. I was new to twitter, but I put out a plea – can anyone help? Up drove Laurena, rescuing me from a very bad part of town and taking me in, because SPNFamily. We’ve been friends ever since.

This year, Laurena and her lovely husband Rock helped me in the vendor room once again. There were many old friends at this con, some that I’ve known since the very first one twelve years ago, and many new friends too, some that I’ve met along the way and now call my good friends too. Knowing that the Show is coming to an end made the Chicago con even more emotional than usual, because I keep thinking of beginnings now that I’m constantly thinking about endings. There will be at least one more Chicago con, but this was the last one that will happen when the Show is still on the air. And that hurts.

The actors are also thinking a lot about endings now, and some of them about beginnings too. Richard Speight Jr. reminisced with Rob about his first convention, which was also right here in Chicago. We were writing ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’ at the time, and there’s an entire chapter in that book on the first couple of Chicago conventions – it’s where we first met Richard and got to know him. None of us could imagine at the time how much our lives would change because of Supernatural.

So this year was bittersweet, but there was a whole lotta sweet! (Neither my camera nor my phone were at all happy so I got fewer photos than usual, but I’ve included some of the better ones here. At least that finally forced me to go out and get a new phone!)  Rachel Miner kicked off the con, as she often does – which is a lot like kicking off the day with a sparkly rainbow and lots of sunshine. And unicorns.

Rachel said she feels comfortable at conventions, like she’s with friends. She proved it by sharing her epic fail moments that would be on a gag reel.  That should tell you what sort of courageous – and hilarious – person Rachel is.

Rachel is an unabashed Cas girl.

Rachel: I’d like to think if Cas saw Meg in the The Empty, he’d have tried to rescue her.

She likes that both Meg and Cas didn’t fit traditional gender roles, and that they probably have both been male and female.

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Supernatural Vegas 2019 Part Two!

Part One was Thursday, Friday and Saturday, because Vegas is the four day con. We left off, after Misha and Mike Borja’s charity haircutting, with Saturday evening.

The Saturday Night Special at Vegas was special for several reasons – first, it was extra emotional because we know that we won’t have the SNS and cons forever, and second, because Jensen Ackles sang.

But honestly, everyone rocked it. Louden Swain and Rob Benedict, of course. Matt Cohen, LIsa Berry, Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Ruth Connell – I’ve said this before, but how did we get so lucky to have so many incredible performers grace our con weekend stage?

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Supernatural Vegas 2019! Part One

This year’s Vegas con was special. I know I say that about pretty much every con, because they’re all special in their own way – but no convention had ever been like this. This was the first convention after we found out that Supernatural is ending after next season. When I heard the news, I couldn’t wait to be with a bunch of people who truly “get it”. Fellow fans who are just as devastated by the news as I was, and who love the actors and the Show enough to support the decision anyway. I just wanted to talk to people who understand, and get lots of hugs too. And that’s pretty much what I got.

My friend Laurena from Winchester Family Business and I roomed together at the Rio, where I’ve had all sorts of misadventures before including the traumatic experience of having our bathroom explode in the middle of the night and our room be overtaken with sewage (literally) like something out of a horror movie. The Rio always brings adventures of some kind, even if it’s only the adventure of walking five miles each way from the hotel through the casino to the convention center which is more or less in the next state over. Maybe an exaggeration, but maybe not. There’s also the drama of the Starbucks which insists on closing at 3 pm every day and the serious lack of fast and easy takeout. And the smoke-filled casino.

But actually, I have as many fond memories of the Rio as traumatic ones. This year, like every year, was a time to catch up with friends old and new. I got to see HR’s brand new Richard sculpture along with the rest of the gang. This fandom is so damn talented!

This year, I just wanted to immerse myself in the arms of the SPNFamily, both cast and fans. So that’s what I did.

My friend Alana and I spent a lot of time talking about how many fans were confronted with derision in their non-fannish lives and being judged for grieving the loss of a television show. So we sat down and filmed a video for her channel, which you can watch on her channel (link below). We hope it helps a little bit as we all help each other get through this. And try to look forward to the next year of Supernatural!

Why It’s Okay to Be Sad About Supernatural Ending

I’ve grown to love being part of the “vendor squad” at the Supernatural cons. We’re like a traveling band of wanderers, but we all look out for each other and support each other. There’s always someone to watch your table while you run to the bathroom or pat you on the back when you’re tired or lend you some packing tape or just share a laugh. I was right next to the lovely Jason Manns’ table manned by the equally lovely Misty when he wasn’t there. It was nice to catch up with Jason again and to reminisce a little about the early days of the fandom and some of his first concerts, including in my hometown many years ago! Jason contributed a free digital download of ‘Soul’ to one of our first books, Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, and a Station Breaks free song to Family Don’t End With Blood too, so he’s part of the FDEWB family.

I flew in on Wednesday night and arrived at about 1 am after flying for 9 hours including layovers, so needless to say I was absolutely knackered. I checked in and started dragging my suitcases across the casino floor when I heard someone call out “hey, are you Fangasm?”

A young woman in a Supernatural tee shirt who looked very distraught was asking, so I said yes. Nearly in tears, she asked if I could help her, because her roommate wasn’t getting in until tomorrow and the hotel was not letting her check in because she was under 21. As though stranding her in the middle of a casino was a better idea! I got back in the check in line and gave them a guarantee for her so they’d give her a room – so for the rest of the weekend whenever I saw her, she’d joke that I was her savoir. Hey, we’re all SPNFamily.

Thursday was kicked off by our host Richard Speight Jr., as always, and Louden Swain.

Then it was time for Adam Rose, who I haven’t seen in a long time and really enjoy. Adam immediately acknowledged the elephant in the room.

Adam: I heard the news…I’m really excited to see how they wrap things up. It’s great they get a year to do that.

What are Aaron and his Gollum up to?

Adam: Last time we saw Aaron and his Gollum they were at a disco in Germany so I feel like they’re having fun.

He’s also up on his Supernatural memes, including the one he stars in from his episode.

Adam: Oh my god these guys are psychopaths… I love that meme!

Adam was not spared some J2 pranking on set.

Adam: I’m doing this intense scene with Jensen and I see Jared pop up (off camera of course) holding this paper with a phallic object on it. I cracked up. So then, 13 takes later…

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