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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Last Con of 2017! Supernatural Returns to San Francisco

 

The last con of 2017 was once again in San Francisco. It was an emotional con for me, because exactly one year ago, as I was attending this same convention, I got the news that my dad had unexpectedly passed away. I remember being in shock, only telling a few of my closest friends there – but word got around. My friends from Creation made sure I was okay, even walking me to my seat. My fellow fans checked on me all weekend long. And word got out to the cast too, who were incredibly kind. I remember Matt Cohen jumping off the stage in the middle of the Saturday Night Special, enfolding me in a hug and telling me how sorry he was for my loss; Jared and Jensen hugging me for a long time, asking me what I needed. Everyone was just so very kind – fandom and the SPNFamily at its best.

This year, the anniversary brought all that back. I was touched that many people remembered it had been a year, and didn’t hesitate to bring it up. Cons can be therapeutic for a lot of reasons, and this one definitely was. There’s nothing quite like being enfolded in your SPNFamily when you’re feeling emotional, for whatever reason.

It was also Mark Sheppard’s last convention with Creation. He’s been to just about all of them since he started on the show, so it’s just been a given that I’ll see him whenever I’m there. I’ve come to expect that Jared, Jensen, Misha and Mark will of course be there, every single time. Mark will be snarky and will answer one in five questions but will melt every time there’s a baby in the audience, and will suddenly get very real and give a heartfelt testimony about why he loves fandom before he leaves the stage. I don’t like change – I love Mark’s panels. I was tremendously honored that he wrote an essay for Family Don’t End With Blood, with many of those same heartfelt words about his love of fandom. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time in the green room with him and other cast a few times, and was able to get to know him and his lovely wife Sarah a bit. It’s weird to think he won’t be there again.

Because this fandom can always be counted on to be awesome, Mark’s last con didn’t go unrecognized – just like Alex Calvert’s first con didn’t either. There were signs for all of us to hold up with the line Mark had wanted to say in his last episode, that inexplicably got cut. ‘Even when I lose, I win’ on red signs were held high all over the ballroom when Mark took the stage, and he was clearly moved. He pulled out his phone and started filming, and from where I was sitting, I could tell how much it meant to him. As the panel progressed, Mark was more serious than usual, and there were several times that I could see his eyes were glistening. Or maybe that was mine; it got hard to tell. I didn’t expect to be as emotional as I was, but when Mark left the stage I had already grabbed for the tissues several times. Thank you, Mark, for the amazing job you did bringing Crowley to life, for being a fan yourself and for loving fandom the way you do, and for being a part of Family Don’t End With Blood.

Those were the very emotional parts of this con – there were also parts that were purely fun. (Isn’t that always the case with cons? Half strong emotional reaction and half laughing until I’m needing a tissue for an entirely different reason).

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Family Don’t End With Blood Book Release Party – SPNFamily Style!

When my agent suggested that I have a party to celebrate the release of Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives, I was skeptical. Who does that? Not unknowns like me, that’s for sure. Who would come? Would I just be standing in a Barnes & Noble tossing confetti up in the air in an empty room? But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to celebrate this book that was two years in the making. This book is not mine – it belongs to all 25 contributors who wrote from the heart and poured their genuine emotions into their chapters, both fans and Supernatural cast. For most of them, it wasn’t an easy task. They are students and business women and moms and IT consultants. They are talented actors. But they are not, for the most part, writers. Or at least they weren’t before they said yes to contributing to this book!

I know the process was heartwrenching and intimidating for many of them. They are all people who care a great deal about this show and this fandom, and they didn’t want to let anyone down. Although they didn’t have much confidence about their writing ability, they felt it was important to share their stories – and so they persevered. Through self doubt and starting over and edits and a lot of hard work, they kept going. The result is no less than amazing to me. Every single contributor wrote something that speaks to others – that inspires others. The courage they showed in telling their real truth, in print, for the rest of the world to read, blew me away.

So I decided the wise and wonderful Amy Tipton was right; we would have a book release party. Now to figure out when and where and how. Which turned out to be a story in itself, so I thought I’d share the before, during and after of our rather unique celebration of #SPNFamily.

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Carrie Genzel on the Perils and Rewards of Guest Starring on Supernatural!

carrie jmi2

It’s no secret that I loved the recent Supernatural episode, ‘Just My Imagination.’ I loved Jenny Klein’s script, I loved Richard Speight’s directing, I loved the cinematography, I loved the acting. So I was thrilled to have a chance to talk to Carrie Genzel, the actress who played the cluelessly glitter-and-blood-smeared mom so brilliantly. Little did I know that our conversation would end up being so much fun – and so hysterical!

Lynn: Thanks for chatting with me, I was really looking forward to talking to you.

Carrie: Oh me too, I loved your article, the one I commented on about the episode. I was like, wow, Lynn’s really thorough!

Lynn: [laughing] That’s one way of putting it. Kathy would say I just can’t shut up! Grad school makes you very detail oriented…and then you can’t unlearn it!

Carrie: Yeah but that’s a good thing. Everybody thinks they can write and gets on social media, but it’s usually not that in depth, and when you read something that obviously was researched — you went to different sources and took the time to research everything, so I was like wow, this article stands out.

Lynn: Thank you, that’s so nice of you to say. Sometimes I have to shake my head at myself. This isn’t my actual job, but when it comes to Supernatural, I kinda get carried away easily.

[I know, I know. Understatement.]

Carrie: I’m sure people really enjoy them as well because they’re really getting some great little nuggets of information and great little stories or something that isn’t just out there in the public eye or that they can just read anywhere. You’re getting the special little things in your interviews and articles and they just soak everything up. It’s been pretty incredible, the reaction to the episode.

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