Changing Lives With Stroke Awareness – Rob Benedict on Writing in Family Don’t End With Blood

 

Last month was both Stroke Awareness Month and the one year anniversary of the publication of Family Don’t End With Blood, the book written by the cast and fans of Supernatural. So this is a perfect time to chat with Supernatural actor and Louden Swain frontman Rob Benedict (Chuck/God) about the powerful chapter he wrote in the book. In his chapter, Rob takes us through every tension-filled moment of the stroke he had while at a Supernatural convention in Toronto several years ago and how the SPNFamily got him through it.  I knew when Rob sent me the story to include that it was going to make readers cry (in a good way) and that it was going to inspire people – but I didn’t know that it was going to literally save lives.

That’s exactly what happened though.

At a Supernatural convention this spring, a fan approached the vendor table for Family Don’t End With Blood and said she had something to tell me. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about how the stories shared in the book have inspired someone to keep going, or given them the courage to make changes in their lives, or helped them feel okay being who they are for the first time. When the fan standing at my table got emotional, I expected to hear a similar story.

“The Supernatural fandom and this book,” she said, “saved my life.”

Not in the way I expected, however. Patty Barbera had read Family Don’t End With Blood, and Rob’s chapter, in which he shares his experience having a serious stroke at the Toronto convention, had really stood out for her. Shortly before the convention, she was getting ready for bed when her hand started to go numb. The numbness slowly moved up her arm, and then there was a pain in the back of her head and her whole right side went numb. The right side of her face began to droop. She began having trouble speaking. Because she had just read Rob’s chapter, which details what happened during his stroke, Patty immediately realized she was having a stroke. She screamed for her husband, and they drove to the hospital – where a CT Scan showed that she was indeed having a stroke – the type referred to as a “TIA” or mini stroke. Even more alarmingly, her scans showed that it was not the first one.

As she told me her story, she began to cry – but they were good tears. She was healthy enough now to attend the convention and thank Rob herself (and has since made remarkable progress and is almost fully recovered)

“If I hadn’t read this book, I probably would have ignored everything and went to bed, most likely damaging my brain. But because of this book and Rob’s story, I’m back to my old self with minimal damage,” Patty said.

I felt my own eyes well up, and we shared a few tissues together.

Patty’s powerful story was a reminder of why we all wrote Family Don’t End With Blood – we wanted to make a difference. The actors who wrote chapters and the fans who wrote chapters all wanted to share their very personal stories in the hopes that others would be inspired and impacted by what they wrote.

That was certainly the case for Patty with Rob’s chapter. Shortly after I met Patty, I sat down with Rob to ask about why he wanted to contribute to the book and what the response has been to his story. In keeping with the important messages of Rob and Patty, we’ve included a summary of the warning signs of stroke at the end of this article – you can read the entire account of Rob’s very emotional experience in his chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood.

Lynn: You wrote a really personal chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood, taking readers through every moment of your experience when you had a stroke at a convention several years ago. What made you want to share your story?

Rob:  It’s almost easier for me to express myself through writing.  And I felt the need to re-visit the experience and take all of it back into my consciousness, and to try to account for what happened.  In my recovery I read an amazing memoir called Brain On Fire, in which the author Susannah Calahan tracks her own journey through a debilitating virus that attacked her brain.  I was inspired by that.  I am inspired to put all of this in a book someday, but this chapter was a place to start.  It was incredibly therapeutic.

Rob reads from his chapter at the book release party in LA

Lynn: Was it challenging to be that personal and share your own vulnerability?

Rob: Not really – I mean the fear of getting too personal is always a road block, but it’s one I like to push out of the way.  I do it a lot with my song lyrics.  At times, singing my songs is like reading my diary out loud.  It’s terrifying!  BUT I am motivated by that fear.  I dare myself to speak the truth.  I think there’s something incredibly confident, or robust, about expressing one’s own insecurities and fear.  I’ve said it before on stage when I sing songs like She Waits, but there is something about this fandom that makes me feel safe to express myself.  I feel like there’s an unspoken connection, especially by the end of a convention weekend. So I did also feel that when I wrote this – that it wouldn’t fall on judgmental ears.

Read more

Behind the Scenes of Supernatural with Robbie Thompson

One of the absolute highlights of this year’s Comic Con for me was sitting down to chat with Robbie Thompson, gifted comic writer and screenwriter who wrote some of my very favorite episodes of my very favorite show. That would be Supernatural, in case you didn’t know. Which is pretty much impossible unless you’ve just stumbled over this blog for the first time.

I attended Robbie’s panel on Intersectional Feminism in Comics, which was awesome and entirely inspiring, so we were all in a good mood afterwards. We decided to try to find a room where there weren’t a million people around, and took a bunch of friends with us – Laurena, Candice, Anne and Kamila – who were down with listening in to our epic interview. They will henceforth be referred to as the Peanut Gallery (‘PG’). For the most part, they were PG. The most part. Just sayin.

After several false starts traversing the ginormous convention center, including being barred from using the press room for our interview, we found an empty room with lots of empty round tables. Robbie, ever the intrepid one, shrugged and said, ‘how about this one?’

Occasionally a Comic Con staffer would come in, take a look at our oh-so-professional interview in progress, and quietly back out. Score!

I start the interview by tossing my handwritten notes about what I’m dying to ask and my little vintage audio recorder on the table.

R: (points to Lois Lane like tape recorder) Look at this, so professional..

L: Hey, it’s ancient, it’s done a million Supernatural interviews.

R: Uh oh, look at this, guys…(points to what appears to be a big stack of questions, a la Inside the Actor’s Studio)  There’s going to be some Bernard Pivot in there. There may be some things I say off the record…

L: Of course, you know I’m good with that. (but honestly? There weren’t many!)

R: Okay let’s do this!

Read more

Hometown Supernatural Con – Burbank Friday and Saturday 2016

img_1045

img_1056

Returning to Burbank for what is, for now at least, the last Supernatural con that Creation has planned there, was both festive and emotional. Many of the actors live there, so that means their families can come see what they do for a dozen or more weekends out of the year, and even actors who aren’t making paid appearances sometimes show up to join in the fun. That means a con in Burbank is usually a very good party.

Even as an East Coaster, I love Burbank too. It’s such a nice little airport and a lovely hotel with a convenient little convention ballroom attached. There’s a handy bar to meet up with fellow fans, and there’s all of Burbank a few minutes away with its great restaurants too. I hated not being there last year, instead stuck at the giant Pasadena convention center, so I was thrilled to be back.

It was the weekend after the election, and emotions were running high for both guests and fans. Somehow the con felt like the best place to be, surrounded by a lot of love and support. There were fliers throughout the hotel letting fans know that this was a safe space, and that they were accepted here. It made me proud to be a fan and a member of this SPN Family – and to sort of want to stay there in that fandom bubble for as long as possible!

Read more

A Supernatural Roman Holiday — Jus in Bello Con Part One

IMG_7741

IMG_7868

IMG_8012

This was my first time at Jus In Bello con – and my first time in Rome – so needless to say, it was quite an adventure. It’s a very different model of convention, so I was curious to see how it compared to the Creation model of US cons that I know quite well. Long story short? In some ways, it’s better and in some ways it’s not.

The better comes from the more relaxed feel of the con – there’s plenty of security to keep physical order, but the norms for what can be talked about and asked about are much looser. This is, no doubt, in part because we’re in Italy and not the US, where everyone is ridiculously hung up about anything having to do with sex and thus there are strange rules about not asking actors perfectly reasonable questions. At JiB, the questions were playful and sometimes delightfully innuendo-filled (either intentionally or unintentionally thanks to the language differences), and as a result the actors were free to be the same. That meant panels that were flirty and dirty and just plain fun – and that left me with my stomach muscles literally aching from laughing so much.

Read more