Dear Ashley Eckstein, You Saved Me

Star Wars Celebration VI  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Star Wars Celebration VI before I “embarrassed” myself. Image: Dakster Sullivan

Dear Ashley:

I’m not sure if you remember me; because of my anxiety, I don’t always feel like someone worth remembering. We’ve met a few times. The first time was when I embarrassed myself in front of you at Star Wars Celebration VI and a year or so later when you saved me.

A few years ago at Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, I had the privilege of having a few minutes of your time at the cupcake party you hosted with Food Network.

During those short minutes talking with you, I felt I had embarrassed myself beyond forgiveness. After I left the party that day, my mind obsessed over those two minutes and that pain continued for months afterward.

You see, I have anxiety and depression and that’s how my brain works. I perceive myself as screwing up even slightly and my mind makes my feel like a complete waste of space and time until the next screw up I make.

A year or so went by and we met again. This time at the Orlando Science Center while you were helping to promote the “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” exhibit.

Ashley Eckstein on stage at the Star Wars Exhibit  Image courtesy of Orlando Science Center
Ashley Eckstein on stage at the Star Wars Exhibit Image courtesy of Orlando Science Center, used with permission

I almost didn’t go up to you that day because of what happened at Celebration VI, but my friend Fletch helped me brave the stage and I took the opportunity to apologize to you for my embarrassing moment at Celebration VI.

You were a little surprised and waved it off like it was nothing, assuring me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about and you had forgotten all about it. From your side of the table, I’m sure it was just another fan interaction. For me, it was much more.

That moment that saved me.

It had never occurred to me that the interaction with you that I had been obsessing over for months and even so embarrassed about that I avoided you at Star Wars Weekends would be something that you thought nothing of. On top of that, I never imagined that you would forget all about it.

The other night while meditating, this moment came back to me and how you had made me feel so much better about what my mind perceived as a horrific moment. Then I started to remember when I met James Arnold Taylor at SWW in 2013 and an interaction with Michael Rooker at MegaCon this year. Could it be that those scenarios were the same and my mind was playing tricks on me to make me feel something that wasn’t real?

My guess is yes.

As I’m writing this post, I have tears starting to form because I finally feel free of the pain my mind has been inflicting on me over these brief interactions with people I’ve only met a few times. I credit this new found freedom to you and your kindness that day at the science center.

I have a lot of embarrassing moments to re-think about now and how those brief interactions may have either been forgotten or never seen as embarrassing to begin with. It won’t be easy to go through this exercise, but it’s necessary if I want to be free of the lies the anxiety has been telling me and preventing me from enjoying what should be happy memories.

I feel stupid for it taking this long for the light bulb to come on, but now that it has, I plan in making sure it doesn’t dim out again. The next time I have an embarrassing moment, I’ll think back to the science center that day and remind myself that my mind is a trickster and it’s more than likely not really as bad as my mind is making it out to be.

Sincerely,

A grateful fan.

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Dakster Sullivan is a network administrator by day and a cosplayer by night. She loves discovering new books to read, tech to play with, and ways to express her herself. She has anxiety and depression and strives to educate others about these invisible illnesses.