Transcript for Resilience Squadron Episode 7 – A Padawan of Recovery.
Greg in Voiceover: Welcome to Resilience Squadron, where we share and discuss the adventures, challenges, and representation of disabled and chronically ill fans across the Star Wars universe.
Greg: Welcome to Resilience Squadron. I’m Greg.
Jack: And I’m Jack.
Greg: And we’re really excited for this episode because we have a really great guest: Maria, otherwise known as BlerdGirlJedi..?
Maria: That’s it.
Greg: Yeah, she’s the host of the Sistas With Sabers podcast, as well as the KatanaCast podcast.
Maria: Oh, yeah.
Greg: And I am definitely a fan of Sistas with Sabers. I listen to it all the time.
Maria: I’m so sorry.
Greg: No, it’s it’s a really insightful show with some great perspectives that you don’t get anywhere else.
Maria: Thanks, man.
Greg: Yeah, but but it’s also really fun to listen to – like it’s got a good balance.
Maria: Yeah, it’s fun to have fun.
Greg: Yeah, exactly. So let’s jump right into this month’s topic. So this month, we’re talking about mental health, both our own experiences and how it relates to our Star Wars fandom. And I do want to give a content warning here that we will be talking about topics like mental health, addiction and personal loss. So Maria, we first learned about you when you were on the mental health panel at force Fest in 2020, the virtual fan con wear jacket I also participate as part of the disabilities panel. And that’s where I first heard your story. And when we started this podcast that sort of spun out of that event, we thought that’s definitely one person we’d like to have on who can really share a unique perspective.
Maria: Thanks. Thanks for having me on.
Greg: So can you tell us about your background, and specifically some of your mental health story? What you’ve experienced with it, maybe where you are now?
Maria: Yeah, um, well, uh, we’ll start at the beginning. I was raised in Central Florida. And my mom struggled with mental health and all of that, and it was the 80s. So it was just called, like, being a crazy lady. Right? It was, yeah, there was no such thing as that, you know, so it’s just, that’s the way it was, you know, and my parents fought a lot. And I saw a lot of that, and that wasn’t good. And she more often than not was the instigator. You know, and as she, you know, aged, she just got worse and worse, with time. When my parents split, it got even worse. And she got into alcoholism really bad and things just were not going well. She, she wasn’t really mentally fit to be raising two kids at that point. And she also wasn’t around. So it was like, you know, you you took a potential second parent away and moved us across state lines. And now you know, there’s no support. She, I will say this, I believe that she did the best that she could she just wasn’t wasn’t fit.
Maria: And I just have to believe that you know, but some people aren’t parents by choice, you know, some people just you know, and and I heard that regularly, you know, I’m stuck with you kids. You kids are are weighing me down. You know…
Greg: That does a number on ya.
Maria: Yeah, it was. It was interesting, but it showed me everything that I don’t want to be as a mom. So I am the complete opposite of her. Growing up in domestic violence, drug abuse, whatever, just drama… it doesn’t make for the best like well adjusted person to come out of that. And I fell into drugs pretty young. Like 12, 13. And it didn’t get bad until like high school, college. At that point, like I I had hit the wall at 24..? So I partied, it was fun for a bit and yeah, then it wasn’t fun anymore.
Greg: But… but then you kept going with it.
Maria: Yeah, well, you know, I don’t need help, like, help us for someone else. Like, I don’t need that. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. You know? That’s the thing about it is like, you don’t know you’re in it until you’re in it. Like, unfortunately, everyone else around, you can see what’s going on but you. And that’s the thing about drug addiction, man is like, you can’t make someone clean up, like they have to see it. Like, unfortunately, you know, they… they have to hit rock bottom. In my experience. That’s been the case for just about anyone I’ve ever met who found recovery, or anyone in general who’s who suffered with alcoholism and drug addiction. It’s not a problem until we think it’s a problem. Right?
Maria: You know, it takes some bitter bitter ends to get people to want to change. So I ended up going into treatment. I left college. God, I was like, 23, or something.
Greg: Can ask – did you have people who helped you push you or guide you into that?
Maria: Oh, god, no.
Greg: All yourself?
Maria: Um, yeah, mostly me. My sister knew I needed help. You know, people knew I needed help, but they didn’t know what to do. around me. It was it was tough man. And I was burning both ends of the candle. And I was trying to party and trying to go to school. And it didn’t work. And yeah, eventually I dropped out. And things weren’t going as planned. And I didn’t know what to do. But I just didn’t want to keep on going the way I was. And it was like two weeks before Christmas. And I remember walking around downtown Orlando, and there was a billboard at the time for chemical addiction and treatment therapy. And I was like, well, I tried everything else. And at that time, it was state funded. So you could check in or whatever, and get your 30 days or whatever. And that was dope. So I did that. Discovered the Clone Wars in there.
Greg: Right? Yeah.
Maria: It gave me a solid foundation like treatment. It was kind of like jail, like, you know what your day is going to be like, every single day, you’re going to do clinicals, you’re going to do check ins, you’re going to lunches at one, you know, yard time is from three to four, you know, you know what’s going to happen. And I found a lot of comfort in that routine, in knowing what’s going to happen coming from a household where you just never know what’s going to happen.
Greg: Yeah. Right.
Maria: It was very comforting for me to have a set schedule, and to know, like, what’s going on and kind of planning my day. And that’s why I love treatment. Like, for me, that’s home. Like, right, I I’ve recently with this last episode, like I contemplated just going back to rehab because, like, it’s the one thing I can do really well. I can do rehab, like nobody’s business, you know, and it just feels like home. Because I’m around other people like me, you know, and now here, I feel like I’m the only one. And that can be tough. So I got out of treatment. And I didn’t want to like I was really scared to leave treatment. Like it’s safe. It’s familiar. It’s what I know. And then back in the day, there was a radio ad that used to come on, you know, 844-HOPE, you know, and it was for a group called Narcotics Anonymous. And that was my first 12 step experience. And I was 20 something and college dropout, and that became like my school. So I studied the book rigorously. I did all those steps. I got a sponsor, a sponsor is kind of like your Jedi Master someone who teaches you coping skills and helps you through the steps.
Greg: You become a padawan.
Greg: A padawan of recovery.
Maria: Absolutely. And I met this lady that I wanted to be just like, and she was just amazing. And it was… it was really good for a lot of years. And after year five, she started missing meetings. She didn’t come around as often as she used to. She was angry. She didn’t want me to call her as often. In the beginning, I would call her all the time, you know, what do I do now? What do I do now? What do I do now? Brush your teeth and call me back. Did you read your book? Read your book and call me back. Did you read your book? Yeah, I read my book. Okay, write about what you just read and call me back. You know, and that kept me going. And then one day, I had heard through some other people in the meeting that she was actively back out there using drugs. And…
Greg: That’s tough.
Maria: Yeah, yeah.
Greg: Your role model.
Maria: Yeah. Became like my mother figure in a lot of ways. And I said, no, that can’t be true. That can’t be true. She would never do that to me. And that’s, that’s Ahsoka moment, right.
Greg: Yeah. Right yeah.
Maria: When I realized and put it together, and I saw it for myself. And I went to her, and I’m like, is this true? And she’s like, this is none of your business. And, like, all right, all right. Well, then I guess we’re here together, you know, and, and it kind of mirrored, like the Twilight of the Apprentice a little bit. We didn’t fight or anything like that. But…
Jack: I just watched that today, actually.
Maria: Yeah, it hits different. It’s different for me. It really does. And that was hard, like, and then I went through the program for the next two years without a sponsor.
Maria: You know, without leadership, trying to figure out, what am I going to do? Who do I want to be? And where do I want to go from here? Right? I sponsored a lot of women. None of which I have any contact with, you know, and that’s the thing you give, and you don’t know if you’ll get it back. But I wish them all the best. I eventually decided to get a new sponsor. But I decided I wanted to do things my own way instead of the way I was taught. It was a great foundation, but it was a little rigorous, like the Jedi way of doing things. And I became more more of an Ahsoka you know, it’s like, okay, we’re going to find some balance here. And we’re going to add some real world techniques. And, and I did that…
Greg: Adapt what you’ve learned…
Maria: Absolutely, and I stayed clean…
Greg: Make your own path…
Maria: That’s it. I stayed clean for another five years, ten years total. Had my daughter without the assistance of any painkillers or anything like that. went through all of that. Very proud to say that. It was not easy. Childbirth is terrible, it’s hell. It hurts a lot. And yeah, I got through it clean. Recently, I had a life event. I don’t know, man. I just there was so much going on in my world. Personal relationships got out of control. And I ended up using so I lost ten years of clean time, man. But you know, it happens. It happens to everybody. At some point, you know, if you stay around long enough, relax can be part of your story. But I knew I was wrong, right? And I hopped back on as soon as I could. The next day. I’m like, okay, I gotta get it together. And I’m putting together 12 days as we’re speaking right now. So that’s something I realized that this time, I might actually need like, a doctor to help me with my depression because when it kicks in, I’m just falling
Jack: I’m there right now. Yeah, I really am. Especially with this past year and a half with COVID. You mean like? Well, first of all, I’d now like I was telling Greg. Okay. Like I first of all I hate asking for help. I despise asking for help.
Greg: I can confirm that.
Jack: Finally, a couple years ago, I finally started asking for help. But then like, all the people that could help me were letting me down. Like I went to my PCP. I said, hey, one of my things is, I want to get my mental health checked. Can you please give me numbers of counselors, or therapists, and like – no, no problem. And they gave me a bunch of numbers, called them all. None of them took my insurance. My caseworker, same thing, I got a brand new caseworker. She’s like, hey, Jack, what’s one of the things you want to work on? I was like, well, I wanna, you know – work on my mental health. Okay, here’s a bunch of numbers, I called them all, none of them take my insurance. And then COVID hit too and then, of course, none of the other therapists, or anybody’s in the office. So you can’t reach them. I mean, I think I played phone tag with like, one person, I gave up and nobody else would answer their phones. And it just, it’s just so hard when you’re trying and you’re not, for whatever reason, not getting the, they’re not the people that can help you aren’t helping you, or whatever.
Maria: Yeah, it’s, it’s hard for me asking for help. It’s… it’s not something that comes easy to me. So I identify with that, for sure. And then, you know, making sure that you can get it like you said, like it, it takes a long time, sometimes I went through like three therapists before I found someone that…
Maria: And I still don’t think she’s a great match for me. But it’s better than nothing. And sometimes she does have valuable advice. But for me, it’s it’s just like anything else, like I take what I need, and if it doesn’t apply, then I just let it go. And yeah, you know, everything’s not gonna work for me. I think she’s a well meaning person. But some of the stuff is just unrealistic for me where I’m at in my life today. Yeah, so I had a recent relapse due to some interpersonal relationships that went awry. Coupled with a lot of stress, you know, being a mom, working full time, you know, being in a relationship, you know, and the shows… not that the shows are bad, the shows are great, but I get stressed over maybe they’re not coming out at the right times, or, you know, whatever, whatever. So it’s just, it’s a lot. And I hit a wall, man, and I just reached out to the people that I love, and I told him like, Man, this ain’t working. And I just need to figure something else out. And you know what, I feel really good about this relapse? Because I know I did just about everything I could to prevent it.
Greg: Right, yeah.
Maria: It was just going to happen. I feel like that.
Greg: That sounds like a healthy perspective, in the sense that I mean, my understanding of addiction and similar things is that they’re a lifetime struggle, and they’re always going to be there. And occasionally, you’re going to very well slip up, and it’s how you handle that, and where you go from there and what you do to treat it, this says a lot.
Maria: Thanks. It’s, um, you know, I feel like I had a really good run, and that’s okay, like I can, I can do it again. It just, I was not at all prepared for what had happened to me.
Maria: Because there were new things that were coming into play that I had never experienced before. I’ve never been a mom before. I lost my first child in active addiction. Yeah, if Anakin had lived, he would be maybe 10 or 11 today. But as a result of, you know, living, living life that way and using drugs and alcohol… he was stillborn, as a fetus. So…
Greg: I’m sorry.
Maria: Yeah, it is what it is. But those things all come into play, you know, and being in those situations you’d never been in before. I don’t know what a good mom looks like. Like, I think a lot of people get the idea that women have this gene that just kicks in and takes over everything. And that’s just such a weird stereotype to have about women. I remember being I’m very scared in the hospital because I didn’t know what to do with this little thing. And I don’t want to break it, you know, I don’t.
Jack: That’s where a lot like a lot of my depression and anxiety comes from just, I get overwhelmed so easily. And I just like, feels like, the whole world is on my shoulders. And like, I just it’s hard to handle that.
Maria: It is. I was just talking to Ben today, one of my hosts over at Katana. And I’m like, looking at this list of things I have to do. And it’s like swirling around my head and forming a pentagram. It’s doing everything it can to scare me. It’s it’s tough when you get confronted with all that information at the same time. Yeah. Yeah, so I relapsed. I bounced back quickly. I didn’t go on a bender, you know, anything like that. But I had a pretty bad moment there for a day or two. And this time, I decided I need to treat what’s going on, instead of just, you know, refusing to look at it. So…
Jack: Did your experience the first time definitely help you with this recent relapse? Because you definitely knew this, like you weren’t going into this completely blind.
Jack: I’m sure that definitely helped.
Maria: For sure. Yeah. For sure. That’s a great question. Yeah. Um, you know, knowing what to do, knowing the signs, I knew I was headed down the road. If I was going to be honest with myself, like, I could see that, you know, in hindsight happening, because I allowed certain relationships to get out of hand. And I didn’t really have a check for that. So there, there were some changes that needed to happen this time around. And I need to be honest with myself and say, hey, I need to check in with somebody man and stop running on my own notions all day. So having a support base is important… for me. And realizing that as much as I want to do it all, like, I have to be realistic.
Maria: Cause I want to do it all. That’s just who I am.
Jack: Me too.
Greg: And I’m the same way too. And like, you know, I do consulting work, I work myself for clients. And I have a chronic illness that I’ve talked about on the show before, but basically dysautonomia, an autonomic nervous system condition that causes fatigue, for the most part, a lot of other issues. And so, combining that with the work with the family, with the daughter, trying to raise her right, all those things are so overwhelming, and I was even gonna say I… Jack and I can relate to the podcast factor, you know, it’s like, we want to get this thing off the ground. And there are times we work too hard on trying to get out by certain time or date. And it’s like, you really want to do it. But still, it’s more stress. Stressful things you even want to do. I already feel like I don’t really have free time, like, I don’t really know what that is for most people. And that’s been a big contributing factor for like my own depression over the years. Even before COVID hit, which just exacerbated all of it. Yeah, all those things, for sure, all compile on top of me in terms of my depression, and I do have treatment, and I take medication, things like that, that helped me a lot. Up until that point, I was in pretty rough shape. Now I’m in more of a kind of coasting, drifting state. It’s not that much better. But yeah, I can’t say enough about treatment. But also treatment has to go hand in hand with evaluating your life and what’s important and how you balance all the things going on and not feeling like you have to do at all.
Jack: And even going back to your previous point. With your addiction you’re saying you have to want to do it. Same thing with the mental health. Now maybe you’re depressed or have mental health issues. I mean, you have to want to get the help or like we said it’s just not gonna work if you don’t do it, cuz I know…. when I actually did see a counselor probably, oh geez, back in the early 2000s. I just don’t think I was ready to actually do it didn’t work. But now you know, I think I’m at the point where you know, I’m ready. Now that I’m ready now I’m in trouble… which is annoying, but I mean, at least I think I’m at the point where I’m ready to accept the treatment.
Jack: … and therapy.
Greg: I think you’re… on top of that. I mean, I think you’re eager for it, having trouble finding anyone to help you.
Jack: Now I need more because I can’t. It’s like exacerbating everything else.
Greg: Yeah. It sounds like now, Maria, that you’re looking at the deeper, some of the deeper things behind the addiction, like the depression? Would you say that, like, do you have like a diagnosis about it? Or is this just your experience, as far as what you’ve been diagnosed with, or deal with that compounds or contributes to the addiction problems?
Maria: Yeah, so I went to a doctor and her assumption or whatever you want to call it, for lack of a better word, depression, anxiety, you know, the typical stuff. There’s a lot of trauma in my background. So that all plays a factor into what’s going on. Even though it’s not there in the forefront every day, like those things have been left untreated for so long, that they turn into these big, giant, nasty monsters. So yeah, I got put on some medication. And at first, I was really unhappy about it, because I could tell that there was something holding me back.
Greg: Okay, yeah.
Maria: Yeah. And my imagination is gone. But that may not be a bad thing right now. given everything that’s going on, and when I drop down now, it’s it’s not as long of a fall as it used to be. So that’s good. I think over time, it’ll get better. I just told myself, I’m just gonna do this for today, you know, and that helps to make it more manageable for me the same way I do with, with my addiction, and I don’t want to project and say that I’m going to be on this medication for the rest of my life. Because I might not be – who the hell knows how long my life even is, right? You know, so it’s all… it’s all, you know, assumption and pie in the sky. But I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. I love the show. The problem with the show is that I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it out. And I am a perfectionist, and I want everything to sound you know, and people don’t care because it sounds like trash to you guys. But to me, like, that’s,
Greg: It sounds great!
Maria: That’s 4 hours, that’s 12 hours, that’s 18 hours of my life.
Greg: Yeah, I mean…
Jack: I’m an artist, so, like, I can look at my art and like, I can see the tiniest little mistakes. But you look at it or Greg will look at it, and is like, oh my God, that’s really awesome. But I’m like, oh God it’s trash. But I mean, I’ll see all the things wrong with it.
Jack: And I’ll work on that for hours and hours and hours. Even if it’s great. I’ll still be like, you know, it’s not done yet. Still needs to be tweaked.
Greg: Yeah, I’m that way with my writing too. And then also, yeah, we have the podcast stuff like, I will definitely, like… I will complain about like, this is taking so long to get this edited. But if I step back and look at it, like, do I really need to put as much work as I am into it?
Maria: Like, do I really need to add a bunch of audio drops? Absolutely not. They don’t need to.
Greg: And that’s the comment I was actually about to make having listened to a lot of your show. Like, I already know how tough it is for us. And we just, we just recently started adding like little interstitial transitions… like, drop in audio… but you’ve got so much great, you throw in some music as audio clips and sound effects and like… you got a production going on. It’s like, that’s gotta take even so much more work.
Maria: It does take a lot of work.
Greg: It’s worth it. It pays off, I think.
Maria: You know, it’s the one thing in my life that’s authentically me. You know what I mean, like the show, yeah, is really a reflection of me and the ladies…
And they saved my [bleep], you know, like… we have a relationship that goes a lot deeper than just the show. But yeah, we have a great relationship. And I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I can call those women if I need to, and they’re there for me, and I love that. The show has given me so much. It’s amazing. And it all just was a silly dream, you know, and now we’re doing it. And that’s really fun for me. So I love the show. It’s just you know, I get into this zone where I want to, you know, express everything I’m feeling. And sometimes, I feel like I overdo it, I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to this my work. I used to put a lot of passion there. But, you know, my work is just work, you know?
Greg: Yeah, I… I’ve evolved past that at some point myself where I was… what I do, I build websites. So like, what I do with that is like, I’d work for people and just throw everything I have into it, you know, to accomplish something and be… to excel in my field, all this other stuff, and I just burned out on it. And eventually, I went through enough jobs, enough companies applying for stuff that after a while, I’m like, I could just be getting these jobs done. And it’s fine for them. And why am I throwing my life into this for, especially for companies that are just, you know…
Maria: Yeah they don’t care anyway…
Jack: They don’t appreciate it.
Greg: Yeah they don’t appreciate it. And I eventually lost enough of those jobs where I was like, well, that clearly was not a very healthy relationship on my end, you know, as far as the amount of effort and passion I put into the work and what they perceived it as, and then they let me go anyway. So that was an eye opening thing. A number of times in a row before I really got the message and said, you know… And if anybody’s listening to this, and needs some website work, a site to work on, I do put a great amount of effort and quality, you know, I do, I’m good at what I do, and I pull up professionalism into it. But I don’t I no longer go above and beyond, you know, over delivering everything. Like I used to try to do, knowing that this is just the financial relationship. And you know, I’m going to get on and do a great job for you, but I’m going to get paid for it and move on. And I started looking at putting out patches and other things. Yeah, podcast.
Maria: Yeah, my podcast, my family. I just, you know, I’ve worked for a really big company for the last 10 years. And I’ve given it my all and I’ve busted my, my but, and, you know, it always I’m always just a day late and $1 short, and, you know, all darnit we gave the promotion to so and so. And I’m just like, you know what, it’s okay. Like, I just, it’s not supposed to be me, for whatever reason, like you, you’ve got another agenda, and that’s fine. But it’s like, I have to move on. You know, I waited on my first round of in vitro, because I thought I was gonna get the job. You know, I thought I was gonna get the promotion. And so I didn’t have my baby at that time.
Maria: And we waited for Ahsoka. Fun fact, the guy who provided the vial for the insemination process, his name is Rex.
Maria: Oh wow.
… from the clinic. I was like, Thanks Rex!. Yeah, he’s a good he’s decent dude. As all people named Rex are…
Of course, yeah. Definitely universal.
I think that’s a universal good. But yeah, I guess getting caught up to today, man. You know, I encourage everyone, if you’re struggling with something, the first step is knowing that you need the help and wanting to get it.
Maria: Those are the first steps for sure.
Star Wars, you know, has always kind of helped me with that. Ahsoka is kind of my recovery parallel. That’s a similar story.
Greg: I was just about to transition into that because I know that’s definitely a big part of it.
Oh, yeah. I named my baby after her. So… yep. She’s a big inspiration.
You mentioned Clone Wars and getting into that when you were in, in treatment.
Greg: So like, what was that like, and what did that mean to you at that time?
Maria: It was like, drifting in an ocean and seeing a piece of land. finally
Maria: Yeah seeing the island and getting there. Um, it gave me something to do other than focus on treatment all day. It was an escape. And also, like, I got to see this girl going through the same similar journey that I’m going on. She got a sponsor, I got a sponsor. We went on these adventures together, you know…
Greg: Kind of finding, finding yourself…
Maria: Yeah. And growing up together. You know? So yeah, Ahsoka has always been a huge, like, influence for me. She’s right there [points at poster on wall]…
Greg: On your arm too. Yeah. Yeah, she’s around. That’s awesome.
Maria: She’s always around. Um, I got a chance to meet Ashley. I have no idea if she understood anything that I said because it was mostly like, screaming and crying.
Jack: That’s exactly how I’m gonna be if I ever meet her. I’ll be just a blubbering idiot. We’re both huge… Greg an d I are huge… Not only Ahsoka fans, but Ashley, especially, it’s just like, oh my gosh,
Greg: And she’s speaking about mental health and everything else. I’m amazing. The grants jack is like next jack is not gonna be able to function if we meet her.
Maria: Yeah, she’s such a wonderful person in the fandom to meet. You know, it’s it’s difficult when you meet that person, and they’re not who you think they are. Or, you know, that can be crushing.
Jack: This I forget what the phrase is, like, don’t meet your heroes…
Maria: Yeah, because they’ll let you down.
Jack: Yeah yeah. That’s the one thing I love about Ashley is like, she lives like Ahsoka Tano. Her morals are. She tries to paste her own life on sacaton.
Maria: Yeah. Which is all she really is. She’s a fans fan. You know, and it was a real honor to meet her. We’re gonna try to meet back up with her in September. So she can meet Ahsoka, because she still hasn’t met her yet. So that’ll be a lot of fun.
Greg: That’s, that’s pretty special.
Maria: Yeah, yeah, it will be. She’s already like, aware of the character and has all the dolls and stuff and…
Greg: How old is she now?
Maria: Ahsoka’s two. She is now two years old. She’ll be three in August. She’s something man. She’s about? A lot of me in there. Like that. You do not. She’s Daredevil. You know, right. Just there’s no such thing as the word now. I can’t imagine where that comes from. I’m so familiar with that one. perfect name for sorry. There we go. Uh, soaking them. Like you mean, oh, even mannequin. Hey, you know what? I’m tired of telling you what to do. Just do your thing. And I’ll try and guide you the right way. But it is what I see a lot of her slip slipping up a house when she’s not supposed to later. Oh, yeah, I’m gonna trouble going on adventures. During about that. Now, we should put bars on the window because she’s right underneath the garage, so she could probably make it.
Greg: (Laughing) Right.
Maria: When I was her age, I was doing stuff like that. So I assume it’s coming sooner rather than later. But yeah, and the Star Wars thing. It’s just, it’s always been there. And it’s been a real big support for me. Right? When I don’t have you know, these, these stories can fill the gaps for us and give us inspiration and hope and you know, those types of things. So I definitely feel that way about Ahsoka and also Jyn. Like, Jyn Erso’s character, like – so relatable to me.
Maria: Like, as much as I want to be like the Ahsoka, like, I didn’t come from a wealthy family. And I’m a nobody in the story, you know, just like she was, you know, just a scrappy girl with a gun, you know, no fancy frills or anything. But she had this really strong love for her father.
Maria: And I’ve always had a really strong sort of tie to my dad as well. So I really love that these stories can give us some insight into our own… into our own lives if we open the door for it.
Greg: Yeah, one thing that Jack and I talked a lot about, it’s kinda come up several times, both in the podcast and when we talk about… as we started getting into this really looking at representation of different themes and elements of health and illness and mental health and disability, like a pattern we seen that seems to go stretch across a lot of Star Wars is dealing with trauma, especially generational trauma and stuff. You know, this seems like I mean, you pick almost any Star Wars book and if you ask me what the theme of it was – I’d say trauma for the most part. It’s like, people are coming from difficulties in their lives and finding hope or whatever it is to get past it. And it’s helpful to me because it’s just very relatable in terms of the things we’ve come from.
Maria: Yeah, puts you in a place where you can identify more. And everybody’s going through something in their life. So maybe it’s not addiction for you, but maybe it’s something else. And you can see yourself in that character. And everybody’s got a character, you know, whether you’re a loot guy, or you’re a Boba Fett guy, or you’re a Mando person, or you’re a Baby Yoda girl, you know, everyone’s got their character. And that’s what’s really special about Star Wars. In particular, like, there are other fandoms that you can have a character in. But the world isn’t quite as big as the world that we have in Star Wars.
Greg: Right. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, and you’d mentioned like, what the podcast What? how strong it is, that sort of family in your podcast of what they’ve meant to you to be doing that, I think that’s the similar thing we’ve we found here, like I said, it’s been a, it’s challenging to produce the podcast and for us, you know, we want to be perfect, we put a lot of work into it. But it’s also been a great opportunity for like Jack and me to connect and bond over these things. And having this as an outlet, a creative outlet to do something, that’s us, that’s ours, has been really strong. So that’s another thing I think we could really relate to. And especially as we like explore these topics, we find ourselves talking about them ourselves a lot more than we used to. And I mean, and more background, – Jack, and I’ve been friends for 20-something years, since college. So that’s how far back our Star Wars co-fandom has gone together. But I think yeah, it’s like having… working on this has given us an opportunity to talk with other people too, and to reach out and find out other people’s stories. And it’s been big for us to see that in the fandom and to find…
Jack: That’s the one thing I love…
Greg: … communities of people talk about the stories about their own challenges. And then and the combination of those two things, what it’s meant to them to be part of a fandom that’s helping support them. And the stories and what they mean to them, the people and seeing all that just post bringing all that in has been, like, helpful for me even to to latch on to my own my own my own issues.
Jack: It’s definitely been very rewarding…
Jack: … to know that, I mean, even though we would like to be bigger and have a wider audience, you know, there’s some people that we really touched and really connected with, and that’s such a really awesome thing.
Maria: Yeah, it is when you think about it, like, wow, I did something and someone’s actually like, gonna listen to it. Wow. That’s amazing.
Greg: I got a long DM from somebody when my first… I think I just followed them from our Resilience Squadron account on Twitter. Just by following her she wrote me back a long DM about her thoughts on the subject. “I’m so glad someone’s doing this because – big Star Wars fan has a history of disability and mental illness and things like that” and was like, just the concept of it was like, a connection for her that made her like – wow, let me tell you all about my story. And to be able to resonate with people like that, there’s clearly some value in the connection between the fandom and the stories and people’s challenges.
Maria: Thank you so much for doing this show.
Maria: This is what I say this all the time on different shows that this is the future of Star Wars podcasting. It’s not about figures anymore. It’s not about what show can you run down? There’s 1000 shows out there that will tell you what happened this week on the Mandalorian, on the Bad Batch. You can get that rundown anywhere. But this is the future. It’s taking Star Wars and why is it special to you, getting personal, sharing your story and connecting with people around it. Whether it’s through a panel of guests or just you and a co host, but I feel like that’s really the future of Star Wars, Star Wars podcasting, and in specifics, is to actually get to know the person behind the microphone. I used to listen to a show. Fantastic show for many years that went down the tubes. Not important. Listen to the show for over three years, right? never really knew the people behind the mic.
Maria: Never knew, like, what what do they believe in? Do they believe what I believe in? Or Who are they? Why is Star Wars important to them? I had no clue. You know who they really were? Listen to them for three years. And you know what I found out? I don’t have that much in common with these guys.
Greg: Right. Yeah.
Maria: You know why? I don’t know why I’m still doing this, like, you know, and it caused me to ask some questions like, you know, I want to listen to someone who’s a fan for the same reasons that I am. You know, and I think that’s the future is connecting, right, especially during COVID, when we can’t connect, you know, it was more important than ever, that we found a way to sort of connect anyway, whether it’s virtual or not, you know, it’s something. So I think that, you know, having these really honest conversations, and open sharing is really the future of where we’re going with this. Because anyone could tell you what the figures about. Anyone can give you information on that stuff. And if you really want to, you can look it up. I mean, it’s it’s out there, you know, but I want to hear from people. Why do you love Star Wars? What does Star Wars mean to you specifically? How does Star Wars speak to you as a person of color? How the Star Wars speak to you as an an Asian person? How does… how does Star Wars speak to you as a trans woman? You know, I want to know how Star Wars speaks to you as a gay man, you know, because it is different. And I love hearing those stories, because those are the stories I can’t see in the movie theater. I know what happens to Jyn. Because guess what, I’ve watched it a million times, you know, but now we’re actually coming to a point where we can connect with each other and learn from each other. That’s what’s really exciting.
Jack: Right? That’s one of the things too, like, one of our goals. One of our main things with this podcast is to educate. But we also want to learn because like, again, like I always like to put it in Star Wars perspective is like, Greg and I aren’t the Yoda of a disability. Like I know about Spina Bifida. He knows about EDS. But we don’t know, like, what was it like to be blind, or having hearing impairment or we know our disabilities. And that’s it.
Greg: Yeah, it was kind of a defining thing for us with the show is that like, at first, I didn’t even want to do a podcast. Part of my reluctance to do a podcast was that like, it was kind of along those lines of like, I don’t want to be just another couple of middle aged straight, cis-het white guys. Even being disabled, we have that perspective, you know, but we didn’t want to be just another, couple of guys talking Star Wars, because God knows there are enough of them. But we decided that a main major goal would be that both diverse guests and also bringing the authenticity and realism to it and talk about other topics that we didn’t hear anybody else talking about. And hopefully, we’re having guests who can bring other perspectives so that we can learn and our audience can hopefully learn through us as we are picking things up and getting other exposure to that.
Maria: And that’s so dope!
Greg: Yeah. And when we decided to do that, it was like, Okay, now I want to do this, I think it was worthwhile. And so yeah, we’re very, you know, we’ve got a long list of people we’d love to have on the show, but I actually looked through that list and say, Okay, who are all these people, as far as bringing different perspectives to things. And because I know a big thing too like, I’d be curious for your perspective on this. Big thing I’ve learned a lot about is intersectionality in terms of health and disability and mental health and and also being part of a marginalized community in any way. Whether it’s race, gender or sexuality, any of those things. Add sort of compounding factor in terms of people’s experience. That’s something I really want to learn more about and speak to, because we don’t personally experience much of that ourselves. And I’m very conscious, like, all the time very conscious of my own privilege, like I have so many challenges but I’m also like, how much harder would it be for me if I wasn’t like a straight white guy? Very aware of it.
Maria: Yeah, I think I think being an addicted person and being brown and being female, it just puts you further further back in the line of priority people. But I think that the message of Star Wars should be that anyone hence, Ray, nobody can can be somebody. I think that that should be the message that Star Wars should be carrying today. Are they carrying that message? I don’t know. Anybody’s guess.
Jack: They tried to and then they changed it.
Maria: Yeah. Yeah. I think some people say yes. And some people say, maybe not so fast. You know, but I choose to believe that the the former rather than the latter. What I can tell you is, man, there’s a lot of stories out there to be told whether it’s you know, me as a pansexual person, or the the Pink Milk folks, you really want to get into some stuff like, go holler at Pink Milk they’ll give you…
Greg: Another great podcast.
Maria: Absolutely, they will tell you exactly what’s going on. Triad of the Force. And I’m just so excited to see these shows coming out. Sithty Minutes is like a brain bomb. It’s a cross between Star Wars and like, the BBC. If they had a baby.
Greg: A good way of putting it, yeah. I just discovered them not long ago and reached out to them. And I do love that they… they literally they really stick to the 60 Minutes inspiration. The format. Yeah, they’ve actually invited us on. So we’re hoping because they thought they said, well, that disability is a great topic for their political theme. So that’s a great overlap. Yeah, it’s funny, as you’re listing are all the podcasts I’ve gotten really interested and a lot that is like I’m trying to expose myself to, because like I said, there’s so many and I was listened to a lot of the ones that were just like the same people like you know, and like, I follow some of these just because I’m so obsessed. But you know, how many people can talk about what happened on Bad Batch this week?
Jack: And everybody jumps in, or there’s some small…
Greg: and they’re all gonna say the same thing.
Maria: Yeah, pretty much. There’s not a lot of hot takes.
Greg: Let’s recap. Let’s recap it. Okay, you’re all getting it. That’s great. If people people enjoy it, and people get a lot out of it. They build a community. That’s great. But it is more than we didn’t want it more. Like you gave the example of Jyn like, Okay, well, know Jyn’s story. What we’re interested in is okay, what does Jyn mean to you? And how has that impacted you?
Maria: Absolutely. Absolutely. She, uh… We see her in a jail cell. Like, I found Star Wars in treatment in a cell like literally…
Maria: You know, you’re being rescued. Congratulations, like treatment is not fun. It’s… it’s kind of like being dropped in a muddy puddle.
Maria: It’s not exactly a rescue.
Greg: Whether you want to or not.
Maria: It’s not exactly a rescue. Not at all. But yeah, I feel like, there’s a lot to be said for that. I mean, when I had Ahsoka, I was very fearful that I would Padme out. I’ve shared that before, you know, because healthcare is different for black women than it is for a Caucasian woman going in there and having a child. I’ve heard all of the horror stories, you know, that if your baby looks too light, they could take your baby away, you know, and that stuff really happened at some point in the past and it is scary. Like I didn’t want Ahsoka to go out of my sight. Like, they’re like, Oh, we can take her to the nursery. I’m like, No, no, no, no, she’s gonna stay right here. Because her father is a redhead and he’s very fair and the baby came out with not a lot of melanin and I was afraid that someone would take my baby, you know, and… and that’s a real fear. You know, and then I’m just fearful that I’m going to have to have the surgery now because she was so big, they ended up having to do a C section and I’m just like, oh my god, am I gonna Padme out? Like, if I do just take the baby and get… get out of here, man. And he’s like, oh, why are we even talking about this? I’m like, dude, you don’t understand, like, black women are 15 times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman.
Maria: Why is that? Like, because it’s just not… considered worth it. You know?
Maria: Yeah. You know, they’ll make another one. So, you know, it’s just stuff like that really gets you worried. Right? When you hear all those horror stories, you know, even Serena Williams of all people having problems…
Maria: … during childbirth, come on. You know, it’s just those are the types of things that you you can’t really articulate to another person.
Maria: like, I love my husband to death. He doesn’t understand why I don’t get out of the car when we go to Macon, Georgia. Like, I wait until we get to Atlanta to pee. Because I understand what happened in Macon, Georgia. The lynchings that happened in Macon, Georgia. And a lot of that mindset is still there. Like, I don’t go out without a chaperone in Macon. No way. No way. It’s like, Oh, it’s it’s 2020. Things are changing. Like, I don’t know, man. I’m gonna wait this one out.
Greg: Last few years have been very eye opening, I think, for some of us about how much things have not changed that we thought had right. In our secluded world view.
Maria: Yeah, it’s really sad. To see that there are that many people out there like that. It’s like, wow, like, what have we been doing for the last 60 years? You know what I mean? Like, 60-70 years since the Civil Rights Movement, and people still don’t get it. Like… it’s like whoa…
Jack: And nowadays, too, they’re just, they’re so proud to flaunt it. Just… what? Like before they’d… maybe for a while, kind of be like in the closet. They’d go, I don’t want to, I don’t want to be called out. But now they’re like, they wear it on their sleeves. Hey, I’m racist, or bigoted, or whatever. It’s like, exposing what we know who to stay away from and shooting themselves in the foot. But same time, like you’re just saying, it’s just, it shows how we’ve come a long way. But we still have soooo much further to get
Maria: We have a lot of work to do.
Jack: Yeah, yeah, we’re we’re not as far. We’re not as far away from it as we think we are, not even close.
Maria: Yeah, and with the laws that are being enacted behind closed doors, which, again, Sithty Minutes, man, that’s where it’s at. You know, there are certain tactics that are being used right now. To prevent voters to cause voter suppression, you know, and it’s very sad that these individuals just cannot understand that we’re moving in a different direction. You know, and Nazis are just, they’re not cool. It’s never gonna be cool, man. I’m sorry. It’s not working. And I feel like the more we share, and we learn from each other, we gain acceptance. And we grow from that. And that’s where it really happens where the growth begins. But yeah, there’s there’s a lot of intersectionality and there’s a lot of room for development. And hopefully, we’re moving towards it and not away from it. But yeah, this last administration, like it’s been really scary, as a… as a brown person. To think that we could be a hop skip and a jump away from Jim Crow. You know, that’s, that’s very scary to someone like me. And then when you start talking about, you know, taking gay marriage away, you know, me as a brown person married to a white man, I have to ask myself the question like, is the Loving act next like, yeah, could my marriage be rendered invalid as well? Like, that’s, that’s scary. And no one in this country should have to worry about that. For all the freedom we flaunt in this country.
Maria: It’s surprising how little freedom the average American has access to,
Greg: A lot of us have been getting exposed a lot that just how tenuous a lot of freedom is it’s held on by this one law that holds this one thing up, or this one…
Maria: It’s very contingent.
Maria: To a certain set of rules
Greg: … has not been as hard to unravel A lot of it as we would have thought. It’s kind of a weird analogy to make but I think it’s true because a lot of people saw this analogy at the time with Revenge of the Sith, but the whole thunderous applause thing that, you know, I think we’ve seen more and more like, George speaking to Universal ideas, they may have been inspired by certain things going on in the world, he always has been. But there are universal concepts of like, here’s how democracy could fall apart. If manipulated the right way, and you really see like, the last few years, I think have shown like, wow, that’s, it’s pretty right on as far as like, a lot of that stuff could be done if done right. I’m sure there’s some people who are just winging it, there’s some people who have very calculated plans for what they’re trying to accomplish and take things apart in that way.
Jack: That’s not always through war and aggressive… aggression. It’s manipulation, and scheming.
Maria: And through our own lethargy, as, as a community of people, I think there’s a lot of like, let me just spread around what I saw on Facebook, instead of actually doing the work, doing the research, you know, that administration came in at a perfect time, when everyone was kind of on autopilot. You know, everybody was chill. And nobody was really that… woke, you know. People were, were comforted by the president prior and, and felt like things had really changed. And so nobody’s antenna was up. Right? No one had even the foggiest. And then this guy comes through and just tears apart so much in four years, so much progress, and not to mention scared a lot of people. And we need to remain vigilant. That’s the takeaway for me.
Greg: the thing I’m still really vigilant about, personally, where I’m trying to be aware of all the different risks a lot of people are facing. But in terms like disability and illness, like, that’s where I’ve been on edge throughout that administration, in terms of literally just unable to sleep worried about what’s gonna happen with health care and stuff.
Maria: Yeah, you guys are directly impacted.
Greg: Yeah, I mean, it’s just like, I mean, they, they’re constantly attacking the laws that literally pay my medical bills, and then again, comes back to the fact that I’m conscious of like, I’m so aware of how I’m living under that constant stress of that. And I can only imagine other people who are also facing those other things that you described, you know, this is multi aspect, risk, you know, that you’re under that or just exacerbate each other, that all these different pieces of people’s lives being taken apart, they depend on, or that are core of who they are.
Maria: Absolutely. compound that with like, let’s… example, lesbian couple, two women, you know, who both are experiencing the pay gap, right? They probably can’t live the lifestyle that they could if they were both with men, because they have both a significant pay wage gap in their weekly take homes. Right, which makes life for them more difficult than it needed to be. Yeah, yeah, we had a fair check and balance in there. Right, that directly has a tie to that family. Right, and what they’re allowed to do. Right. So contingent freedom, right, that goes right back to what we’re talking about. Yes, they are, quote, unquote, free. But is it equal. Right? Yeah. Because freedom and equality are not the same thing. If there’s anything that we’ve learned in the last four years, it’s that freedom and equality are not the same thing at all. And I think that’s where we’ve got to start looking.
Greg: But people have different ideas of what freedom is for them.
Maria: And yeah, I’m not talking about freedom to throw your drink down at Starbucks and complain about your latte doesn’t have the right almond milk.
Greg: So people who like what Jack was saying, it’s like, freedom to also, you know, espouse, your beliefs and certain things and do certain things and not freedom to not have to wear a mask. You know, she’s like, that doesn’t that’s not how freedom works, buddy.
Maria: Yeah, I… I would have to say that’s probably the biggest insult to you guys is like, you know, I mean, as people who actually have a leg to stand on… metaphorically here. (Laughter) Like, it’s gotta piss you off.
Jack: Well, none of mine work, but…
Maria: Shush! You know what I mean! You know, I mean, these people who just simply won’t wear a mask and it’s like thinking about all the things you Have to do just to make it out of the house.
Greg: Yeah, we we did a COVID episode and talk about some of the stuff and yeah, kind of where I was actually going a second ago was like – Okay, yeah, under the administration, like, stuff had gotten just so much… worry about what’s going to happen next, especially to people like us. And that was before COVID, and then COVID just like, just blew it all up even more to like, what’s gonna happen, because there was a clear disregard for people with chronic conditions or chronic illnesses. There’s just been a very clear disregard for, and sometimes very vocally, you know, like, yeah, so it’s just, you know, it’s just, people with preexisting conditions of worry about, which wasn’t even true, it turned out, but also they just didn’t seem to care. Now, it’s the elderly and preexisting conditions. That’s the only people that are affected. And like, even if that was true, like, that’s horrible. Like, how can even say that?
Maria: Well, that’s one of the reasons I continue to wear masks… like, and I posted that, like, hey, I will continue to wear masks, until children are eligible to get the vaccine. Because…
Jack: I don’t always wear mine. But I always have it on there you go, especially to like, you know, I have a lot of friends who have autoimmune deficiencies. So I mean, I just… And again, like we’re saying, we’re all we all know that a, we’re not all self-important. We know there are people that have conditions, and we’re mindful of it. So I said, I always have it on me.
Maria: Yeah, that’s it, man. And don’t be a jerk, like, and this is showing me that if there was some sort of zombie apocalypse, we wouldn’t survivE. We just wouldn’t survive. Because people are so selfish. There’s no way that we would make it out. Like, that’s all it’s shown me is that humanity isn’t as good as we think it is.
Greg: Yeah, it’s been an eye opening, as far as how many apocalyptic stories are out there that are just not accurate at all. Because you’ve left out the whole context of people who just refused to… well, I mean, there are always people who don’t take those things, seriously those stories, but it’s always this, like, is there gonna be a concerted effort by the government to deny it exists?
Maria: Yeah. Well, good times!
Greg: But we got Star Wars, we got hope.
Maria: Yeah, we do, man. It’s a great franchise, and it’s allowed me to meet you guys. Thank you so much!
Greg: For sure. Yeah.
Jack: Thank you too.
Greg: I’ll say too, like, I mean, again, it goes back to all these things are the things we deal with the challenges and anxieties that we all have. And that’s why it’s great to have a community, because we do all back each other up. And I think those of us who do that are going to keep doing it and keep pushing against those who don’t. And… and we’re glad you’re out there doing what you’re doing too.
Maria: Thanks man. I appreciate that.
Greg: So can you share where people can find you and your shows?
Maria: You can follow me at BlerdGirlJedi on most social media if you’re bored, and you can follow the show @SabresWith on Twitter if you’re interested in that. And Sistas With Sabers on Instagram.
Greg: Yeah, thanks. Thanks a lot to Maria, BlerdGirlJedi, for coming on this episode.
Jack: Absolutely. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.
Greg: Yeah, I think it was a really great discussion and really important one to have. And if you’re listening and you have your own mental health story related the fandom or not, or maybe even like what Star Wars meant to you throughout your own journey, we’d definitely love to hear your stories. Feel free to reach out to us. You can reach us on social media, We’re Resiliance Squadron on Facebook and Instagram and we’re ResilienceSquad on Twitter. Feel free to DM us anywhere, message us reach out to us, on any of those platforms. We’d also love if you could leave us a rating and review on iTunes because that’ll… that’ll really help us out or show some attention and help us to grow this show. We’re part of the Skywalking Network where you can also find other great shows like Talking Apes, Classic Marvel Star Wars Comics, the Max EFX podcast, Neverland Clubhouse, and the flagship show Skywalking Through Neverland.