Labyrinth is my favorite film. It’s old, it has some side-eye things going on, and the scene with the Fireys is pointless, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my favorite.
It’s not just because of nostalgia or David Bowie crooning in a bedazzled sapphire tuxedo, either. While those are factors—watching it returns me to precious few good memories of my childhood—something else is that as an adult, it often inspires me to think about things in a new way.
This year has not been kind to me. I struggle to find appropriate words for how terrible it has been. “Traumatic” is the first that comes to mind. While it’s accurate, it describes neither the depth nor the sensation of pain and turmoil I’ve experienced; namely, because it wasn’t just difficult. It was also the sudden fall from many positive and fulfilling things as they were yanked out from under me in rapid succession. Things I had worked and waited for for years or even my whole life were just within my reach and then just gone in another instant.
The easiest way to summarize it, staying in this analogy, was that I wouldn’t have minded being tossed into an oubliette myself. I’m not afraid to say that maybe I went looking for one, peered over the edge, and entertained brief but intense and intrusive thoughts they inspired. Would the Helping Hands respect my wishes if I chose down?
I didn’t think about it long enough to want to find out. Other things demanded my attention, took my energy, drained me of my resources.
Sarah, in Labyrinth, is not an immediately likeable person. When we first meet her she is mean, vindictive, spoiled, and defensive. Her pain point, however, is legitimate: she’s been parentified. And, being a teenager, establishing her identity, it’s no surprise she balks when asked to take on a role she has no interest in exploring, even when her own guardians encourage her to pursue her interests.
Once she’s in the Underground, though, we see Sarah change. She meets others who respect her as a person but also hold her accountable to her actions. She accepts her responsibility and approaches new situations in different ways. As a result, she steps into genuine confidence and faces what was within her all along. She changes what she has the power to and safely asserts boundaries for the things she cannot.
I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. The only significant change between diagnosis and today in treatment was medication. Some six weeks into it, I am awed at the changes I’ve witnessed. My life is still difficult but things don’t feel so impossible.
I’m able to start recognizing the impact my day-to-day life has on me in a way I couldn’t before. It was either my mind or body that would get overtaxed and crash the other. But now I can feel both working in tandem and recognize that I am approaching limits before I’m dangling at the end of a rope.
Fears and anxieties are still present but I can see them for what they actually are and they are not disproportionately magnified. Successes and each step of progress in any area of my life leave a deeper footprint and are not forgotten or washed away in a tidal wave when failures or disappointments occur.
Nothing is easier, by any stretch of the imagination. It just feels as though I am finally standing on solid, even ground.
Time is stolen from those with ADHD. All the time I could have actually done something, anything, with the ambition and talents I have, only to be lost to something as simple as chemical deficiencies. In reality it is much more complicated than that but I was allowed to believe it was a me thing, a moral failing, something that I simply chose not to do. A character flaw.
I think a lot about the age at which this happened. Was it too late? What would have happened if I’d known even just a year ago, when it started to occur to me that this was something impeding me as much as it was. What if anyone around me had a clue as to what was going on and intervened when I was younger? Where could I have been now?
It’s a loss I haven’t approached yet but I also know that the answers to those questions ultimately don’t matter. Because right now I’m at a place where I can see immediate impacts and appreciate the value in them, even when things are slightly harder or more painful when I expected them to be easier (and vice versa).
Back in the labyrinth, Sarah battles her way through and despite his best efforts still defeats Jareth right as the clock strikes thirteen. Despite the setbacks, distractions, diversions, advantages, and assistance she received, she manages to complete the challenge as described right on time.
Of course in storytelling, this is simply a product of writing—of high stakes and overcoming challenges.
However, we know that Jareth reordered time—he cut her short. And Sarah still completed it and confronted him in time. She’s actually ahead—all the while not understanding until the last moment that Jareth was never the only one with power. She had her own.
It took me a couple of weeks after I started this treatment to understand that I was reclaiming some of that time that was stolen from me. Part of relearning limitations and examining my boundaries means really slowing things down. I’ve found myself automatically redrawing the lines around me. They are much clearer now. Some are drawn sooner than I would have in the past. Others, I’ve realized should have never been there at all, and so I have granted myself permission to take leaps of faith I wouldn’t have considered before.
ADHD is a disability and I’m learning how to use the tools and accommodations I have available that I didn’t before. That is an enormous undertaking itself—especially as someone in my position with very little support. Adderall is effective but it doesn’t “fix” me. Not only because I am not broken, but because it simply doesn’t work that way. I have, for the first time, an idea of what it’s like to live life at a “normal” or average baseline that I didn’t know existed. Even if treatment is a good thing, that is a disorienting concept and it’s a learning process to adjust to. It doesn’t eliminate my symptoms, it just makes it easier to manage them.
I’m not in a position to pressure myself right now and I don’t intend to. Not with projects, with people, with productivity. I’m attempting NaNoWriMo again this year and much of my creative energy will be spent there—not all, but most of it. I’ve learned that my in-office days at work I can only do that: go to work, shower, and sleep. I’m able to tackle some things in therapy that will hopefully not be waylaid by life’s present crises and traumas. I’m learning what it’s like to live a life where I’m not always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Before, my life felt like I was always running a labyrinth. Always hearing a screaming baby in a distant place, never able to reach it, constantly yanked in different directions, racing against a time frame that didn’t exist. But now the whole thing has been razed, disintegrated. Learning to navigate a level space where I can see, touch, and access everything is its own adventure.
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