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At Home with ADHD
THE ARCHITECTURE OF HEALING
By: Lannette Guerra | December 2, 2022
Here’s a little secret. I’ve waited 365 days for this chance to reflect on 2022. I hope my story inspires someone who may be in the midst of a pivotal or difficult time to seek help.
Are you ready?
Life was very different for me a year ago. All my little “t’s” came crashing together to form one big “T.” My knees weakened, my vision tunneled, and with a racing heart, I fell to the ground—literally and figuratively. From the summer of 2021 to the summer of 2022, I suffered muscle aches, severe panic attacks, fainting spells, anemia, hair loss, brain fog, infections, and sleep issues. While we were all still wearing masks, I could no longer mask the reality of my present, past, and future.
I was always happy and resilient. I avoided conflict, was a team player, and rarely had any severe medical issues. That all changed early in 2022 when, after months of doctor visits, I was diagnosed with PTSD from a traumatic event in the summer of 2021. Although this experience, at the time, felt like just another day in my life, it was pivotal. It forced open a Pandora’s Box of my past and forced me to change. Only after eight months did I realize that everything was interrelated. My diagnosis brought relief. I finally understood why my body was physically manifesting my pain. I devised a plan to get up off the floor: The architecture of healing.
I soaked up books, listened to music, received coaching and therapy, and immersed myself in psychology. Guess who now owns a copy of the DSM-5? This lady! I also familiarized myself with Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral Therapies and completed a trauma recovery program—all while holding a full-time job and being a parent. Somehow I even snuck a house remodel and an extended family vacation. What can I say, ADHD with PTSD is a beast. It made me overcompensate, working myself to the bone and seeking every answer and outlet at once—with a singular goal in mind: to heal.
One of my best strategies was writing, so I reached out to our SMMC community and proposed this column. We would call it “At home with ADHD”; which made sense to me as I am a residential designer. Designing homes and fixing environments are second nature, but redesigning neuropathways and writing was new. My initial goal was to seek help for my daughter's recent ADHD diagnosis, which morphed into a self-help project to save myself from mental breakdown and burnout.
In January, I hit the ground running with a personal manifesto. I was not ok, and the time had come to do something about it. Each month, I chose a new focus. I divided the year into fivestages in reference to the 5 phases of architecture and the five stages of grief. I worked through each step, as painful as it was.
I wasn’t hiding anymore, and my hot mess was now on full display for everyone to witness. My friends probably thought I went cuckoo for coco puffs and missed the girl who posted light fixtures and residential design versus ways to up your dopamine and serotonin levels. I personally believe that to “let go,” you must find a certain “beauty in the breakdown.”
Through my creative madness, I finally saw my body regain its restful position, and the panic attacks ceased. At times it felt very hippie. I was creating personal mantras and affirmations, the modern version of many religious practices. It felt weird at times because I’m agnostic, yet even without religion, I was getting very spiritual. No healing practices were off the menu—any science, natural medicine, and pseudoscience were welcome. Luckily, my inner compass kept me out of any cults or pyramid schemes during my lowest moments. That is not to say I didn’t do a few reckless things here and there in the name of research, or Google “what happens to a person if they take ayahuasca?” I didn’t make it down the Shaman path, but I don’t judge anyone who has because today, I understand why people seek alternative solutions during dire times.
During my journey, my daughter started to heal as well. She began writing me little love notes. “Just be you, mom.” “It’s not about being the best, but about being better than you were yesterday.” I saw her flourish, become happier and less fearful, and watched her adopt new learning and self-soothing strategies. She is no longer mirroring her mother's undealt with ADHD and PTSD. She is now reflecting her mother's inner peace and out-of-the-box methods.
Professionally, I’d surpassed the 10,000-hour rule within the practice of architecture, and the design strategies I used to accept uncritically started to make sense in terms of neuroscience. I’ll focus my energy on design strategies to alleviate and balance mental health in 2023. The more I learned about the human brain, psychology, and how we heal, the more my professional training crystallized. 2022 became the year of “oh, so that’s why we do this, this way,” and many more Eureka moments.
On this December Day, I’m no longer weeping. I’m sleeping again, my hair is staying attached, and I’ve been panic attack free for the last five months. I regained passion for life and hope: this can also be seen as PTG (post-traumatic growth). There is a graceful lightness to my stride and newfound wisdom. My heart is still broken; however, my body is no longer in fight, flight, freeze or fawn mode; I have self-agency and no longer suppress bad days. I feel my way through them. I know my personal limitations. I’ve become more assertive and confident in my personal and professional abilities while identifying my weaknesses and life-long struggles. I’ve stopped absorbing the negative energies of others, and I tell people when something is bothering me. I no longer sulk in negative self-talk and I avoid triggers as much as possible. With this, my taste for life has returned, and I’m grateful for my physical and mental health. I cherish the days my method keeps me organized and happy. Lastly, but most importantly, I’m mindful of the hard work it takes to stay grounded and know that healing is constant and endless.
We all have a story within us. A story in which we’ve had to rise above adversity and embrace the scary and challenging road of the unknown. But as former first lady Michelle Obama once said,
“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”
“‘Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving through the pain.”
As for me, I’m signing off as an ADHD columnist to refocus my energy on what I do best; being an Architectural Designer, mother, partner, and friend. I will always advocate for mental health and all things ADHD, yet plan to re-emerge with the obtained knowledge in my own unique way. To continue my lifetime pursuit of helping others find balance and well-being within themselves and their environments, I will continue to move through my own adversity with purpose, grit, and a smile.
I hope you found this December 2022 reflection useful and might just see the meaning behind your own personal journey more clearly in light of mine. I wish you much love, peace, and clarity. Happy Holidays my SMMC family; see you on the other side of 2023.
Lannette Guerra has a decade of experience working for large and small high-end residential firms, throughout Northern California. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture, a Bachelor of Arts, and is a LEED accredited professional. Before moving to California, she spent 4 years as an Exhibit Designer in Kansas City, MO.
She resides and virtually works for her current employer, from her home in San Rafael, CA. When she is not hyperfocused on work she enjoys hikes in the Marin headlands and couch cuddles with her family and furry friend. She is currently staying away from engaging in any new hobbies except for being a mentor & advocate of mental and physical well-being.
She is also a strong believer that the only way to build yourself to personal fulfillment and reach your true potential is to quiet the mind, eliminate distraction, and listen to what your heart has been telling you all along. Only then will you be able to see your authentic self reflected within your home, your soul, and in the workplace.
More from this issue:
A Meaningful Jewish Christmas Read >>
All Rise for the Mug of Glory! Read >>
Interviewing Santas Read >>
Joinable Brings People Together Read >>
Keeping it Together While Traveling Together Read >>
Matrix Parent Network for Children Special Needs Read >>
RSV vs. Flu vs. COVID-19 Read >>
The Architecture of Healing Read >>
The Journey of Fulfillment Read >>
What is the Meaning of Life? Read >>