Written by: Christina P. Kantzavelos
Driven by a desire to create a centralized resource and supportive community for those impacted by Lyme and tick-borne disease, the San Diego Lyme Alliance (SDLA) was formed as an affiliate of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation in 2019. The challenges of navigating Lyme disease are vast and need not be faced alone. So following in the footsteps of past and existing local Lyme support groups, SDLA established three regional “Circle of Support” group meetings in Carlsbad, Scripps Ranch and La Jolla. Creating this safe space for open dialogue enabled Lyme patients, family and caregivers to build meaningful connections, feel supported and stay informed.
In March 2020, life changed abruptly. COVID-19 demonstrated the importance of human communication and connectedness, with a rise in feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety. While the pandemic presented the challenges of isolation, it also provided the opportunity to explore new ways of interacting and building meaningful connections. Quick to adapt to the online virtual world via Zoom, the “Empowerment Circle” (EC) was born in June 2020. Initially facilitated by Mark Guay, Christina P. Kantzavelos and Patricia Cosulich have joined as co-facilitators to round out the EC Team. Over time our group has brought together participants from San Diego and beyond, including San Francisco, the east coast, and even Canada. The pandemic presented an unexpected opportunity to bring people together more effectively, transcending time, geographical separation and physical limitations.
This gathering brings into focus a key element in one’s healing through Lyme disease: the embodiment of somatic awareness and the role community plays in supporting one’s triumphs and struggles. Our minds and hearts are powerful tools, and when combined with a community to truly lean on, we can become unstoppable.
“Being so isolated had a big impact on me, I believe it’s important to connect with fellow [Lymies] to help balance that loneliness. I have learned so much from this group and it is helping me re-socialize as I start to learn how to live a good life with Lyme disease. Thank you for the empowerment group. It’s brought such joy and understanding to my life.”
– Amanda, Empowerment Circle Member
As many of us know, Lyme disease doesn’t just affect patients, which is another reason why the group is all-inclusive. It is open to patients, their loved ones, and anyone else affected by Lyme disease, regardless of location. The monthly group incorporates guided meditation, check-in, discussions around a monthly theme, focus questions and breakout groups. The goal is that each participant feels supported, empathetically heard, and inspired on their healing journey.
“The monthly [Empowerment Circle], supports, inspires and validates all who share within it. Even though I’m the mother of a child who suffers from Lyme, I was welcomed and encouraged by amazing and remarkable individuals—each on their own healing journey. The leaders bring hope and enthusiasm as the participants learn, accept and grow stronger together. These are “my people” now that I live in my child’s world. I’m grateful to have their experience inform my perspective that things will get better.”
– Empowerment Circle Member (Anonymous)
All are welcome to join on the third Tuesday of each month! This includes anyone looking for support, a safe space, some encouragement, empowerment, community or solidarity for themselves or a loved one’s healing journey. There is a virtual chair waiting for you. To join the group mailing list and be notified of meetings, click this link. If you have further questions, please e-mail SDLA.
We hope to see you at a meeting soon!
Meet the Team
Mark Guay is an integrative coach and featured meditation teacher on Insight Timer. He and his wife, Kaitlyn, moved to San Diego after nearly a decade-long healing journey from Lyme disease that led her from running a marathon to being pushed in a wheelchair. He is excited to be part of a community that supports each other to persevere and thrive through one’s journey with Lyme.
Patricia Cosulich (@patricia.cosulich) interviewed many Lyme patients, advocates, loved ones, and medical professionals during the research process of creating her play, The Great Imitator (@greatimitatorplay), to raise awareness and advocate for the Lyme community. Through this process, she fell in love with the amazing community of warriors, and wanted a place to continue investing in those relationships, seeing folks live empowered lives and build meaningful support systems. The Empowerment Circle effectively provides a space to do this. You can learn more at www.patriciacosulich.com.
Christina P. Kantzavelos, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist @beginwithintoday, award-winning gluten-free and health-conscious food, travel and lifestyle writer @buenqamino, and Author of the Begin Within Today Healing Journals, for chronic illness and mental wellness. As a fellow Lyme warrior herself, she understands from both a clinical and personal perspective the importance of emotional health and community in healing from a diagnosis that is complex to diagnose, and treat, but rarely recognized in the medical community. She joined the Empowerment Circle as a means to give back and provide space to fellow warriors and their loved ones.
Sharon Wampler, PhD is founder of SDLA. With the Empowerment Circle under the stewardship of Christina, Mark and Patricia, her efforts are focused on establishing patient-centered research collaborations and continuing her advocacy with government leaders at the local, state and federal levels. Her goal is to bring more resources, support, acknowledgement and compassion to those folks in the San Diego region who continue to struggle with this disease. Given her professional background as a scientist, this is where she is most impactful. Additionally, as a longtime patient advocate in integrative medicine and a kundalini yoga teacher, she pulls from these resources to empower individuals on their own healing journey.