San Diego / Joshua Tree, CA
Current health: on the road to healing
While I am still very much on the road to healing, I have made a conscious decision to choose an attitude and intention of thriving, over an obsession with surviving, and I aspire to share that with others. – Christina Kantzavelos
My name is Christina Kantzavelos, and I am a licensed psychotherapist and coach who specializes in treating clients with chronic illness @beginwithintoday, and the author of the Begin Within Journal. I’m also a gluten-free food, travel and health-conscious writer @buenqamino.
Lyme Disease changed the entire trajectory of my life. Although, I was likely infected in middle school when we first noticed the cat scratch stretch marks, and strange symptoms (fatigue, panic attacks, fainting spells), they were manageable. Prior to getting ‘really sick’ in 2018, I was fearless, traveling the world, conducting international humanitarian work, working full-time, eating whatever I chose (minus gluten, and dairy), and essentially, a yeasayer. As mentioned, I had some ongoing health concerns prior to then, but it did not stop me from living my life.
The deterioration of my health forced me to cut my humanitarian work contracts, and quit my job because I couldn’t tolerate it. I was tossed around from doctor to doctor, collecting all of the wrong diagnoses and treatments before finding a Lyme literate physician (LLMD). I had to move back with my parents so that my mom could care for me full-time. I went from being everyone’s caretaker, to needing to be taken care of. It was horrendous. I couldn’t take a shower without her help. It was difficult to walk across the room, to stand in the sun, to be somewhere or around someone wearing anything scented. I was down to 20 safe ingredients I could safely consume without reactions. Here I was, someone with two master’s degrees, unable to comprehend or remember the most simple of things. Every part of my body and soul felt attacked. I thought I was dying.
…Thankfully, the treatment I continue to receive saved my life.
There is a reason they call this a ‘designer disease.’ When you finally find a LLMD who not only believes in chronic Lyme, and treats it, there is likely a chance they don’t accept insurance, or offer treatment that do not accept insurance, resulting in much of it being cash-pay. This can also result in patients going into debt, or forgoing diagnostics and treatment all-together. I am grateful for my insurance-accepting LLMD, my credit card, and for my family and partner’s support. Without them, I’m sure I would be homeless, or without exaggeration, no longer part of this world. I cry as I write this because I know how lucky, fortunate, and privileged I am, and how that’s not the case for everyone. Proper medical care and access should be a basic human right for all. I may have credit card debt to pay off, but healing and living are priceless.
My healing has included a mixture of eastern and western treatments, nutritional changes (organic, gluten-free, casein-free [dairy], alcohol-free, and mostly soy-free and refined sugar-free), as well as switching to non-toxic living, and clean beauty. I completed DNRS (neural-retraining therapy) and received EMDR trauma-informed therapy, as well as learned to prioritize radical self-care, including journaling, painting, joining CoDA, meditation, and being out in nature as often as possible. I can’t stress how fierce the mind-body connection is, and how much mental health and trauma plays a role in chronic illness. Last but not least, journaling my symptoms and progress each night. My goal was/is to track my day-to-day symptoms, what worked, what didn’t work, as well as recognize when days were challenging, and honor my accomplishments (big or small). This is especially helpful during healthcare appointments to recall my symptoms. Journaling every night helped me realize that I was indeed on the road to healing, even if I was simply only able to breathe that day.
I created this Begin Within Journal (www.beginwithintoday.com) because it didn’t exist, and I was tired of re-writing the same prompts night after night into an empty journal. It’s a helpful tool for anyone moving through life with chronic illness, or other health-related challenges. My hope is that this journal brings others insight into their health and provides assistance on their path to wellness.
From being couch-bound, and sensitive to just about everything (scents, food, EMF’s), I am now back in the world, hiking, and tolerating most foods, and scents.
While I am still very much on the road to healing, I have made a conscious decision to choose an attitude and intention of thriving, over an obsession with surviving and I aspire to share that with others.