Being a business owner with an autoimmune disease...

I didn’t want to write this post. I’ve been conflicted with it for months. I built my business with a heavy helping of “getting personal with Kara Marie” and over the years, I’ve pulled back. I think it’s only natural that I’ve grown more private as business has grown and my privacy became harder and harder to come by…but I don’t want to lose sight entirely of the fact that this IS a very personal business, and that I myself AM the sole presence behind it. So here goes.

Running a successful business is grueling work that requires immense sacrifices of personal life, sleep, ideal schedules, and usually sanity. It’s a rat race that I LIVE for. And, consequently, a rat race that I will inevitably die for….at least, way earlier than if I’d ever been able to keep my cortisol levels at bay.

Last year, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with an autoimmune disease after the scariest, most debilitating flare up I will ever experience, I hope. Since the diagnosis, I’ve been struggling to find the treatment approach that is best for me, but am extremely hopeful and feel as though I’m on the right path.

My first day back to work after being released from the hospital. I was emaciated, malnourished, lonely, sad, hopeless, and told how great I looked.

My first day back to work after being released from the hospital. I was emaciated, malnourished, lonely, sad, hopeless, and told how great I looked.

4 months later, crying happy tears because while there is no cure, my desperate search for treatment options allowed me to finally experience relief from the mental illness that has plagued me my whole adult life.

4 months later, crying happy tears because while there is no cure, my desperate search for treatment options allowed me to finally experience relief from the mental illness that has plagued me my whole adult life.

I am not a pity party kind of woman, nor am I one for excuses. At all. I’m an action taker and I make things work. It’s what I do. So while I am (reluctantly) sharing this with you, I beg of you not to dole out pity, apologies, prayers, or essential oil remedies….because, listen, EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING. I’m nothing special for suffering from an autoimmune disease and mental illness….in fact I could likely step out into the parking lot of my building and yell “WHO HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS?!” and get a smattering of raised hands attached to people with pain in their eyes.

I don’t speak of this publicly often at all, to avoid all of those things I just asked you not to dole out…but also because I don’t want to admit defeat. I don’t want to say that it makes running a successful business all the more difficult. I don’t want to admit that it’s put a strain on personal relationships. I don’t want to accept that I’m not invincible. I don’t want to be a complainer. It could be worse. It can always be worse.


*It means using every.single.ounce.of my energy for the time that is forward-facing with my clients, and manifesting artificial energy when I run out of real energy…which happens very quickly.

*It means having to document absolutely EVERYTHING because my memory is no longer reliable.

*It means I have a much deeper level of empathy for all of my clients who are suffering from any disease/illness/ailment….because as empathic as I am, I truly had NO idea what it was like with a chronic illness until I had one.

*It means I cannot take on as much new business as I used to.

*It means I cannot book clients as far in advance as I used to.

*It means I have to take the high road when people are aggressive with me about not being able to fit them in.

*It means wishing I didn’t have to take the high road all.the.time.

*It means having to answer the “where have you been!?” questions on social media far too often.

*It means having to rely on employees more than in the past.

*It means I’ve been naturally forced to get my priorities straight, therefore finding deeper meaning in the service that I provide to women.

*It means always wondering how much further along I could be in my career if I didn’t have this disease.

*It means focusing more on the education side of things and slowing down on the physical aspect.

*It means being way more in-tune with my own personal style and artistic aspect of my work, which I am so so very grateful for.

*It means shooting more intentionally and appreciating every shot I take all-the-more. It’s forced me to level up!

*It means having an EVEN harder time listening to women hate on their bodies instead of loving and appreciating the vessel that carries them around and does miraculous things.

*It means a much deeper level of appreciation for my work and creating visual documentation of legendary women.


*It means I’ve been forced to get my priorities straight, which has actually been a HUGE blessing and massive relief.

*It means having to hear “you’re no fun” when I politely decline cake at a birthday party.

*It means hurt feelings every time someone says “But look how thin you are!! You look great!” in result to the weight loss from having an insanely restricted diet.

*It means having to completely altar my schedule and work habits so that I am able to reserve a little bit of a good mood for my husband and children.

*It means declining practically all social invitations just to avoid the frustration of others trying to accommodate my diet, which even I don’t fully understand.

*It means taking 27 pills a day.


*It means the occasional mental breakdown….usually about food.

*It means distancing myself from people and situations that cause stress and negativity….and I can’t believe it took THIS to finally do that, because damn….life gets so much easier when you cut.them.out.

*It means I’m actually taking better care of myself than I EVER have.

*It means that I’m more emotionally intelligent and intentional than ever.

*It means having to wonder if I come across as whiny or complaining if I mention my disease.

*It means I have no time or desire for small talk. Give me depth or don’t strike up conversation.

*It means getting a plethora of unqualified and uninvited advice on potential treatment options.

*It means fighting the urge to scream “THIS DOESN’T GO AWAYYYYYY” to everyone that says “I hope you feel better soon!”, as well-intentioned as they are.

*It means accepting the suspicious judgement passed because I don’t “look sick”.

*It means unexpected medical bills and a whole slew of new self care expenses.

*It means taking it extra hard when people don’t realize that sometimes the strong friend needs support, too.

*It means trying extra hard not to get offended when people are friendly with me only when they have a favor to ask (i.e. working for free).

*It means being faced with the decision of which approach to take at social gatherings::: Do I try to explain to them that I can’t drink because I’m sick, or do I just carry around a fake cocktail all night to avoid the same conversation over and over?

*It means I cherish my close personal relationships so much more.

*It means I have a better excuse for going to bed at 8:30pm.

*It means I get a little less judgement for being a cannabis advocate ;)

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In summary, it means CHANGE. Everything is different, my life has flipped upside down….and while the easy thing to do would be to complain and compile a list of all the ways I’m now inconvenienced (eh hem), I can GENUINELY SAY that the things that have improved are MONUMENTAL and I may NEVER have achieved such pivotal milestones of growth without being affected by chronic illness and being forced to get very serious about REAL self care. I’m not talking bubble baths and meditation, here. For the first time, I am taking proper care of myself. I am understanding my own needs, making radical changes in my life, eliminating my life of toxicity, building deeper relationships with those I love, and prioritizing the RIGHT THINGS.

Having a chronic illness can be extremely isolating…OR….it can be the fuel that you need to get your shit straightened out. For me, it has been both. I don’t know what my future with this super annoying “invisible” disease looks like, but I can tell you that it will most definitely be lived with purpose and a much brighter outlook than I had even before I was diagnosed. Ohhh the irony.

Thank you all for your continued support. I’m not going away anytime soon, but what I can assure you is that what you will see of me will be on purpose.


Kara Marie