Episode 138: Running a Business Well While Navigating Health Struggles (and my own personal update)

October 31, 2022


Sadly, an all too common theme among entrepreneurs especially, but really people across the board, is navigating illness. And when I say illness, I mean the absence of thriving; a lot of the things we face are just symptoms we chalk up to working a lot, or having young kids, or being postpartum, or whatever it is – when oftentimes, it goes deeper than that. 

Whether it’s a multi-year struggle with intense symptoms and very few answers, like I’ve been walking through, or a diagnosis that you’re up against and have to battle, too many of us are some version of sick. So, today’s episode is both an update as I’ve learned more about my own struggles recently, and a chance to share my heart with those of you who might be building your dreams alongside some pain.


[2:14] It’s All for a Reason 

Today is about sharing my own personal health update, but it’s also about sharing my heart with those of you that might have some kind of physical suffering that you’re facing. I know you’re here with an ambitious mind and a heart that’s called for leadership in business and in your home. That’s a tall order without any means of symptoms or suffering, yet you might be facing some of those things. 

This is why I want to give you this reminder – we were called to this, in this moment, with these hardships for a reason. This was one of the greatest epiphanies that I’ve had in this process of healing, just releasing the pressure to and the need to separate my physical issues with the pursuit of what I’m going after. This is how it was designed to be, exactly like this. Even the parts that suck so brutally were designed to be there. It was serving a great purpose, it was a great teacher for me. And once I started to realize that I’m actually called to do this work with this pain, it blew the lid off of possibility for me. I saw things through a new lens. I freed myself from the victim mentality. 

[5:15] The Gift of Suffering 

It was no coincidence that I was experiencing all of these things and God just kept putting in front of me the words, the thoughts and the people trying to open my eyes to what I was choosing to be blind to. 

One of those things was a piece of scripture – Corinthians 12:7. It’s about Paul, who had some kind of affliction and he was suffering. He would regularly ask God to remove what he described as thorns in his life, but he came to realize that in order to keep him from becoming conceited, he was given a thorn in his flesh. Sometimes we are literally gifted some kind of suffering to save ourselves from ourselves, to teach us something, to make us more humble, to bring us into our faith stronger, to teach us how to lean on others or whatever it might be. And with faith, we can do all things even in the midst of our pain. It’s a both/and kind of situation. It’s less about the relief from the thorn, but more about the acknowledgement that it serves as a reminder that we’re really not doing it alone and that we’re called to do big things, in the same moment of our pain with great purpose.

Pain has taught me to slow down, to be more grateful, to weigh things differently in life, to lean on God and my faith, and to remain humble. So, don’t fall into the temptation to assume that this is your sign that you’re not capable; be reminded that this might be part of the plan and you might have to find your own new way there. 

[9:05]  The Update

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that for over four years now I’ve navigated some chronic illness. I’ve spent countless hours researching and it led me down multiple paths to my adrenal dysfunction, hormone imbalances and most recently, after four years finally being diagnosed with Lyme disease.

I wasn’t excited to get that diagnosis, but at the same rate, I was grateful for it, because it gave us some direction and led us to some of the most wonderful doctors that we hadn’t yet been exposed to. My symptoms overall, have a broad spectrum, but I’m never without them. I’ve learned to do a lot, with only a little bit in the tank. I’ve learned to be grateful for a day that’s not so bad versus only being grateful for a day when the sun is shining and I feel like a million bucks. 

So some of the biggest symptoms I face are:

  • Debilitating exhaustion. Picture yourself at the peak of the worst flu, that feeling where you cannot lift your head off the pillow and you feel weak in your bones. Sometimes it’s like that.
  • I’ll also get inflammation. After working out, I would get tons of inflammation in my joints, and under my eyes and in my face. 
  • Brain fog. People use this term a lot but for me, it got to a point where there was actual memory loss where I couldn’t remember really basic things. 
  • High cortisol. So, that meant insomnia. Some nights I just felt like I was buzzing and I couldn’t sleep.  And then after years of really high cortisol, I now have dangerously low cortisol.
  • Low blood pressure. I’m talking dangerously low, where I’d start to faint and be really, really dizzy and then sometimes lose consciousness. 

So, those are the symptoms that have been most prevalent. I experience other things too, but they don’t really hold a candle to most of these because these just affect everything. And the list of things that I have done is ridiculous. Everything from the infrared sauna to adrenal protocols and frequency testing, we’ve pursued many options. And I want to highlight that if you’re also walking through a season of feeling like you’re pursuing every possible way to fix it, take this as a lesson.

[22:56]  Pieces of Wisdom

After a few days of feeling down about getting these updates, I started to feel hopeful. I started to see and look back and reflect on the gifts in all of this for me and I want to share a little bit of that wisdom with you:

  • I am someone who could have easily become one of those people who are addicted to their career at the expense of my family. In fact, I was on that trajectory. Now I literally create programs and processes to save people from that pain. But I could have so easily gone that path if I had not experienced this illness. This illness has forced me to slow down, to be present, to enjoy the little moments because maybe I didn’t have the capacity for the big moments. And it’s been a treasure for me as a mother and as a wife, as an employer, a business owner and a leader. 
  • It has given me such a different perspective and so much more empathy and understanding for others. It gave me a different vantage point of how you can live a both/and life. You have to find creative ways to get to where you want to go. I’ve had to do that, because I couldn’t do what I used to do, which is work 10 hour days. So it’s allowed us to scale and grow for our family which has been such a gift. It’s allowed me to teach other people how to do that. And now I can work with people who are suffering from the same things, either addiction to their work or struggling with managing the both/and life.
  • Addressing what’s going on emotionally. For years, I never wanted to address the disruption, the emotional side of things. There is so much scientific evidence of how we hold emotions and how that can affect us physically. And I am very convinced that much of my suffering has come from some emotional battles that I’ve been unwilling to face for years, which I’m now unearthing. So go there, do what you have to do to figure that out. 
  • Don’t solely focus on healing alone, it can potentially make for years of wishing you were somewhere else. It’s about walking forward even in your suffering. It’s about both/and and also advocating for yourself. If I had gone the route that doctors were initially telling me, I would have been pumped full of antibiotics. I would have been on medication and it would have led down spirals of causing other issues. 
  • Build a strong business. There have been seasons where my symptoms have gotten so debilitating where I just couldn’t work. But thank God, we’ve scaled and built a business and a team that allowed me the space to rest when I needed it. So if you’re running a vulnerable business model right now, it’s time to look into expansion and how you want to grow. 
  • Open the doors of communication with your family and your team. Don’t complain but share. Complaining creates a very specific energy that’s not good. But you can share your struggles, you can be vulnerable, you can be communicative, you can ask for help when you need it.

I hope today’s episode helps you realize that all your struggles are part of the plan. You were called to do this work and this just means you need to be creative about how you get there!

And if this episode spoke to you, make sure to subscribe and leave us a review! Come connect with me on Instagram at @elizhartke! If there’s a topic, a question or a guest you want to hear on the show, just reach out and share that. We do this for you so the more you tell us, the more we can serve.


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