The Business of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can cause many challenges. Instead of focusing on the limitations it presents, in this post, I share what I find more helpful.


Even though it impacts me every moment of every day, this is something I rarely share about in detail. Not because I’m ashamed of it. Mostly I’d just assumed that part of my message is about focusing on what’s possible, instead of focusing on limitations, and so I do my best to model that. But I can see that also means I could be brushing aside an important part of the story.


I wonder if I’ve been downplaying or hiding it a little, thinking you might not take me as seriously if you know the extent of what goes on behind the scenes, so I’m coming clean in an attempt to disprove that doubting, cautious part of me.


You see: I’m in chronic pain and I have been, to some degree every day, since late 2008.


I had spinal surgery in 2009 and things improved for a bit. I modified a few important things in my then consulting biz, but basically, I tried to keep working with the ferociousness of a woman in deep denial. Then in late 2011/ early 2012, the pain got much MUCH worse.


I’d been struggling to keep going. After a frightening experience where I collapsed outside when my entire body suddenly became completely paralyzed, while at the same time it felt like lightning was coursing through me nonstop for hours, I knew I had to start learning to listen to my body. A few days utterly incapacitated in bed turned into weeks, which turned into months, and then, shockingly, turned into years.


Thank god for a few incredible friends and Rod. Really, he carried the load. I couldn’t actually get downstairs, couldn’t stand or sit in the shower, couldn’t prepare food, couldn’t drive, couldn’t get my shoes on, couldn’t do any chores. Walking – even standing at all: breathtakingly excruciating.


Perhaps you can relate?


The pain I’m talking about isn’t muscle soreness (a feeling which, as a previously fit and active gal, I remember loving). It’s white-hot, sharp searing pain that’s hard to ignore. It feels so hot it actually feels icy. It’s almost constant muscle spasms. It’s complete weakness and weird numbness in my back, legs, and feet that’s out of my control. God forbid I ever need to cough – or worse, sneeze; a few seconds so painful I’m still fearful of them.


You know how some life lessons will come back around and around, each time a little less subtle, until you learn the lesson for good? Why is it that some we’re able to take onboard quickly, and others (no matter how simple or obvious they seem from the outside looking in) are much harder to stick?


For me, the need for consistent self-kindness and a solid dose of soul medicine – it seems way more than feels comfortable – is a life lesson that regularly cycles back through this experience of chronic pain. But man, it’s definitely not the only life lesson pain has blessed me with.


This experience of being in pain and being in bed for so fucking long was never part of THE PLAN (you know, that plan you may not have even realised you’d had until life set you way WAY off course). But, it’s also a constant reminder that, through the right lens, the absolutely worst thing can in fact sometimes be the very best thing. Through this pain I’ve gotten to know myself; I’ve thought about the woman I’d like to become; I started Betty Means Business.


It’s true. I do most of my work lying down (I’m lying down writing this now). Pain and medication mean I can’t do some things I used to do. Isolation and dependency can suck very large balls. My elbows look like elephant knees from years of using them to prop myself up and take my full weight. Muscles in my right leg have atrophied and sadly, not in a hot way. I’ve had many MANY more injections in my spine than anyone I know. I spend a butt load of time at rehab and medical appointments. Sometimes I lose my shit about it.


And this (and yes, we’re coming to the point of this whole post): none of that means I can’t be the very VERY best in the business.


Because here’s the thing: everyone has something. And unless you really want them to, your limitations don’t have to define you.


All innovation is the result of and spurred by a need to deal with problems.


Some of the most liberating and powerful traits a business can have – creativity, problem-solving, agility, an entirely new perspective – are born from challenges.


Can you only work on your business 4 hours a week? Great. Only got $1k to invest to get your empire started? Ok. Can only work lying down? Fucking fantastic.


The key to your dreams coming true is this: focus on what you can do and get on with that, every day. I promise it’s a far better use of your time than obsessively reflecting on what you can’t, or, worse, what you used to be able to, do. That way is only pain.


If you’re struggling under the weight of your challenges today, my advice is to get fucking fired up about it. And then direct the energy you’ll create into action that serves your highest self. With heart and aligned action, almost anything is possible.


P.S. A practical tip: Instead of saying to myself ‘I can do this’ when the weight of challenges are threatening to flatten me, these days I ask myself ‘how can I do this?’ and ‘how do I know I can do this?’. Our brains can’t help but engage with and respond to questions. For me, my answers to these questions feel more genuinely useful and powerful than affirmation alone.


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Kate xo
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About Kate

Through her passion-fuelled coaching, consulting and writing, Dr Kate Byrne helps women coaches and consultants intentionally engineer success so they can shine neon bright in business. She is an advocate for being all in, charging what you’re really worth and premium pricing.

Connect with Kate now at Betty Means Business, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  • Thank you for your honesty about this. I also live with chronic pain and weird symptoms — it’s not always pretty and fun but I am consciously, very very carefully, crafting a life that honors my spit-fire spirit and passions as well as honors my very real limitations.

    It’s nice to feel just a little less alone in this adventure.


    p.s. I wrote my comment laying down as well 😉

    • Kate

      Oh Kate! Love that you’re holding onto and honouring your spit-fire spirit through chronic pain. I’m especially feeling you on your uber careful approach to crafting your life. I’ve realised that, in some very real ways, this chronic pain robs us of our ability to trust ourselves/our bodies, which can have massive flow on impact to self confidence and allowing ourselves to be all in. I think honouring and keeping promises we make to ourselves and our bodies is SO important to build that trust back up again. And so I love that you’re consciously creating the right balance for you. Big love x

  • Wow, what a post Kate. Thank you for sharing the lessons you have learnt from pain. I hope that today is a less painful day for you – and that over the years, you have found ways to ‘manage’ (ikk horrible word for when it comes to chronic pain) the pain itself so that it isn’t completely unbearable.

    I have a client and a family member who experience chronic pain – will head off and forward this to them now. Thanks again.

    • Kate

      Haha thank you Naomi! You’re right, the word ‘manage’ is… eugh! But yes, I have found ways and keep finding ways. Like all us spirited entrepreneurs, I’ve got shit to do. Most days my need to get on and do it overrides my need to mope and watch Desperate Housewives marathons (but obviously those days happen… we’re human after all!).

      PS Thanks for sharing this post with your client and family! x

  • Kate, you are seriously one amazing and inspiring woman! It takes courage to share a story like yours… It shows anything is possible too with the right attitude and determination. It’s awful that you spend time in pain and I really hope this can lessen with rehab etc Take care

    • Kate

      Monique: ‘Attitude and determination’ – you’re SO RIGHT! x

  • Leeandra Norman

    WOW very inspirational. Really helped me put things into perspective – THANK YOU!! We all bring something to the table and it really is all dependant on your perspective. I too hope you have a bearable day – pain free – or less and that you don’t need to sneeze! 🙂 Love your work – and yes you are the very BEST!

  • Viv Kohlenbach-Wilson

    Hi Kate. Vulnerability is such a dichotomy. I came across your site just a couple of months ago and immediately connected with the spirit of your offerings. But to learn what lies far beneath the surface is even more inspiring.
    I recently watched a couple of TED talks from Brene Brown and it really made me stop in my tracks. For many many years, I have worked hard to prove myself as ‘beyond’ capable as everyone else. Having lost my right hand as I child, I hated the pity. So I have worked my arse off and I hid my vulnerabilities from the world. I found ‘success’ in the corporate world. But today I am 42, have a beautiful family and burned out. Two days ago I resigned from my job. I have let vulnerability in. The strange this is I feel empowered like I never have before. It is the stories of women like you that have shown me what it means to live. What it means to be part of a community and to give back. Who knows where my journey will take me but thank you for reminding me of the power of our own thoughts and actions.
    Stay strong, keep smiling x

    • Kate

      Viv, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve especially connected with you working hard to prove yourself as beyond capable. What a journey for you, and HUGE congrats on resigning and standing in your power, you adventurer! Sending you lots of love and luck! x

  • mandy hunt

    Hi Kate, Your such an inspiration, thank you for sharing and making me get over myself and get some focus for the day. Its hard when you work for yourself, especially just starting out to keep that momentum, but your post has given me inspiration. If I could wish your pain away I would. I hope today brings you positive things. Thank you.

  • Such a powerful post, and so many insights for us all. Thank you so much for sharing… keep your spirit shining bright.

  • Wow. Thank you! I’ve been dealing with the same sort of crap. It’s nice to know that there ARE others out there that are actually doing something with their lives and getting fired up about their work, despite all the obstacles.

    Thanks Kate – you just gave me the boost I needed after a particularly crappy two weeks.

    • Kate

      Sara: Sorry to hear about those shit house weeks. I get it. Fired up 24/7 is tricky. Sometimes you’ve gotta respect the season, and find that balance between listening to your body and staying in motion. Sending you a flood of healing vibes. x

  • Hi Kate,

    I wanted to thank you for sharing your heart with us. It meant a great deal to me to be allowed in and meet with you in your raw pain about a very difficult subject. I could relate so much to what you shared. I am trying to find my feet, so to speak, in finding something I can manage, and it is a battle, but I’m trying. Blessings to you.

  • Kate – you fierce, strong woman. Thank you for having the courage to show your vulnerability to us readers. All it has changed is how much more kick-arse I think you are. I’ve already flagged you as being the go-to business coach I will consult with when I get my business up and running, so I really hope that the “doubting, cautious part” of you has been squashed like a poor little ant. 🙂


    • Kate

      Rachael – THANK YOU! Seriously, how could my cautiousness not be squashed with all this incredible support. Thanks again lady x

  • Legend. Thank you for sharing this, Kate <3

  • Natasha

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Kate. I N S P I R I N G ! Love the idea of using questions to inspire positive action. I often struggle with simply repeating affirmations. Much power to you on your journey. Thank You!

  • Liberating Kate and respect to you for your commitment and fierceness towards your passions, no matter what. It’s contagious.


    • Kate

      Helen: ‘It’s contagious.’ Thank you, that’s the best feedback ever! x

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I have had chronic pain for over 10 years in my back and neck. In the last couple of years it has spread to my extremities which the doctors have diagnosed as fibromyalgia (I’m somewhat skeptical of this diagnosis because the pain is constant and all over my back and neck and not so much “trigger points” but regardless)…It’s so encouraging and refreshing to read this… I’m an attorney and a blogger and I feel like I work just as hard if not harder than a lot of “well” people and I don’t let my pain keep me from living a great life. I just LOVE this post and it makes me want to read your blog even more because I feel even more connected to you. Thank you SO much!! xo

  • Nicole Rowan Holt

    Kate this is a bloody brilliant post. It comes during a couple of weeks of what I have been called “Soul integrity”. Bloody lovely to see a woman celebrate herself in her power and in her own full range of vulnerability. (dunny moments change women’s lives)

    Big big love

  • What a BEAUTIFUL post. Thank you for sharing, Kate.

    C xox

  • *Deep exhale*…I don’t use the words inspiration lightly as it seems theses days if you repost a quote from Oprah on social media and your frickin’ labeled as inspirational. But this, this! hit high on my inspiration gauge. For all you have achieved and for all the epicness you have laying down, standing up, slumped against the wall, wracked with pain and creating such goodness, you are awesome. Hoping you always find away to share your genius! Much love and good health to you! Xx

  • Please please find a Scenar therapist.. Google Scenar .. I just exhibited at the Australian pain society conference in Brisbane. Sharing Scenar with pain specialists, physio’s and nurses. Scenar is changing pain and changing lives..

  • Great post Kate. You are one brave, courageous and kick-ass women, and I love that about you!

    Although I don’t suffer from chronic pain, I love that your message is universal.

    Focusing on what we can do rather than what we can’t is a simple yet profound message.

    Thank you for your vulnerability, it’s my favourite. x

  • Kate thank you for sharing. I’ve been dealing with a medical crisis since 2012, not mine but that of my now preschool aged son. We’re still in the thick of it in fact. It has required me to change my life entirely and my business was also a result of this change. The isolation and not being able to go and “do” is hard. I feel like a lot of friendships have dissipated as a result of my not being “available”.

    I love your message of focusing on doing what you can with whatever resources you have. I confess to many moments of making excuses and throwing the grandest pity parties. You’re AMAZING and such an inspiration and a kick in the butt to quit my whining and to keep pushing.

  • This was an incredible post, thank you for sharing. I have a lot of pain and fatigue, although nowhere near what you are experiencing, and I hide it, too. I am a blogger and podcaster, and I get so intimidated by everyone else, thinking I can’t compete with “healthy” people. It’s good to know there are people with pain, health issues, or disabilities who are making it work, it gives me hope.

  • So inspiring. x

  • Woman, you are simply incredible. I’ve been meaning to come back to comment on this for … ahh… about a week. COULDN’T not tell you how inspiring this was to read.

    As always, applauding your humility, courage and get-on-with-it nature. Big love xxx

  • This post came to me at such a perfect time. It inspired me be more open and honest and be vulnerable, you could do it, why couldn’t I? So I did.

    Slow clap indeed xo

  • Hey Kate,

    Thanks so much for sharing this – I have followed you for a while and had NO idea. I am also an online entrepreneur, also in chronic pain (endometriosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are my weapons of choice), and I am also a bed office superstar, running my 6 figure global biz from the pillows.

    Well done for sharing, and you are totally rocking it. Yours in duvets, PJ’s and painkillers,
    Jo (@dexdiva) xxx

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Kate.

    I can empathize with your struggle. And so appreciate your reminder that we do not have to face our challenges alone.

    Though part of me wants to wish you healing and greater well~being, another part of me wants to share a pretty rad affirmation that I recently heard…

    “Already healed, already whole.”

    No matter what, I honor your willingness to meet your body where it’s at and to give yourself the love and nurturing you deserve.

    When I was suffering with chronic pain in my late teens and my docs kept suggesting pain medicine on the daily, I was so grateful to discover yoga. Though my practice didn’t cure me, learning to honor myself and practice the breath and movement and mindset has completely transformed my experience.

    Sending you love and hoping the days ahead are more easeful for you.

    All the best,


  • Hi Kate
    I am going over my missed emails today and came across this post about your chronic pain. Your story really touched and amazed me. I don’t know how you can manage life, let alone manage running your business. It was very humbling for me.

    I have been suffering from inflammation and lots of body issues since early March which cascaded into shingles which is enormously painful and debilitating. I have only recently launched my business and haven’t been able to work on it really at all for 6 weeks since every time I think in an active way, I get massive nerve pains like an electrical knife in my body.

    Thanks you for sharing – I also wrote about my experience – which is a tiny fraction of yours – on my website this last week – life-setback/
    Regards Toni

  • Lisa Starr

    I have chronic, debilitating back pain also. I have had it since 2000 but it got much worse after my spine surgery in 2007. I now cannot sit upright for more than an hour a day, I’m taking 4 different pain meds all day long and they only help 30% of the time, and the two surgeries I need are considered experimental so my insurance chooses to let me suffer. I haven’t walked in 17 months and use my wheelchairs even around my home. It sucks. I don’t leave my home unless it’s for a doctor appointment. The only people I see are my husband and the four children who still live at home.

    I type on my computer laying down to write my book and start my blog. I also homeschool my kids which keeps my mind off my pain. I still have to go to the bathroom during the day and scream into a towel because the pain is beyond excrutiating. I found out that what I have is the third most debilitating disease behind ALS and Parkinsons.

  • Kate, you are such an inspiration- thank you for writing this article!


  • I also suffer from chronic pain and it can really take the wind out of your sails! I appreciate hearing that you make it through and still achieve your goals despite this. Much love to you.

  • This post was definitely the kick in the butt I needed. After sleeping most of yesterday, not sleeping last night and then realizing I forgot to change my pain patch which helps tremendously now that the dose has been upped. Your story has helped me to see that you can have chronic pain and have a business. I’m currently in the process of learning web design and coding, so I can build awesome websites. I’ve been discouraged about my pain levels lately and how I’m supposed to work under theses conditions. Your story shows me that it can happen.

    I came over to your blog from JennyPurr. I’m going to subscribe to your newsletter and start reading your posts on a regular basis. I would love if you would share how you run your business under so much pain. Do you limit your hours? My pain gets worse with stress (fibromyalgia, plus chronic back pain, 2 major surgeries, 2 minor surgeries, lots of shots and procedures, weekly acupuncture appointments and physical therapy), but I can’t work in a regular office because of it. So how do you do it?

  • Thank you, Kate. I found this post through a round-up of the most powerful blog posts someone read last year & I needed to hear this. It’s also inspiring how you make it work even with the mix of good & very bad days. Sending you good vibes & prayers for strength for everyday!

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  • Meg Cowan

    Kate. wow. I found this when looking through your site for another fab resource and I totally get it!. And you sharing makes me love you more!. I’m living pain free now (complete miracle!) after 12 yrs but the lessons of self care are so important. This is a big one for me this year as sometimes I ignore those little niggles till my body starts reminding me to pay attention. I love your can do attitude. Thanks for the honesty. x Meg