Myasthenia Gravis and Career Pivots with Kait Masters | Ep 002
Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast, where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible and breaking stigmas along the way.
In the second episode of Becoming Buoyant, Kait Masters joins us to share how managing Myasthenia Gravis has impacted her life and career! Listen in as she so humbly shares not only the challenges she’s faced with having a chronic illness, but also how Myasthenia Gravis has empowered her to be a stronger wife, mother, and entrepreneur!
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
HoneyBook: Receive 50% off your first year. Check it out here.
Learn more about the Rising Tide Society here.
Join the Creative and Chronically Ill Facebook Group here.
I studied painting at a small liberal arts school on the North Shore of Massachusetts. After living in Maryland and South Carolina after school, I moved across the country and now reside in Gig Harbor, Washington with my husband, daughter, and rescue dog #rytherescue.
My work is gestural, atmospheric, and a little contemplative - each piece is a momentary narrative. It settles somewhere between impressionist and abstract, and is almost always inspired by nature and travel. My work is a quiet celebration of the beauty around us.
I paint to express love for the world around us. While my disease limits the way I move through and interact with the world, I can still participate productively in this life through the process of making. I am able to create an intimate connection and emotional experience from a piece of artwork. Through my work, I’ve also been able to cultivate community with other artists who have chronic illnesses. Together we are able to normalize the challenges we face without minimizing or hiding.
Welcome to the Becoming Buoyant podcast where we’re all about sharing our stories as entrepreneurs with chronic illnesses, making the invisible visible, and breaking stigma’s along the way. In each episode, you’ll learn from expert guests exactly what it takes to build a meaningful and sustainable business without sacrificing self care. We want you to shine your bright light on the world, friend, and are honored to be part of your creative life giving journey. Let’s dive in, shall we?
This is the Becoming Buoyant podcast with Emilie Steinmann, episode #2.
[00:59] Emilie: Hi Kait. I'm super excited you're here on the Becoming Buoyant podcast. You're my first guest and I could not think of anybody better to be my first. So, I would like everybody to know a little bit more about you. So tell us a little bit about who you are and not just your title, but what you love and all of your things that you love to do. I know that you are a watercolor artist, but expand a little bit more about that.
[01:25] Kait: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Well, thank you so much for having me. No pressure being the first one, right? So if you don't know me I'm Kait Masters. I wear a lot of hats. So I am a side hustle painter. Like Emilie mentioned, I'm a watercolor artist. I primarily work small scale in watercolor landscapes and nature race paintings. I love what I do. In the daytime I am the community support manager for Rising Tide, which means I'm also part of the Honeybook family. So I'm working to support creatives in leadership who are pouring into their local creative communities and helping support them with resources. So a different kind of creative job. Yeah, I'm also a mom. I have a seven month old, her name is Finley and she keeps me on my toes and really busy. So I'm juggling a lot in this season of life, but it's great. It's kind of like me. I guess the other thing I didn't mention, which is probably important to this is that a lot of my free time is taken up by managing a chronic health condition. It's like artist and a support professional and mom and professional patient.
[02:44] Emilie: Right, exactly. It's like one of those unintended hobbies, right? We all have this thing with our time where we feel like, okay, everybody has 24 hours in the day, but how do we use our time? And a lot of it goes to managing your health and wellness. And it's more complicated than some people think. So I love this topic of conversation really. I think that's one of our biggest themes that we're going to probably have on the podcast is about time and what it all means. So speaking of that, what sort of health hurdles have you faced as a person and how do you feel like they fit into your current business or creative passions and honestly, working for a traditional employer or maybe not such traditional Honeybook is so special.
[03:33] Kait: It is special! That just makes me laugh because I feel like having an incurable health condition has really informed and shaped the path that I am on and have walked through. I guess it's a cliché to say like ‘my health journey’. But you know, to rewind to the beginning, like how did I get here? When I was, oh my gosh, now I have to do math in my head. I was 10 years old. Just, yeah, between like 10 and 11. I was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis. And I was very, very ill. And basically my mom had to take me out of school. I was homeschooled for two years, trying to get it all managed. And the only thing I could still do was mostly do like some art, almost like therapy. Because I was a super active kid before I got sick. I danced and I played soccer and I was super competitive and just always doing something. I played the piano, the viola, the oboe, like literally all. And I couldn't do any of that anymore because the way, I'll just call it MG just to shorten a long name. The way MG affected my body is that it affects all of your voluntary muscles. So I was really weak. I couldn't like hold a pencil. I had difficulty chewing and swallowing. I would fall when I walked a lot. So like physical activity was off the table. It was too hard to do music anymore, wasn't in school anymore, but I could usually still manage to hold a pencil or a paintbrush. My handwriting was horrible, but I could still draw or paint a little bit.
[05:20] Kait: So art became a really great outlet for me as a kid when I was going through this major change during a time of life that was already difficult. Middle School is super hard. Really, middle school sucked.
[05:23] Emilie: It's hard for just the average person, but let alone now you've stepped into this new reality of your situation.
[05:44] Kait: Yeah. Sorry. I feel like I'm taking it way far back. So art became a really big outlet for me. And that's when I realized like creativity was part of the healing process for me. The act of making something gave me in some sense control that I didn't have in another areas of my life and it was like a healthy way to have control, to make something and feel productive. As an adult that continued even though I still pursued other jobs and opportunities. But I kind of got to where I am now because I was working a traditional job in a creative industry. My MG got really bad again and I disclosed it to my employer and then I got fired. And I've talked about it before. I don't like to drag anyone through the mud, but it was a really, really difficult time. And I remember talking to my husband, I was married, I'm still married but we were very recent into marriage at that time. I remember talking to my husband and just feeling like, I don't know if I can go through this again. Historically what I did was I would hide that I had a disability when I applied for a job and I would throw myself into the job to prove myself more than anyone else. And then when it came to the point where I would have to disclose it, because that's the nature of having something that's incurable and will never go away, there are going to be times where you have to tell your employer that you're sick. It was just like the cycle and, it was not healthy. And I just was like, Travis, I don't think I can work for another normal job. I need to just focus on getting my health in a manageable place, getting the treatment that I need. Because I was undertreated at that point, I was not getting good health care. That's when I started my painting business. So I'm a reverse entrepreneur, so like the sickness is like really woven into where I'm at and be, you know, going from being a full time painter to then getting involved in Rising Tide, volunteering my time there, becoming a contractor. And then going into full time with them and being able to do it with enough flexibility to have a family, to manage my health, which is pretty intensive. And still feel like I have a sense of purpose. That was a really long winded answer to your question.
[08:40] Emilie: It really ties into the conversation super well because we, I feel like we try to compartmentalize a lot of aspects of our life, but it's just not that simple. When we talk about parenthood, a lot of people really understand because they're like, yeah, well I tried to go to work - clock in, clock out. But the reality of the situation is your child may have an appointment during the day for their doctor or they may have a random field trip that you want to go on so badly. But that, so there's all these things that you can't compartmentalize everything in life. And like with health, that goes the same way if not more because you cannot separate from your own health. And our health journey is literally just one thread in our big story. So I think it's really important that you really pull together and say how your health has really been part of your career journey and not like your career started and stopped because of or in spite of, you know, your health. It's like it just, it ebbs and flows in different ways as you need it to. But tell me more about, okay, so Honeybook knew about your health concerns when you started because you had started the Creative and Chronically Ill Facebook group as a chapter of Rising Tide, a unique online only chapter. Yes. For people all over the world. Right. So tell me a little bit more about that group and how all of that has brought people together.
[10:17] Kait: Yeah. so the start of Rising Tide coincided pretty closely with when I started my career as a painter, like full time. And I really owned that title as an artist. So I started in July, it was like July 1st, 2015. And then Rising Tide I think started June, 2015. And it's, it's really wild. Like, I can't even wrap my head around that. But I was living in Columbia, South Carolina. There was a chapter in that area. I was involved in their Facebook group, but my health was so fragile at that point. It was really difficult for me to ever show up in person. I would have every intention of going, but I was too sick to drive or even if I could get my husband to drive me, he works like, OR hours for his job. So oftentimes he wasn't available to pick me up or to drop me off. And so I just felt really isolated and it was really frustrating for me to really want that access to community and education, but not be able to physically attend to get to it. So I sent Natalie an email. Basically saying, Hey, I'm a fan girl of this community. I really want to participate, but here's the hurdle for me and I have a suspicion that I'm not the only one. And Natalie emailed back saying, yes, like, we would love to help in this way because even though our primary focus is in person meetings, we understand that sometimes accessibility is a huge issue and we need to meet to where you're at basically. So I started the chapter in the winter of like 2015, 2016, maybe January. I should know that date too. Everyone's getting to know the holes in my brain right now. And it's brought me so many friendships over the last like three years. We've grown to over 600 people. Emilie is in the chapter, there are so many amazing, talented people who have gotten connected through it, who can access small business education but can also support each other in the way that happens when you're trying to integrate health with running a business because it looks different than someone who is able bodied and healthy. We can't just hustle until we dropped because that doesn't work. Creative work arounds and we support each other and get to the really great advice. And that's really important to me. And that's kind of like coincided with my journey as a painter and also with my decision to go full time with Honeybook. They like totally knew what I was working on, what I was dealing with and they are like, wow, this group is really like great and you’re working hard. You're obviously someone who is not lazy. So we want you. I think that's a misconception of a lot of people who own their own businesses because they cannot work a traditional job is the perception is that they're lazy and they stay at home and they don't do anything which couldn't be further from the truth.
[13:26] Emilie: So true. So true. I feel like there's so many misconceptions and that's one of them is, you know, chronic fatigue does not equal laziness. Right. And sometimes working from home or in your own environment is necessary because then you can control the temperature. You can control the lighting, you can have better access to some of the things you need. You can work while you receive certain medical treatments. I know that there's a lot of benefits to having flexibility and we're remote working. Like in your case or being self employed, just because you're self employed does not mean you are out running a load of laundry all the time and going on coffee dates, you know, endlessly throughout the day. Well, as much as I love doing that, like let's be honest, we have a lot of a lot of work on our to do list.
[14:26] Emilie: Sure. So like now I feel like there's always, in my opinion, there's always a silver lining to anything and everything we do. And even chronic health issues included. So one of the things I feel like is such a silver lining or a benefit to having a chronic illness rather, is I've gotten to join this particular group and have learned so much about other people and have connected on much deeper level and made some amazing friends. So I'm kind of curious, do you have a silver lining or how do you feel like you've maybe grown because of, not in spite of, your particular disability? That's a great question. Big Question.
[15:10] Kait: I love that you're talking about because of rather than in spite of, because I think that plays into the uncomfortableness of what we like to call inspiration porn of oh, they were able to do this normal thing despite having this disability. I think that really minimizes the experience of having a disability and it makes it like a very consumable strange thing, which just like isn't reality.
[15:37] Emilie: Maybe that gives people a dopamine hit that they were like, oh look at this cool happy story. They made something good of their life despite it being, you know, whatever. Insert personal judgment here, you know? And yeah, I feel like that's, I want to say that there are things I've learned because of, or I have benefited from because of, so I'm kind of curious what you think.
[16:02] Kait: Yeah, I mean I kind of like went over it in terms of what my career has looked like, but I never would have started my painting business if I hadn't have been fired like I, and that wouldn't have happened if I didn't have a disability. I don't think I ever would've started my Tuesdays Together chapter obviously because it is very specific community and if that hadn't have happened, I never would have joined Honeybook. I wouldn't have the opportunity to grow certain parts of myself that I didn't know that I could grow. Especially as like an INFJ super introvert. But here I am supporting a community of like 76,000. I never ever in a million years would've thought that this is an area that I would have developed and grown, especially someone who has a disability and literally almost never leaves the house, honesty hour. My husband jokes about it that I'm a hermit, but leaving the house is really exhausting for me. So I don't leave very much. I can get groceries delivered.
[17:08] Emilie: You have such an awesome community of people that can you really feel that alone? Like you might be in your house and while you want to give and get all of the hugs, you know, you know, as an introvert I could, I could see where it’s okay to have a screen there.
[17:27] Kait: Yeah. I've formed relationships that I wouldn't have formed without the background of disability and specifically in the creative community, but also in the MG community as well. I've worked a lot specifically with Myasthenia Gravis foundation of America raising funds for them helping with newly diagnosed patients doing like an MG friends program. So connecting with people who’ve been sick for so long. I'm coming up on 18 years in December. Yeah, in December it'll be 18 years. So I have like a lot of knowledge that I can share and I think it's made me really empathetic as well, being able to serve in community support, having the experiences I've had. I think I would still be a really competitive, maybe even cut throat person if I hadn't gotten sick because I was a very competitive child. I could see that if I hadn't gotten sick, maybe I wouldn't value community the same way that I do now. I don’t know.
[18:26] Emilie: You wouldn't know. And that's, that's a really interesting thing is I think we learn to pour so much into others when we realize how much we need others too. Yes. I think there's an aspect of that that's really, gosh, it's really, it's so valuable to have some of that insight, that little bit of thinking time I do every single day in the morning, I'm like, I need that. I need to have that, that space and time to think and really be grateful despite any challenges that I face. There's, I mean, we all have challenges, right? But I need to always be, be thinking about those things that I've learned and I've grown with and all of that. So now from an outside perspective, of course there's going to be a lot of people listening right now that do have a chronic illness or disability whether a visible illness or not. But they're also going to be some people that can't relate to that aspect. I wonder what kind of things do you think would be helpful for somebody without a chronic illness or disability? What, what do you think they should know about what this experience is like? As a creative and chronically ill entrepreneur?
[19:33] Kait: Oh my gosh. I'm trying to think like what would be maybe like the one or two most important things. I think something that's really important is that our journey is not going to look like yours. The default thing that I've learned doing community support is that we so desperately want to relate to somebody else's experience to support them that it can sometimes be inappropriate. And I say that kindly, can be inappropriate to try to relate to somebody’s experience who has a disability or chronic illness when you've never experienced disability or chronic illness in either like with a loved one or yourself. So, you know, try not to draw those correlations of like, oh, I know exactly how you feel because I had the flu like three weeks ago and I was so exhausted. That can really make it difficult for the person who has a disability that's never going to go away to feel like they can come to you for support or even share the reality of what their journey is like. We often minimize anyway. Even when we're being as honest as we can be, we're minimizing our experiences to try and make other people feel comfortable. So I think just allowing space to just let that person share their experience without trying to relate to it makes it so much easier for them to feel accepted. And lessons that like weird comparison thing that goes on where you're like the person with the disability like, oh my gosh, you have no idea what's going on. And then the person without one is thinking like, well, why can't you just push through it? Why can't you just take a nap and feel better? Because they’re totally different things, something temporary, that sucks having the flu sucks. I think we've all been there, but it's not the same as somebody who has chronic fatigue syndrome or has lupus or has any other long-term incurable condition that's impacting their day to day life. Right. Hopefully that doesn't sound too harsh, but I think
[21:34] Emilie: It doesn't, I think, I think it's fair to say that that's a great piece of advice for a lot of things. So not just chronic health issues, but also like I've lost both of my parents. Within a span of two years. They both had passed away. And there are some things that same way you don't want to draw comparisons. And truthfully, like every single person's experience is different from each other. Everyone is very different. So my fatigue can be very different from your fatigue. My abilities and your abilities are very different, but they're both, they're both so valuable. And I think that we are all so deserving of taking time and space and we all have worth and all of our abilities are different. So I'm not drawing those comparisons. Yes. Super Helpful. Yes. Cause it really minimizes the things we go through. Cause no, a nap just won't fix it. I wish it was. I wish that was the case.
[22:47] Emilie: No, but it's funny, like, so kind of to end on this little note, I'll tell a small story. So I am I do marketing and copywriting, web design, all that fun stuff. And this past weekend I was working with a client and I decided to put on a little photographer hat. I know you were talking about having a lot of hats. I am not a photographer. I actually had to go on Pinterest and figure out what is aperture, what is ISL like, how do I figure this all out? Because I was gonna take pictures of my client for her website. I thought this'll be good enough until she's ready to hire a professional. This will be good enough just to launch. I think we were there taking pictures for two hours and I had to go home and sleep for three and I was still ready to sleep a 12 hour like full nights sleep, which never happens of course. But I was ready for that. And it was, it was so funny. Life is so different. And that's kind of the whole point of this podcast is to show that we just, we just have to do things a little differently, but that's okay. I manage it. We make it work and then we do some awesome work.
[23:54] Kait: We do, we do. We have to pay for it on the other side.
[23:56] Emilie: It's all good of course, but we make it work. We find a way to make it work always. So Kait, thank you so much for being on my podcast today. I hope everyone had a great time listening in and if anybody has any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments below. I will be checking and responding to them. And if you want to learn more about Rising Tide Society, Honeybook, or even if you do have a chronic illness and want to learn more about the Creative and Chronically Ill group on Facebook I will have all of those things linked in the show notes or the description below. So thank you so much for tuning in and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
[24:37] Kait: Thank you. This was great.
Hey friend, thank you so much for tuning into today’s episode of Becoming Buoyant. It means the world to me when I can read all of your comments and reviews, so if you’re listening on iTunes, please go to the leave a review section, send me a sweet little message and if you really love the episode, you can leave some stars. Hopefully five would do the trick. If you’re watching on YouTube, make sure to like this episode if it resonated with you, leave a comment if you have some suggestions on other people that might want to come on, and of course, let me know what you think. And then, make sure to subscribe, on either platform subscriptions mean the world to me. It tells me that what we’re doing here on Becoming Buoyant makes a difference. So, I hope you have a wonderful day ahead, and I hope you tune in to the next episode of Becoming Buoyant. Take care.
About the host
Emilie Steinmann is an experienced conversion copywriter, web designer, and marketing strategist. She is also the host of the upcoming podcast and YouTube channel, Becoming Buoyant.
Driven by cultivating real human connection, she takes pride in providing the best client experience possible. As the owner of Buoyant, an inbound marketing agency, her goals include building an empowered team, supporting her clients, and making a splash in the creative community through marketing education.
In addition to her primary job functions, Emilie has been volunteering as a Rising Tide Society chapter leader for several years and spoke on Diversity and Inclusivity at the annual Rising Tide Leaders Retreat in 2018.
She also has a mild obsession with latte art and colorful office supplies.