Inclusivity

This mom's empowering selfies show off life with an invisible illness.

She has Crohn's disease, but Crohn's doesn't have her.

This mom's empowering selfies show off life with an invisible illness.

This article originally appeared on 04.04.16


There are a lot of hard things about living with Crohn's disease. Not being able to talk about it might be the worst one.

Imagine being constantly tired, but in a way that even 15 hours of sleep a day can't cure. Imagine going to dinner, but every time you eat something as simple as a roll of warm bread, it feels like it might've had broken glass inside of it.

Then, it's time to go to the bathroom. Again. Is that the fifth time this hour or the sixth? You've lost track. It's a running joke now — your friends think it's funny, but nobody really talks about what happens when you step away. Because, really, you look fine. Just tired.


Crohn's, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is "a condition of chronic inflammation potentially involving any location of the gastrointestinal tract." But as defined by myself, someone with Crohn's, it's like having food poisoning all the time. The symptoms and presentation are different for every patient, but one thing is the same for all: It's an invisible illness, and it sucks.

And let's face it. Talkin' about your poop is taboo. Especially if you're a woman.

A little privacy, please?

Well, unless you're Krystal Miller.

Stumble over to her Facebook page, Bag Lady Mama, and nearly every post has a reference to doing the doo.

Krystal, who lives in Perth, Australia, has Crohn's. She was first diagnosed at 15 years old, and by 22, most of her intestinal tract had been badly damaged by the disease. At that point, doctors decided to remove large portions of her large and small intestines.

Krystal Miller and her husband, Shannon, son, Lukas, and daughter, Arabella. All photos by Krystal Miller, used with permission.

For the last decade, she's been living with a permanent ileostomy, a surgically made opening in the abdominal wall that connects the lower intestine to an ostomy bag.

Now, at 32, she's sharing her daily experiences through Facebook.

Her posts show raw insight into her world. They're unapologetically blunt, they're full of curse words, and they're gaining traction — quickly.

In an interview with Upworthy, Krystal said she expected to have a few hundred Likes on her page within a month or two of launching it, mostly from close friends who knew about her life with Crohn's. But since it launched Jan. 25, it's reached more than 13,000 Likes.

Check out her posts and you'll see some serious granny-panty love.

"I did expect it to reach Europe and America because I have international friends," she said. "But I never expected for it to be as expansive as it has been. It's crazy — I actually got recognized at my local shops the other day!"

Her photos show off her day-to-day life with her two children, Lukas, 4, and Arabella, five months, and her husband, Shannon. Each is filled with her unabashed love for her body.

Krystal, 32 weeks pregnant and wearing her bag, and her husband, Shannon, during their son's fourth birthday party.

Scars, bag, and the ostomy itself are all on display in the hopes that she can help remove some of the stigma around Crohn's and what life with the disease is like.

It's not a comfortable thing to live with physically or socially. It took years before Krystal was willing to open up about it.

"When I was first diagnosed, I was very uncomfortable. I would be in-tears uncomfortable if someone had to go to the toilet after me. ... And when you're young, it's embarrassing and it's pretty f*cking horrific. It's been slow progress , but I just kind of got sick of caring. Like, who gives a f*ck, it is what it is, I can't do anything about it."

She would go to extreme lengths to cover up the symptoms of the disease, especially when using public restrooms. But she credits the surgery that removed her rectum with alleviating a lot of that embarrassment as well. Once her permanent ostomy was in place, many of her symptoms were alleviated, and her experiences with "number 2" became more matter-of-fact than anything else.

"It's been slow progress , but I just kind of got sick of caring. Like, who gives a f*ck, it is what it is, I can't do anything about it."

From there, it became about reclaiming her sexiness and self-confidence, which started with revisiting how she looked at herself.

"When we look at other women, we don't see the same flaws that we see in ourself. And I've had to retrain myself to see myself the way others might see me, to not notice the finer intricacies that I see on myself. Other people don't see the sh*t that we see."

Krystal, Arabella, and Lukas.

But she hasn't stopped there. She also posts fashion tips for other women with Crohn's and shares advice on how to dress the way you want while still being comfortable with a bag.

Krystal speaking at Fremantle Hospital. She's studying to become a stomal therapist.

Krystal does have one thing she wants to say to other people who have Crohn's and other IBDs: It's not always going to be easy, and that's OK.

"We have earned that right to f*cking hate the world," she said. "We are entitled to f*cking be angry and to be sad and to have bad days. If you need to feel sorry for yourself, then feel sorry for yourself. But then pick yourself up and keep going."

Oh, and one more thing — she's got a hashtag for the world: #bagbitchesrock.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."