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upworthy
Health

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

She's reclaiming her confidence and sharing what it can really mean to be a mom with Crohn's disease.

Chron’s disease, IBD, irritable bowel syndrome
All photos by Krystal Miller, used with permission.

Krystal, Arabella, and Lukas.


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.

Chron\u2019s, GIFs, ostomy

Nothing to see here.

assets.rebelmouse.io

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.

family, vacation, permanent ileostomy

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.

Krystal Miller, colostomy bag, bag lady mama

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

All photos by Krystal Miller, used with permission.

"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.

family, feel good story, pregnancy

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

All photos by Krystal Miller, used with permission.

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."

ileostomy, fashion tips, advice

Krystal, Arabella, and Lukas.

All photos by Krystal Miller, used with permission.

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.

Fremantle Hospital, stomal therapist, public speaking

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

All photos by Krystal Miller, used with permission.

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."


This article originally appeared on 04.04.16

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Gen Z is navigating a career landscape unlike any other.

True

Every adult generation has its version of a “kids these days” lament, labeling the up-and-coming generation as less resilient or hardworking compared to their own youth. But Gen Z—currently middle school age through young adulthood—is challenging that notion with their career readiness.

Take Abigail Sanders, an 18-year-old college graduate. Thanks to a dual enrollment program with her online school, she actually earned her bachelor’s degree before her high school diploma. Now she’s in medical school at Bastyr University in Washington state, on track to become a doctor by age 22.

a family of 6 at a graduation with two graduatesAll four of the Sanders kids have utilized Connections Academy to prepare for their futures.

Abigail’s twin sister, Chloe, also did dual enrollment in high school to earn her associate’s in business and is on an early college graduation path to become a vet tech.

Maeson Frymire dreams of becoming a paramedic. He got his EMT certification in high school and fought fires in New Mexico after graduation. Now he’s working towards becoming an advanced certified EMT and has carved his career path towards flight paramedicine.

Sidny Szybnski spends her summers helping run her family’s log cabin resort on Priest Lake in Idaho. She's taken business and finance courses in high school and hopes to be the third generation to run the resort after attending college.

log cabin resort on edge of forestAfter college, Sidny Szybnski hopes to run her family's resort in Priest Lake, Idaho.

Each of these learners has attended Connections Academy, tuition-free online public schools available in 29 states across the U.S., to not only get ready for college but to dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well. These students are prime examples of how Gen Zers are navigating the career prep landscape, finding their passions, figuring out their paths and making sure they’re prepared for an ever-changing job market.

Lorna Bryant, the Head of Career Education for Connections Academy’s online school program, says that Gen Z has access to a vast array of career-prep tools that previous generations didn’t have, largely thanks to the internet.

“Twenty to 30 years ago, young people largely relied on what adults told them about careers and how to get there,” Bryant tells Upworthy. “Today, teens have a lot more agency. With technology and social media, they have access to so much information about jobs, employers and training. With a tap on their phones, they can hear directly from people who are in the jobs they may be interested in. Corporate websites and social media accounts outline an organization’s mission, vision and values—which are especially important for Gen Z.”

Research shows over 75% of high schoolers want to focus on skills that will prepare them for in-demand jobs. However, not all teens know what the options are or where to find them. Having your future wide open can be overwhelming, and young people might be afraid of making a wrong choice that will impact their whole lives.

Bryant emphasizes that optimism and enthusiasm from parents can help a lot, in addition to communicating that nothing's carved in stone—kids can change paths if they find themselves on one that isn’t a good fit.

Dr. Bryant and student video meeting Dr. Bryant meeting with a student

“I think the most important thing to communicate to teens is that they have more options than ever to pursue a career,” she says. “A two- or four-year college continues to be an incredibly valuable and popular route, but the pathways to a rewarding career have changed so much in the past decade. Today, career planning conversations include options like taking college credit while still in high school or earning a career credential or certificate before high school graduation. There are other options like the ‘ships’—internships, mentorships, apprenticeships—that can connect teens to college, careers, and employers who may offer on-the-job training or even pay for employees to go to college.”

Parents can also help kids develop “durable skills”—sometimes called “soft” or “human” skills—such as communication, leadership, collaboration, empathy and grit. Bryant says durable skills are incredibly valuable because they are attractive to employers and colleges and transfer across industries and jobs. A worldwide Pearson survey found that those skills are some of the most sought after by employers.

“The good news is that teens are likely to be already developing these skills,” says Bryant. Volunteering, having a part-time job, joining or captaining a team sport can build durable skills in a way that can also be highlighted on college and job applications.

Young people are navigating a fast-changing world, and the qualities, skills and tools they need to succeed may not always be familiar to their parents and grandparents. But Gen Z is showing that when they have a good grasp of the options and opportunities, they’re ready to embark on their career paths, wherever they may lead.

Learn more about Connections Academy here and Connections’ new college and career prep initiative here.

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