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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

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?


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