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This mom's empowering selfies show how to boss an invisible illness and be proud of your body

Krystal, Bag Lady Mama, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at 15 and lives with a permanent ileostomy.

This mom's empowering selfies show how to boss an invisible illness and be proud of your body
Images courtesy Krystal

Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 26, 2022. It has since been updated.

Living with Crohn's disease is not easy and one of the hardest things about it is the stigma attached to it. A mom of three from Australia wants to change the conversation around Crohn's disease and normalize living with it. Krystal was first diagnosed with Crohn's disease when she was just 15 and she was embarrassed about it as a teen, but now she has not only embraced it but is also raising awareness of the disease and encouraging acceptance. Crohn's disease is a condition of chronic inflammation potentially involving any location of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those diagnosed with Crohn's disease find themselves constantly tired. 

Krystal Miller and her husband, Shannon, son, Lukas, and daughter, Arabella/ Krystal Miller

"How nice is it to push through those boundaries and become a woman or man that has grown and pushed through their own insecurities?! Being the rebellious type has caused me a lot of anxiety but it has also helped me grow and expand my own limitations," she wrote in a recent post. "The more we talk about it, the less shame and lies are out there. The more people can live beautifully and authentically without shrinking themselves." Krystal's Facebook page—Bag Lady Mama—covers her journey and she constantly talks about Crohn's disease and living with it. A big part of the blog is centered around acceptance and self-love. Krystal hails from Perth, Australia. Her Facebook page now boasts of more than 36,000 followers. She was a little taken aback by the response to her Facebook page. "I did expect it to reach Europe and America because I have international friends," she said in an interview with Upworthy. "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!" 

Krystal

By the time she was 22, most of her intestinal tract had been damaged by the disease and the doctors decided to enlarge portions of her large and small intestines. For more than a decade, she has been living with a permanent ileostomy—a surgically made opening in the abdominal wall that connects the lower intestine to an ostomy bag. She often posts pictures of her scars and the bag to remove the stigma surrounding Crohn's disease. Self-acceptance was always the first step for Krystal. "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 said.

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

Krystal says removing her rectum helped alleviate a lot of her embarrassment and once her permanent ostomy was in place, many of her symptoms were alleviated, and "number 2" became more matter-of-fact than anything else. Krystal has since been focusing on reclaiming her sexiness and self-confidence. It changed her outlook on life completely. "When we look at other women, we don't see the same flaws that we see in ourselves. 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 what we see."

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

She also regularly posts fashion tips for other women with Crohn's and has merchandise centered around breaking the stigma. When asked what she wanted to say to others struggling with Crohn's, she didn't want to sugarcoat it at all. "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." She's proud of herself, her body and her bag and she's got a hashtag to embody that: #bagbitchesrock.

Krystal, Arabella, and Lukas/Krystal

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