When Iyla Madriz sits down to post on Instagram, she thinks about how much her life has changed since a surgeon removed part of her intestine and rectum.
Most people would not think that anyone would post about the bag that stores their excrement — called an ostomy bag — but for Iyla, it’s a mission.
Last year, Iyla suffered from severe stomach pain and bouts of vomiting so bad that she struggled to keep up with school and her part-time job.
Shortly after that, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the bowels to be inflamed and attacks the digestive system.
It affects about 500,000 people around the country, according to the National Institutes for Health.
Iyla went public about her struggles after getting surgery and began to post pictures of her ostomy bag.
An ostomy bag is a pouch attached to the abdomen that allows waste to exit the body through an opening called a stoma.
At first, Iyla was depressed about this life change. Now, she is a leader of a community that wants to eliminate the shame that comes with it.
She wanted to desensitize her followers, but more importantly, she wanted to make herself feel more comfortable in her new body.
“I’m very grateful to have a platform where I can inspire others to embrace their insecurities,” said Iyla, who eventually wants to do art therapy in a children’s hospital.
Iyla was inspired to go public after seeing so many confident people on social media. She started out by posting pictures of her wearing her ostomy bag to educate her followers on Crohn’s disease, and then slowly transitioned into posting more close-up pictures.
“A huge part of my recovery process and overall acceptance of such a drastic change in my body and image was due to seeing so many others post online so openly, said Iyla. “Seeing what they’re going through and how they handle it has helped me.”
Iyla never lets her disease discourage her, She encourages her 2,718 social media followers to live every day to the fullest and never lose hope.
“You never know who needed to hear the kind words someone else shared, life is beautiful and scars show how hard some of us had to fight to live,” she said.
Her content varies from uplifting and inspirational pictures, to sit-down videos where she talks to the camera and gets emotional about her difficult journey from depression to acceptance.
And it helps.
“I love seeing ostomy bag posts because it feels like our hard work is shown and this helps me be comfortable in my own skin,” said Payge Duere, who also has Crohn’s disease. “Seeing Iyla’s posts helps validate my feelings, this sets a solid foundation of things you should be confident about.”
Iyla often says that her ostomy bag was the best thing to ever happened to her. She now has the freedom to enjoy food without worry.
She uses the hashtag #ostomychallenge to encourage her followers to participate in her movement and share their gratitude for their ostomy bags.
“Having an ostomy is way better than spending my life in a hospital bed,” Iyla said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for Iyla because her immune system is compromised.
“I work from the comfort of my bed and make money by recommending products I love, this gives me the freedom I’ve always craved,” said Iyla.
Iyla hopes to mentor her followers and promote body positivity.
“I decided to post my ostomy journey on Instagram because if I could help even one person the way I was positively impacted, the world would be a better place,” she said.
You can follow Iyla on Instagram: @eyeluh.m