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Guest Post - Jessica Miles

We're so delighted to welcome Jessica Miles as our Guest Moderator this week. Jessica is a registered nurse based in Florida and describes herself as a "birth junkie." Check out her birth photography images on her instagram feed! She's incredible. Jessica will also be joining us on Clubhouse this week (Tuesday 6th April @ 8pm BST) to discuss "can photography be used as a form of therapy?" Read more about Jessica's personal story here to understand why this topic in particular, is so close to her heart...

In 2015, I was diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue disorder caused by faulty collagen. It had been nearly five years of unexplained symptoms, followed by countless procedures, hospitalizations, tests, and misdiagnoses. Within three years, I had ten surgeries. At the end of it all, I was left with a port and a permanent ostomy.

Though I have a constant physical reminder of my condition in the ostomy, to the rest of the world, mine is a largely invisible illness. It’s hard to describe how I feel to someone who has no idea what daily life with a chronic illness is like. I feel awful on the inside but look perfectly fine on the outside. Putting on a brave face for all to see has become a habit. My symptoms aren’t usually visible to the untrained eye, but they are life-altering for me.

Imagine never knowing each morning whether or not you'll be able to get out of bed. One day it might be vertigo and stomach pain, on another it could be crippling fatigue, muscle and joint pain, or fainting from an erratic heart rate and blood pressure. Or it could be all of these at once. I can't just take a deep breath, relax, change my mindset, and all of it just goes away. There's no "magic pill" that will make this disappear.

For me, photography has been a a powerful way to document my health journey and what I experience every day. It helps me see my progress, as well as my setbacks, in a cathartic way. My goal is to break down the stigma of ostomies and to show that people can still thrive and live a happy life with chronic illness. Photography has become a means to do just that.

I focus on capturing the beauty of people in all moments of their lives, especially at their most vulnerable. My work is raw and emotional, and it’s often like that for me working as a photographer with a chronic illness. I’ve learned to take everything step-by-step and day-by-day, budgeting my energy so I can find that balance between making time for photography and self-care.

I believe that art enhances the well-being of individuals, society, and our environment. Artists have the power to heal, inspire, provoke, challenge, and offer hope. My self-portraiture work is more than a tool for personal healing: it's a way to bring awareness to health journeys like mine and to validate those who experience the same. My illness has caused me to know myself better, and that helps keep my self-portraiture honest and real.

Join us on Clubhouse on Tuesday 6th April 8pm BST for a chat with Jessica and ask any questions you may have!

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