Truth behind embarrassing selfies
THE concept of wetting yourself in public is a terrifying prospect, but it happens to Emma Carey every single day.
As a walking paraplegic, incontinence is something that the Gold Coast resident has to live with.
The 25-year-old survived a skydiving accident in Europe five years ago - the parachute became tangled around her tandem skydive instructor's neck, causing him to lose consciousness. And while the survival was miraculous, she said she felt the impact on her life on a daily basis.
She will "never go a day without having an accident" and wetting her pants.
The young Aussie backpacker landed on her stomach and effectively broke the instructor's fall when she did a tandem skydive in Switzerland while on a three-month European backpacking holiday. She broke her back, sacrum, pelvis, jaw and shattered her teeth. She got a spinal cord injury at L1 and doctors told her she was paralysed from the waist down and would never walk again.
Incredibly, Ms Carey is now able to walk, though she tires easily.
She took part in the Wings for Life World Run, an event for people with spinal injuries, earlier this month.
She managed to walk 5km in the event, which she was "super happy" with, but she had to be carried part of the way by friends and was barely able to walk the week after.
In the lead up she appeared on The Project and made headlines the following day after viewers called out the slightly tone-deaf wording from panellists who asked Ms Carey if she was "grateful" for the accident that nearly killed her.
Media had a field day with the "gaffe," but Ms Carey said it barely registered with her.
"I didn't think it was a big deal - I think it's funny that everyone freaked out about it," she said with a laugh.
That sunny, optimistic disposition seems to filter through to the daily difficulties Ms Carey faces following her near-death experience.
Through multiple surgeries, infections, gruelling physio sessions and hospitalisations, the young Queenslander tends to look on the bright side. Even when it comes to wetting herself in public.
"As a paraplegic I have to use a catheter as I am incontinent," she said. (For the uninitiated, a catheter is a thin straw that is inserted into the urethra and tracks up into the bladder).
"I will never go a day without having an accident - if I go out, it's guaranteed it will happen."
Originally, she was mortified by the issue.
"For the first few months after I came out of hospital I was nervous to go out in public because of it, so I just wouldn't go out.
"But then one day I just thought 'this sucks - I've just survived something that I should not have survived, I should be out enjoying every single part of the world and element of life, I shouldn't be locked inside, I should be out living'.
"I realised that if I let myself be embarrassed every time I have an accident, I am going to be sad and upset every day of my life, so I just have to change the way I look at it."
She said the key to this was talking about it openly with all her friends.
"Every time I make a new friend I somehow bring it into conversation. That way if it happens when we are hanging out together they aren't freaked out and we can just laugh it off."
She also doesn't hide it from strangers, sharing wet-pant pictures with her 118,000 Instagram followers.
She does this to "help break the stigma and help other people talk about it."
Ms Carey has received numerous messages from people thanking her for her raw honesty.
"Someone came up to me in person a few weeks ago, a young girl who is completely deaf in one ear and deaf in her second ear unless she wears a hearing aid.
"She said she had been too embarrassed to wear her hearing aid and that she would rather be deaf. But she said that after reading and seeing me talk about wearing catheters she felt less embarrassed and spoke to her friends about it.
"That just made me feel so happy ... why should we be ashamed of medical things that allow us to lead a normal life?"
It's not only urine that Ms Carey has to deal with. She spends 30 minutes every morning emptying her bowels through an enema (though she points out for her it's not too bad - some wheelchair bound people need to spend up to two hours each morning undergoing this procedure).
She has to take a change of clothes with her wherever she goes in case she has an accident and gets faeces everywhere.
"More than anything it's annoying ... when that happens you do have to go home and have a shower and get changed - that is more annoying and time consuming than anything."
The other irritating aspect is the sheer amount of "stuff" she has to cart around.
"I have to have a catheter inserted every hour so I have to carry them around as well as wipes, plastic gloves, the thick pads I have to wear in my underwear and a change of clothes."
Unfortunately the inconvenience of incontinence also comes with health risks. Ms Carey has been hospitalised multiple times with infections from the catheter.
"I can't feel the burning sensation in my bladder, but I know I have an infection because I get a fever and vomit," she explains.
Ms Carey is refreshingly open about the recovery process. Her Instagram account reflects her active outdoor lifestyle and doesn't dwell on the medical procedures and intensive rehabilitation. As a result, people are often confused by the extent of her injuries.
"People often say to me 'oh so you're better now, how long did it take you to get fully better?' They they just don't understand that I'll never be fully better ... I think the term 'walking paraplegic' really confuses people. They don't understand that my legs have come back, but I still deal with all the other problems that come with paraplegia. They see that I look completely fine and they find it all a bit hard to believe."
She said what she does find "really odd" is when people accuse her of lying about her injury.
"Some people on social media have questioned why I am still talking about it even though I am 'completely better'," she said.
"That annoys me, especially if I have just pooed my pants and I'm trying to find an shower. I just think 'you have no idea what I am doing right now'. I find it upsetting that someone could think I would lie about that.
"They accuse me of telling my story and talking about the reality of incontinence for fame or attention.
"But the point of this isn't for sympathy or for praise ... it's to show you that it is completely and entirely possible to not give a single sh*t about the things that people expect you to care about."