This post is for a competition run by an organisation called Labs* by One Squat Shop together with health activist Megan Densmore. Megan has organised a team of film-makers to make a documentary, called Invisible which highlights and raises awareness of invisible health conditions. Lindsay Tabas of One Squat Shop has teamed up with Megan and with designer Mat Poirot have produced a limited edition t-shirt which together with the film highlights and makes people aware of the invisible symptoms that people with chronic health conditions suffer but cannot convey to others. The competition is for one blogger (and one lucky reader) to win a copy of the film and t-shirt (or tank top for women).
The prompt for the blog post is:
What does the t-shirt design mean to you? How does it make you feel? What does it tell people without invisible illnesses about your experience? How do you hope this will help awareness?
The word invisible conveys so many images and messages. The definition states, that invisible is something that is “not visible, withdrawn from or ought of sight or something that is not perceptible by the eye.” When I was much younger at secondary school, I thought I knew the meaning of the word as I felt completely invisible to the rest of my peers due to being continually ignored and much time spent on my own due to being ostracised. However, after living many years with a long-term health condition in which the symptoms that I live with are hidden and cannot be seen by others, I now truly know the meaning of the word.
In many ways, living with an invisible health condition, such as the neurological condition which I live with, is like living inside a bubble of which you are the only one aware of its existence. You are unable to convey symptoms such as pain, dizziness and fatigue to those closes around you, as they are subjective and is not perceptible by anyone else. And as those closest around you, as well as society in general are not aware of the symptoms that are ruling our lives, those with invisible chronic health conditions are very often met with suspicion and as a result people can often expect more of us than we are capable of due to ill-health.
As a result therefore, there needs to be much more awareness of invisible illnesses and the debilitating effect that they can have on the individual living with a chronic illness. There have been fantastic awareness weeks that have been established on the internet and through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which to some extent have raised the awareness of such conditions. However, there could be an argument that there needs to be more done to raise awareness of invisible chronic conditions away from the internet and more emphasis for the wider society in general. In the UK, for example, popular soap operas have been very valuable in raising awareness of a wide variety of subject matter such as HIV, domestic violence as well as raising awareness of medical conditions, many being invisible such as MS and ME as examples.
This is why this tank top design may be another excellent tool to raise the profile and awareness of such illnesses. The image above shows the very eye-catching design and for those without any knowledge of such conditions it may raise important questions in their mind regarding the meaning of the design, and as the wearer of the tank top is asked about the t-shirt, it therefore allows a lesson of these prevalent invisible chronic conditions. For me the tank top is a great talking point for anyone not touched by invisible illnesses such as lupus, MS or fibromyalgia as examples. Also, I am sure you would agree the tank top is also very clever with the design including the lungs as it reflects the idea of everyone being able to see inside our bodies, which in reality of course they aren’t. For anyone living with an invisible illness, we often wish that everyone around us were able to see inside our bodies; to see the damage and signs of our conditions that only exist inside of us, and to allow friends and family to visibly see the struggles and pain that are a result of our invisible illness. This tank top for me is an excellent representation of the unseen and invisible struggles that I carry around with me all the time, just as the lungs that are inside of me. And for me it does all this without being rude or condescending; it is a fun and fashionable way to raise awareness. As I live with mobility problems, as well as pain and other symptoms which are constant, these of course does not define the person that I am and for me the design perfectly reflects this – our bodies, whether healthy or crippled by illness is a reflection of ourselves, and does not define us as individuals.
I hope that the tank top design will remind individuals to not judge individuals by what they can see on the outside, but be mindful of the person beneath the surface and to be aware of the possible struggles that someone might be living with, which cannot be seen.
Here’s a 5 minute teaser for the film ‘Invisible‘
As ever, would love to hear all of your thoughts regarding the subject of this particular blog post. What are your thoughts regarding the t-shirt design?