Making the Invisible Visible

by Ariela Paulsen
Mighty Well IMMUNO Full Zip Hoodie | Invisible Illness Disability | COVID-19 | Immunocompromised

The best part of working at a small patient-owned business is getting to create the products that we wish we’d had ourselves!  When COVID-19 first hit, I found myself wishing I had a way to tell everyone around me, even strangers on the street, the truth that they could not see: that I am more at risk of contracting the coronavirus and that, despite my young age and appearance of health, it would likely leave me with permanent damage.  

Since shouting this fact at strangers is not in fact socially acceptable, I instead came up with a way to silently share my health status — and so the immunocompromised sticker was born!  After thousands of patients like me requested stickers of their own, we decided to make a larger and more permanent statement.  Meet the new IMMUNO full zip hoodie!  The large text speaks volumes without requiring you to use precious energy in explaining yourself, or compromising your cozy winter style.

The success of these products is due to the invisible nature of many illnesses and disabilities.  In some ways it’s a gift to be able to blend into the world, to hide what makes our lives challenging.  But some days, it would be nice to not have to explain why we need accommodations or why our experience is different, just because those looking at us can’t imagine anything is wrong.  Which got me thinking, what about invisible illness and disability would I like to make visible, other than my immune status?  I posed this question to our Friends in the Fight community and was immediately flooded with responses.  Fatigue, pain, trauma, brain fog, food allergies and other triggers were some of the common themes shared, as well as more specific messages:

It takes so much effort to appear normal

I may respond differently than you expect because I have autism

Please offer me a seat! 

Please speak slowly — my brain is on vacation today 

Just because I don’t always need a wheelchair doesn’t mean my paralysis isn’t real… 

These are such universal experiences for those of us with invisible illnesses, as evidenced by the many products from spoonie shops (like this one) created for just this purpose!  

What would you like to see on a shirt, hat, or pin?  Come join the conversation in our Friends in the Fight Facebook group!

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