Why I'm Designing Graphic Tees to Raise Awareness of Invisible Illness

Before I fell ill in November 2014, I spent much of my time advocating for those less fortunate than myself. I had spent three years working for World Vision Australia (WVA) in different capacities including designing the first WVA youth-led campaign. This included a trip to Myanmar where I learned more about the effects of human trafficking and child labor. I had also spent around five years campaigning for fairtrade on my university campus and raising awareness of ethical consumption. I had completed my Masters in International Development and was ready to take on the world and continue campaigning to make it a better place for all, regardless of where one is born. But then, I got sick…

During the last three years of battling a chronic tick-borne infection as well as POTS, MCS, Graves’ disease and celiac disease, I have felt lost in the purpose and direction of my life. I know my main goal is to beat this horrible disease that is tick-borne infection but I miss helping others and feeling like I am making a positive difference in the world. Don’t get me wrong – I believe my fellow chronic illness warriors are some of the most strong, inspiring and beautiful people on the planet, but I have missed the drive and feel-good vibe my old life gave me. That’s why I have just launched teespoonies – organic fairtrade cotton tees for people living with chronic illness.

"koala" tee

The project brings together a number of my passions: advocacy, ethical consumption and design. I came up with the idea as I got dressed in my go-to, stay-at-home comfortable clothes once again and thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to wear something that spoke for my illness” Something that when I looked in the mirror I couldn’t forget how strong I truly am for fighting this disease?

Not long following that, the idea of the “Invisible” tee came to light – with a hidden message of “invisible illness” under a floral breast pocket. From there the creative process flowed as I started sketching my designs and deciding which drawings I could convert to graphics. I was inspired by the resilience and humor of those I have seen in the chronic illness community and I kept my fellow spoonies at the forefront of my mind throughout the design process. What would make us feel empowered, have a laugh and give us the confidence to take on the day?

"invisible" tee with message under floral breast pocket

Not only this – graphic tees are a great conversation starter! So many of us live with an invisible illness and many people have no idea that we are even sick. The aim is by wearing our illness proudly in these tees we can increase awareness of that which so many people are actually battling underneath the surface. Let’s face it – most people love a good graphic tee and they catch the eyes of many!

Moreover, not only did I want these tees to be ethical – I wanted them to be ridiculously comfy! Like so many of us, I get symptoms of rib pain, rashes and skin flare-ups so I sampled these tees made from 100 percent organic cotton and was delighted with how soft and comfortable they are. Cotton is often our go-to so it was important for me not to compromise on comfort for price or style. There are so many reasons to feel good about these tees – not only are they made without harming the environment or the use of child labor, but I am also donating five percent of profits to a chronic illness charity!

"spoonie" tee

I hope you love these tees as much as I do and can support me on this journey. You can buy the tees on Etsy and follow my Instagram.

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