Zine addresses "invisible" illnesses

Many persons affected by chronic illnesses display no outward signs of their suffering. Mary Metzger, a senior communication arts major from Norfolk, created "But You Don't Look Sick!" to highlight stories and statements from students with chronic "invisible" illnesses.

Metzger created her zine with communication arts professor Sarah Faris' Honors studio course, Visual Communications for Intersectional Public & Mental Health. The 16-page zine contains material gathered from interviews that Metzger conducted with more than 20 university students. She compiled their responses and then made illustrations to accompany the text.

The chronic "invisible" illnesses she addresses are conditions lasting three months or longer without visible identifiers such as redness, swelling, bruising or use of a wheelchair, for example.

“Some notable illnesses that influenced my research and development of the project were postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and more,” Metzger says, adding that current research shows that students with "invisible" chronic illnesses like these often report feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, frustration and accusations of laziness by staff and peers.

“My goal in developing this zine was to bring comfort to these students living with chronic invisible illness,” she explains, “while also educating others.”

Over the summer, Metzger plans to expand on "But You Don't Look Sick!", developing related art prints, health journals, totes and stickers. The zine and accompanying materials will be available through her website.