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On Friday, Lena Dunham opened up about her experience with coronavirus (COVID-19), which she contracted in mid-March. In an Instagram post, the Girls actress shared an image of herself in a lace-covered mask along with four slides of text and the caption, "My Covid Story." As someone with various chronic conditions—she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia—Dunham shared what experiencing coronavirus was like for her and how the symptoms have had lasting effects on her body since.
She started by writing that she was "reluctant to share" at first, but ultimately decided to open up "in the hopes that personal stories allow us to see the humanity in what can feel like abstract situations."
Dunham explained that, at first, her symptoms started as achy joints, which were indistinguishable from her "usual diagnoses." "But the pain was soon joined by an impossible, crushing fatigue. Then, a fever of 102. Suddenly my body simply... revolted," Dunham wrote. She shared that the nerves in her feet burned, her hands were numb, she lost her sense of taste and smell, had a hacking cough, and more.
"It felt like I was a complex machine that had been unplugged and then had my wires rerouted into the wrong inputs," she wrote.
Though these symptoms went on for 21 days, "days that blended into each other like a rave gone wrong," Dunham acknowledged her privilege in the way she received care. "I was lucky enough to have a doctor who could offer me regular guidance on how to care for myself and I never had to be hospitalized," she wrote. "This kind of hands-on attention is a privilege that is far too unusual in our broken healthcare system."
A post shared by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on Jul 31, 2020 at 12:04pm PDT
After a month, Dunham tested negative and wrote that she was able to spend time around her "isolation pod" again. However, her symptoms didn't go away. She was diagnosed with clinical adrenal insufficiency, an ongoing migraine, and she experienced an arthritis flare-up—issues she says were not present before getting sick with coronavirus. Though Dunham has been privileged to have had good healthcare along her journey, she explained that doctors don't yet know enough about the long-term effects of coronavirus to tell her exactly why her body is responding in these ways or what the rest of her recovery will look like.
Dunham finished by urging followers to take the pandemic seriously. "This isn't like passing the flu to your coworker - 'Sorry, Brenda! Lunch is on me next time!" This is the biggest deal in our country, and in the world right now," she wrote.
She continued: "When you take the appropriate measures to protect yourself and your neighbors, you save them a world of pain. You save them a journey that nobody deserves to take, with a million outcomes we don't yet understand, and a million people with varrying resources and varying levels of support who are not yet ready for this tidal wave to take them. It is critical we are all sensible and compassionate at this time... because, there truly is no other choice."