On Friday, July 31, as part of an attempt to encourage people to wear masks in public and take the ongoing pandemic seriously, Lena Dunham revealed she had COVID-19 and is still dealing with the symptoms months later. The Girls creator explained on Instagram that while she was “reluctant” to share “my COVID-19 story” publicly, she hoped that opening up about the toll of the illness will “allow us to see the humanity in what can feel like abstract situations.”
“I got sick with COVID-19 in mid-March,” Dunham wrote in her post, revealing that she originally thought her first symptom — achy joints — was the result of the many chronic illnesses she deals with on a daily basis. “But the pain was soon joined by an impossible, crushing fatigue,” she continued. “Then, a fever of 102. Suddenly my body simply … revolted. The nerves in my feet burned and muscles wouldn’t seem to do their job. My hands were numb. I couldn’t tolerate loud noises. I couldn’t sleep but I couldn’t wake up. I lost my sense of taste and smell. … It felt like I was a complex machine that had been unplugged and then had my wires rerouted into the wrong inputs.” In addition, Dunham dealt with a “hacking cough,” rashes, difficulty breathing and a constant headache; all of her symptoms lasted for “21 days,” according to the actor.
In her post, Dunham revealed that she was never hospitalized for her illness, and that she was “lucky enough” to have a doctor who could regularly check in on her and make sure that she was recovering well. However, despite all of the steps she took — and testing negative for the virus about a month after she first experienced symptoms — Dunham explained that she is still feeling the after-effects of COVID-19.
“I had swollen hands and feet, an unceasing migraine and fatigue that limited my every move,” she wrote, adding that she was also experiencing “clinical adrenal insufficiency” that wasn’t an issue before coming down with COVID. “My arthritis flared and required an immune-modulator drug that is hard on my body. And there are weirder symptoms that I’ll keep to myself.” Despite dealing with endometriosis and Ehler-Danlos syndrome over the years, Dunham wrote in her post that the symptoms she experienced as a result of COVID-19 were unlike anything else she had ever felt before.
“Doctors don’t yet know enough about COVID-19 to be able to tell me why exactly my body responded this way or what my recovery will look like,” she continued, later adding, “The serious long-term health consequences of a COVID-19 infection are something doctors are learning more about every hour. We have never moved this fast in medicine — we’ve never had to — and experts are doing some incredible work with containment and prevention. But we don’t yet understand the long-term impact of this illness on people’s bodies and minds.”
Dunham concluded her post by encouraging people to wear masks and take the pandemic seriously, in order to protect the people around them from having to experience what she did. “When you take appropriate measures to protect yourself and your neighbors, you save them a world of pain,” she wrote. “You save them a journey that nobody deserves to take, with a million outcomes we don’t yet understand … It is critical we are all sensible and compassionate at this time because truly … there is no other choice.”