Lena Dunham Reveals She Has Fibromyalgia, Writes About 'Invisible' Pain on Instagram


Living with an “invisible” illness that people question the validity of can be exhausting. In an Instagram post on Saturday, actress Lena Dunham revealed she has fibromyalgia and how others’ disbelief can cause her to doubt her experiences.

“[Fibromyalgia’s] little understood and so even though I have a lot of knowledge and support it’s hard to shake the feeling I am crazy. But I’m not (at least not this way!) and you’re not,” Dunham wrote.

Dunham continued to say that pain, however it presents — whether it has a visible culprit or not — is valid.

“Your pain, whatever shape it takes, is yours and so it is real,” she said. “I believe you when you say you hurt. I have learned time and time again how important it is to believe.”

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This is a post about chronic pain. I have it. I bet a lot of you do too. Some of us talk about it. Others are afraid to, as it could cost them their jobs or their relationships or their sense of control in a chaotic world. In this way it’s very analogous to sexual trauma. There is also (as @ladygaga so wisely shared this week) a proven connection between chronic pain and trauma. Therefore, a lot of people- a lot of women- find their pain is activated by weeks like this one. On the day after Dr. Ford’s testimony I awoke with a start at 3am. It felt like every cell in my neck was singing. My ankles and wrists were weak and my fingers didn’t do their assigned job. Yesterday I felt like I was suspended in gel, and when I meditated a line of pain zipped from my neck to my foot. I’m sorry if I don’t answer your text or email, or if I can’t show up the way someone else would. I appear to be totally able bodied but it’s complex, and I am just trying to do everything required to maintain a life of joy and service. My work costs everything I have. This is fibromyalgia. It’s little understood and so even though I have a lot of knowledge and support it’s hard to shake the feeling I am crazy. But I’m not (at least not this way!) and you’re not. Your pain, whatever shape it takes, is yours and so it is real. I believe you when you say you hurt. I have learned time and time again how important it is to believe.

A post shared by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

In an attempt to get others to understand why she might not be able to do something during a flare, Dunham described how her recent flare felt, which she said was in response to the Senate Judiciary hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

“On the day after Dr. Ford’s testimony I awoke with a start at 3am,” she wrote. “It felt like every cell in my neck was singing. My ankles and wrists were weak and my fingers didn’t do their assigned job. Yesterday I felt like I was suspended in gel, and when I meditated a line of pain zipped from my neck to my foot. I’m sorry if I don’t answer your text or email, or if I can’t show up the way someone else would.”

For people who look able-bodied, it can sometimes feel like they have to “fight to have [their] illness be seen as ‘legitimate’ compared to someone who uses a mobility aid like a wheelchair or a cane,” Mighty contributor Pamela Jessen wrote.

Dunham said she appears to be “totally able bodied but it’s complex,” and that she is doing as much as she can to maintain “a life of joy and service.”

Even though someone may look able-bodied like Dunham, there are types of pain others can’t see. If you are struggling to describe fibromyalgia to those who don’t have it, check out the way Mighty contributor Jo Moss describes the 18 types of fibro pain she feels.


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