The creator and star of HBO’s series Girls announced in an Instagram post that she suffers from fibromyalgia. Dunham has previously been open about her struggle with endometriosis, the pain of which led her to elect to undergo a full hysterectomy in February. Yesterday, in a post to her 3 million Instagram followers, Dunham discussed her pain and the stigma that comes from having an invisible disease like Fibromyalgia.
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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 am just trying to do everything required to maintain a life of joy and service. My work costs me 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 that I am crazy. But I’m not (at least not in this particular 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.
In the post, which shouts out Lady Gaga’s Vogue interview from last week, she talks about the connection between pain and trauma and says that the constant talk of sexual assault in the news last week caused her to have a flare-up. We know that trauma is often a factor in why someone develops fibromyalgia. As many as 48% of people diagnosed with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia report having experienced some kind of childhood trauma or abuse.
Another thing that is helpful in her post is that she explicitly mentions the invisible nature of fibromyalgia.
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.
Dunham becomes the latest celebrity to disclose their fibromyalgia diagnosis. As the disease gets more high-visibility diagnoses, perhaps the stigma around the disorder will start to go away.
What do you think? Is it helpful for celebrities to disclose their fibromyalgia diagnoses? Is building awareness a good way to combat stigma?
The Sickest Girl – Lenny Letter
Fibromyalgia and Childhood Trauma – Fibromyalgia Treating