Lena Dunham details her intense COVID-19 story: ‘Like a rave gone wrong’

Lena Dunham
Writer and actress Lena Dunham said she got sick with COVID-19 in March.
(Richard Shotwell / Associated Press)

“Girls” mastermind Lena Dunham has shared her “Covid Story” in a lengthy Instagram post detailing her experience battling symptoms as someone who suffers from chronic illness.

On Friday the writer, actress and producer said she got COVID-19 in March and, after some initial reluctance, was adding her voice “to a noisy landscape on such a challenging topic.” Her early symptoms included achy joints, a high fever and “crushing fatigue.”

“Seeing the carelessness with which so many in the United States are treating social distancing ... I feel compelled to be honest about the impact this illness has had on me, in the hopes that personal stories allow us to see the humanity in what can feel like abstract situations,” she wrote. “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. A hacking cough, like a metronome keeping time. Inability to breathe after simple tasks like getting a glass of water. Random red rashes. A pounding headache right between my eyes. It felt like I was a complex machine that had been unplugged and then had my wires rerouted into the wrong inputs. This went on for 21 days ... that blended together like a rave gone wrong.”


While sick with the respiratory illness, Dunham said she benefited from “regular guidance” and “hands-on attention” from her doctor — “a privilege that is far too unusual in our broken healthcare system.”

After a month of self-isolating and routinely checking her oxygen levels on a pulse oximeter, she tested negative and “was able to spend time around my isolation pod once again,” she said. Dunham said she did have lingering symptoms, including arthritis flare-ups, swollen hands and feet, fatigue and “an unceasing migraine.”

“Even as a chronically ill person, I had never felt this way,” she continued. “To be clear, I did NOT have these particular issues before I got sick with this virus and doctors don’t yet know enough to tell me why exactly my body responded this way or what my recovery will look like.

“I know I am lucky; I have amazing friends and family, exceptional healthcare and a flexible job where I can ask for the support I need to perform. … BUT not everybody has such luck, and I am posting this because of those people. I wish I could hug them all.”

‘Breaking Bad’ actor Bryan Cranston posted a video documenting his COVID-19 journey and his experience donating his plasma to UCLA.

July 31, 2020

Dunham is one of several Hollywood figures who have announced COVID-19 diagnoses amid the public health crisis. Others include Daniel Dae Kim, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Sara Bareilles, Pink, Idris Elba and Bryan Cranston, who recently donated plasma to UCLA.


“When you take the appropriate measures to protect yourself and your neighbors, you save them a world of pain,” Dunham wrote. “You save them a journey that nobody deserves to take, with a million outcomes we don’t yet understand, and a million people with varying resources and varying levels of support who are not ready for this tidal wave to take them. It is critical we are all sensible and compassionate at this time…because there is truly no other choice.”