Whether it’s a chronic health condition, a mental illness, or even just a propensity you have to a specific infection (I’m looking at you UTI’s), when you suffer with something long term, you’re guaranteed to receive a ton of unsolicited advice. Lena Dunham proved that very point this morning when she posted an image of her just after having her left ovary removed.
‘Yesterday I had a two hour surgery to remove my left ovary,’ she wrote on Instagram, ‘which was encased in scar tissue & fibrosis, attached to my bowel and pressing on nerves that made it kinda hard to walk/pee/vamp.’
Lena previously had a hysterectomy at the start of this year, but in the last month found her symptoms as described above getting ‘worse and worse’. Posting an image of her 9-hours post-op, she wrote a long caption detailing the frustration of receiving so much unsolicited health advice after she was forced to stop promotion on her new TV show, Camping, because she was ‘too sick’.
‘A lot of people commented on my last post about being too sick to finish promoting my show by saying my hysterectomy should have fixed it (I mean should is a weird one),’ she continued, ‘That I should get acupuncture and take supplements (I do). That I should see a therapist because it’s clearly psychological (year 25 of therapy, y’all. These are the fruits!) But a big lesson I’ve learned in all of this is that health, like most stuff, isn’t linear- things improve and things falter and you start living off only cranberry juice from a sippy cup/sleeping on a glorified heating pad but you’re also happier than you’ve been in years.’
Going on to discuss the privilege of having health insurance throughout dealing with this condition, she promised followers she was now on a mission ‘to advocate for those of us who live at the cross section of physical and physic pain, to remind women that our stories don’t have to look one way, our pain is our gain’.
Opening up a conversation about unsolicited advice, the actor received floods of comments confirming her own sentiment. So of course, it only took us five minutes to find women itching telling their own stories.
'I have IBD and I get "have you tried not eating foods that upset you?" all the time,' says Nadia, 23, 'I think everyone with IBD has gotten that comment at least once, i'm like "literally all foods upset me, do you think i'm having 5-hour infusions just because I won't stop eating bread?!"
‘I deal with my anxiety it quite an off-textbook way,’ says Beth, 24, ‘I basically just ignore it and avoid talking about it at all costs. It’s not the message put forward in the media [to deal with mental health issues] so I always get friends telling me to talk about it more, or go to a therapist, and I’m like “I tried that, it just made me worse”. If it works for me I don’t see why I should try another way, when these people giving me advice really have no idea how it feels.’
‘I used to get super painful UTI’s all the time when I was with my first boyfriend because our bacteria down there just didn’t match well,’ says Julia*, 23, ‘every single person I ever complained to was like “just drink cranberry juice”,” just wee after sex”,” have a shower straight away”, like do you not think I’ve tried all of those things? Antibiotics and drinking lots of water, that’s all that helps and I’ve had multiple doctors confirm that to me. People think if one thing works for them it works for everyone, it’s just not true.’
‘My favourite is “drink more water” for my acne,’ says Emily*, 26, ‘I must’ve heard that 1000 times. I almost screamed at a colleague for saying it once. I’ve spent enough hours in doctors’ offices and enough money on gimmicky cleansing routines to know that this is hormonal and no amount of water I drink or Proactive I use is going to stop cystic acne. It’s actually laughable.’
So the next time someone is complaining about their health condition, maybe instead of offering your (likely uninformed) advice, just... listen? To be honest, we could all use a bit of quiet time instead of offering up opinions on things we really know nothing about (we're looking at you Piers Morgan)...