After being photographed leaving a doctor’s appointment holding a cane, Lena Dunham is offering fans an explanation for her new accessory. In an emotional Instagram post—in which she calls out the paparazzi for publishing unflattering photos of her—the actress reveals she suffers from a genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
“I could choose to be embarrassed by these paparazzi pics – I mean, that’s probably the point of someone publishing them in the first place – but I’m really not,” Dunham wrote alongside a snapshot of her wearing a blue nightgown and gray slippers while using a walking stick for balance.
“I could lie and say it was an early Halloween look (Don’t you get it? I’m going as a con woman leaving a Florida Keys jail after being acquitted of murdering her husband, and now she’s trying to get disability license plates),” she joked. “But the truth is just: This is what life is like when I’m struggling most with chronic illness.”
She continued to explain the side effects of the condition, writing:
“An Ehler-Danlos syndrome flare means that I need support from more than just my friends… so thank you, sweet cane! For years, I resisted doing anything that would make my physical situation easier, insisting that a cane would ‘make things weird.’ But it’s so much less weird to actually be able to participate than to stay in bed all day.”
Ehler-Danlos syndrome is “a group of inherited disorders that affect your connective tissues,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Those suffering from the condition typically have “overly flexible joints and stretchy, fragile skin. This can become a problem if you have a wound that requires stitches, because the skin often isn’t strong enough to hold them.”
As for wearing her pajamas in public? Lena addressed the so-called controversy in the caption.
“And yes, you’d better believe I’m wearing my nightgown,” she said. “I was walking four feet to the car to go to the doctor and I wanted to be full cozy. I mean, didn’t Bieber wear hotel slippers for like five years? Yeah, so I can wear my glamour nighty for two hours.”
“And then an hour later, I’m in a meeting look tackling the job I love,” the Girls alum wrote, in reference to another photo of herself in a blue two-piece suit she wore later in the day. “That’s the two-fold life of a woman with chronic illness; we still rock our dreams and goals and passions (and fashions) and we live many lives in one day.”
Lena has always been outspoken about her battle with chronic illness, and, most recently, she got a new tattoo that reads “sick” on the back of her neck. The new ink was dedicated to her on-going struggle with endometriosis, which she was first diagnosed with in 2015.
This story originally appeared on InStyle.com by Alicia Brunker.