Lena Dunham has never been shy about the fact she's got endometriosis; from posting intimate pictures illustrating her pain on social media, to writing a candid essay detailing a resulting hysterectomy that has left her unable to bear children.
Endometriosis goes hand in hand with pain and trauma for most of the 176 million women worldwide who are estimated to suffer from it. In order to get a conclusive diagnosis, many must endure an average 7.5 year struggle from the onset of symptoms.
It's not much fun, is the bottom line; but in a conversation with Cosmopolitan UK in conjunction with her March 2020 issue cover, actor and writer Lena Dunham reveals her optimism surrounding the condition. From improving her relationship with her body, to enabling her a newfound "freedom" where dating is concerned, Lena is now very much focussing on the positives.
"Having endometriosis has had a really interesting effect on my relationship with my body," she shares in the video. "Pain does not inherently make you feel sexy; pain doesn't make you feel beautiful, but in another way it's forced me to really take ownership of my body and express my needs," the Girls creator says.
Whether it's being vocal about what sex positions work - and which ones don't - for her body, or whether it's communicating that she can't wear tight jeans on a shoot because of the bloating endometriosis brings, Lena is being honest. And she says it feels refreshing.
"It's forced me to really navigate more honestly with other people, and be more careful and honest with my body than I would have been otherwise."
Having had more than 10 surgeries linked to her endometriosis, Lena has been left with several scars on her abdomen. But instead of looking at these as imperfections, she's chosen to tattoo over them with stars, embracing their uniqueness.
"It makes me feel more beautiful," says Lena of her tattooed constellation.
One of the operations Lena mentions is a major one; she underwent a total hysterectomy in late 2017, which saw the removal of her uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix. As a result, she is now unable to have children naturally.
This was a difficult thing to accept for Lena, who "never had any doubt that I wanted to be a mother". She was left grieving the children she never got to bear, and it manifested in a multitude of ways.
"It came with fear of pregnant women, it came with revulsion at the idea of sex and pregnant bodies. It came with being obsessed with babies; it came with being obsessed with dogs. It came with not wanting to think about babies at all," she reflects.
But after riding the waves of this loss, Lena says she's arrived at a place of acceptance - and even positivity - about how infertility has transformed her approach to dating.
"I'm no longer relying on any male partner to make motherhood possible for me," Lena shares. "Sometimes, women who are in their late 20s into their 30s feel their biological clock ticking. You're almost looking around for a suitable donor, who could also kind of be your boyfriend. That's not everyone's dating pattern, but that was certainly mine.
"The freedom that comes with knowing that I don't have to engage with anybody because I think I have to form a picture perfect standard family. I'm free to date as I wish," she says, with a smile.
And, well, that kind of belief in your own self-sufficiency is a pretty valuable lesson for anyone to learn.
Read more from Lena Dunham in the March 2020 issue of Cosmopolitan UK, out now.
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