Lena Dunham explains how recent health issues inspired her huge new tattoos

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Kayleigh Dray
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Lena Dunham has made no secret of her love for tattoos and, over the weekend, she revealed two new designs on her Instagram Stories: one on her upper thigh (a blooming rose), and one on her hip (baby Cupid characters – otherwise known as ‘Kewpie dolls’ – clutching a bucket of tears).

“Been tatting myself up like crazy this month,” the Girls co-creator and star captioned the first image.

Dunham continued: “These Kewpies have been on me a few weeks.”

The writer and activist already has a “warrior’s chest/tit chandelier” (her words, not ours), which she had inked by a female tattoo artist.

“It felt sacred and cool and she didn’t chide me for copying [Rihanna’s] placement, Dunham said at the time.

Now Dunham has revealed that there is a deeper meaning behind her collection of tattoos: speaking frankly on Instagram Stories, she explained that the tattoos help give her some “control”.

“I think it gives me a sense of control and ownership of a body that’s often beyond my control,” said Dunham.

Dunham has always been willing to talk about how she suffers from endometriosis in order to raise awareness about the chronic and debilitating women’s health condition. However of late, there have been a number of flare-ups; a recent health scare saw her rushed to hospital.

And earlier this year, in an episode of her Women of the Hour podcast, the Girls star and creator spoke to listeners directly from the emergency room of an American hospital to better show the impact the painful condition can have.

“I’ve been hurting more and more,” she said at the time. “I started antibiotics, didn’t do anything, and the pain in my back and my pelvis has become overwhelming and so I’m here to figure out if I have an ovarian cyst or some other kind of ovarian issue that’s causing the continuous pain that is draining me of my life force.”

Dunham also discussed endometriosis in an essay on her email newsletter, Lenny Letter.

“From the first time I got my period, it didn't feel right,” she described. “The stomach aches began quickly and were more severe than the mild-irritant cramps seemed to be for the blonde women in pink-hued Midol commercials.”

And, when people congratulated her on her recent weight loss, she was quick to remind them that it was sparked by her health issues

“Right now I'm struggling to control my endometriosis through a healthy diet and exercise,” said Dunham. “So my weight loss isn't a triumph and it also isn't some sign I've finally given in to the voices of trolls. Because my body belongs to ME – at every phase, in every iteration, and whatever I'm doing with it. I'm not handing in my feminist card to anyone.”

Endometriosis is “the name given to the condition where cells like the ones in the lining of the womb (uterus) are found elsewhere in the body,” explains Endometriosis UK.

“Each month these cells react in the same way to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.”

The condition can cause painful and/or heavy periods, as well as fatigue, bowel issues, bladder problems, depression and infertility.

Around 1.5 million women in the UK are currently living with the condition. Endometriosis can affect all women and girls of a childbearing age, and can have a significant impact on their life in a number or ways.

However, with the right endometriosis treatment, many of these issues can be addressed, and the symptoms made more manageable.



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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.