There's a scene in HBO's Girls when one of the series' central figures, Hannah Horvath, takes up running to help her face the challenges in her life.
In a way, art seems to be imitating life for the creator and star, Lena Dunham, who has been battling endometriosis as long as she's been in the spotlight. However, like everything else she advocates for behind the scenes, the 30-year-old Golden Globe winner decided she wasn't going to brush her health under the rug anymore.
"Throughout my working life, adrenaline has always carried me through the moments when illness truly wasn't an option—oh, hello, diarrhea before David Letterman. I'm sure that's the case for many women —mothers, executives, Rockettes," she described in a November 2015 article for Lenny Letter in which she thoroughly described the path to her diagnosis. "I ignored the messages my body was sending to me in favor of productivity, attempting to prove my resilience. But that was getting harder, and soon I found myself in a hotel room in Amsterdam, knees pulled to my chest, unable to continue my book tour."
By the new year, endometriosis had taken its toll once again on the actress, striking so hard she canceled all of her press for the forthcoming fifth season of the show.
"As many of you know I have endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects approximately 1 in 10 women's reproductive health. I am currently going through a rough patch with the illness and my body (along with my amazing doctors) let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it's time to rest," she wrote in a lengthy Instagram caption. "So many women with this disease literally don't have the option of time off and I won't take it for granted."
She continued to keep fans in the loop amid her rollercoaster ride with the disorder, sharing dressing room selfies donning a bikini and her surgery scars proudly.
After years of grappling with the misunderstood condition—she had been experiencing symptoms a decade before an official diagnosis—Dunham has started using social media as a tool to offer her experiences to those in search of insight.
"Besides a great doctor who understands the condition, meditation, exercise and nutrition are huge," Dunham tweeted to one concerned mother looking for advice for her daughter just days ago. "Tell her she's brave & give her my love!"
The star has been practicing what she preaches, often documenting yoga sessions on social media and showing up for workouts with trainer Tracy Anderson, whom she supported at the launch of her new Big Apple studio Thursday night. However, the exercise was not motivated by the scale.
"I think for me the big thing was that Tracy just very clearly wasn't trying to change my body," she told People at the flagship opening. "I came to her and was like, ‘I have endometriosis, I have chronic physical pain, I just want to feel stronger I just want to have a stronger core, I want to feel like I have more power throughout my day, how do I get there?' I like that she was coming at it from that perspective rather than like, I'd like to shrink six inches…"
As Dunham gets stronger and more fit, her overall goal is all the more clear.
"I am no longer scared of my body," she wrote in Lenny Letter. "In fact, I listen to it when it speaks."
She has also accepted the fact that her body is an "ever changing organism."
"I smile just as wide no matter my current size because I'm proud of what this body has seen and done and represented. Chronic illness sufferer. Body-shaming vigilante. Sexual assault survivor. Raging hottie. Just like all of YOU," she wrote on Instagram Thursday afternoon. "Right now I'm struggling to control my endometriosis through a healthy diet and exercise. 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."