Emilia Clarke is a badass leading lady in the hit series Game of Thrones. While she’s been busy conquering kingdoms and playing mother of dragons onscreen, she’s been battling something even crazier off screen – perhaps we should start calling her the Conqueror of Brain Aneurysms.
Until recently, not even her biggest fans knew what she was dealing with. The supreme queen decided to share with the world what she’d gone through – including unfiltered images of her in the hospital after suffering two life-threatening brain aneurysms.
The first aneurysm occurred right after the first season of Game of Thrones wrapped up filming.
Now, as we approach the much-anticipated final season of Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke is opening up about her experiences, and her new lease on life.
We learned the details of her health struggle after she penned an essay in the New Yorker titled “A Battle For My Life,” in which she revealed the moment in 2011 when she was rushed to the emergency room for surgery after suffering a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Nearly one-third of all people who suffer from this type of aneurysm lose their life as a result.
The actress explained how the first aneurysm hit her while she was in the gym. While she’d never pushed herself much in the physical department, her new fame brought about new pressures.
“My trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain. I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t. I told my trainer I had to take a break. Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room.
I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, the pain—shooting, stabbing, constricting pain—was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged.”
She wasn’t just afraid for her life, she was terrified for her career – her dreams had all just come true and she could see them flashing away before her eyes.
“I’d never experienced fear like that — a sense of doom closing in. I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines,” she wrote with pure honesty.
“Now I couldn’t recall my name. In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die. My job — my entire dream of what my life would be — centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”
The actress candidly shared photos from her hospitalization on CBS This Morning, where she opened up even more about her off-screen battle.
Six weeks after the first incident, Clarke was already back at work. She told her bosses that she wanted to keep the whole thing private. “I didn’t want it to be a subject of public discussion and dissection. The show must go on!”
She continued: “Season two would be my worst. I didn’t know what Daenerys was doing. If I’m truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.”
Two years later, her worst fears were realized when she suffered a second aneurysm. This one was even worse.
“So, with the second one, there was a bit of my brain that actually died. If a part of your brain doesn’t get blood to it for a minute, it will just no longer work. It’s like you short circuit. So, I had that.”
The scary thing is doctors didn’t know what was gone – some thought it might be her concentration, others presumed her peripheral vision was affected.
“I always say it’s my taste in men that’s no longer there! That’s the part of my brain, yeah, my decent taste in men,” she jokes.
Her biggest fear? Once again, it was losing her career.
“That was a deep paranoia, from the first one as well. I was like, ‘What if something has short-circuited in my brain and I can’t act anymore?’ I mean, literally it’s been my reason for living for a very long time!”
If she thought recovering from the first brain injury was difficult, the second time around was that much harder. The recovery was incredibly painful and “I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced.”
Playing Khaleesi helped her find the willpower to make it through. She said: “you go on set and you play a badass and you walk through fire, and that became the thing that just saved me from considering my own mortality.”
Clarke said it felt good to come clean and tell her story in full.
“After keeping quiet all these years, I’m telling you the truth in full. Please believe me: I know that I am hardly unique, hardly alone. Countless people have suffered far worse, and with nothing like the care I was so lucky to receive.”
As the finale of Game of Thrones hits a TV near you, the actress is in the clear brain and health-wise. She is also looking forward to her bright future.
“There’s been so much life that I’ve lived in the ten years that I’ve been working on the show. So, you’re saying good-bye to so much more than just the character. I’m saying good-bye to my twenties!”