A celebrity's life might look glamorous on the outside, but you never what they may be going through personally. Take, Emilia Clarke, who survived two brain aneurysms. In a personal essay written for The New Yorker and published on March 21, the Game of Thrones star publicly opened up for the first time ever about the extremely scary and life-threatening time in her life.
Clarke didn't hold back in telling her story, and began her vulnerable essay by writing,
"Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time."
She then went onto reveal after wrapping Season 1 of Game of Thrones, in which Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen, she encountered a major health issue that she wasn't prepared for — a brain aneurysm. On Feb. 11, 2011, Clarke got a bad headache while working out at the gym that turned into a "shooting, stabbing, constricting pain" and caused her to vomit in the locker room. "At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged," she wrote, before adding,
"For a few moments, I tried to will away the pain and the nausea. I said to myself, 'I will not be paralyzed.' I moved my fingers and toes to make sure that was true. To keep my memory alive, I tried to recall, among other things, some lines from Game of Thrones."
Eventually, another woman in the locker room with Clarke at the time assisted her, before the Solo: A Star War's Story actor was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital in London. She had an MRI and was diagnosed with "a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain." She ended up having brain surgery that was "minimally invasive," since her skull wasn't opened up. That said, the operation was three hours long.
Despite suffering from aphasia (an impairment of language due to brain injury) for about a week that also put her in the ICU, Clarke made it through the operation without any other complications. However, doctors also informed her she had a "smaller aneurysm" on the opposite side of her brain that could possibly end up popping in the future, but they would just keep an eye on it.
When 2013 rolled around, Clarke found herself back in the hospital after having a required regular brain scan in New York City that showed her aneurysm had "doubled in size." She needed surgery again. Unlike before, the first surgery on the second aneurysm "had failed" and they had to operate a second time. This time, they had to go through her skull.
The surgery, understandably, took a toll on Clarke. She wrote,
"I spent a month in the hospital again and, at certain points, I lost all hope. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. There was terrible anxiety, panic attacks. I was raised never to say, 'It’s not fair'; I was taught to remember that there is always someone who is worse off than you. But, going through this experience for the second time, all hope receded. I felt like a shell of myself. So much so that I now have a hard time remembering those dark days in much detail. My mind has blocked them out.
"But I do remember being convinced that I wasn’t going to live. And, what’s more, I was sure that the news of my illness would get out. And it did—for a fleeting moment. Six weeks after the surgery, the National Enquirer ran a short story. A reporter asked me about it and I denied it."
Now, the Me Before You star is speaking her truth, and letting everyone know that she's doing just fine. "In the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes," she wrote in her essay. "I am now at a hundred per cent."
Clarke has also found herself launching SameYou, an organization working to provide treatment to those recovering from brain injuries and stroke, in both the U.K.and the U.S.
There's no denying that Clarke has learned a lot about herself and life throughout this scary time. She's even looking at Game of Thrones ending after eight seasons in a positive way. As she wrote,
"There is something gratifying, and beyond lucky, about coming to the end of Thrones. I’m so happy to be here to see the end of this story and the beginning of whatever comes next."
For Clarke, she's extremely lucky to be here today and to see the beloved HBO drama come to an end. As sad as it is when one door closes, that means another door will soon open and Clarke couldn't be happier knowing her acting journey will continue. She's truly an inspiring individual who has come through all of this even stronger and braver than before.