Earlier today, after coping in silence for close to a decade, one very brave star revealed harrowing details about her painful experience with a life-threatening health scare. Now, Game of Thrones fans are supporting Emilia Clarke by comparing her to the Khaleesi — a character who has, in many senses, come to symbolize both physical and emotional strength.
In a personal essay published by The New Yorker on March 21, Clarke admitted to having survived — not one, but — two brain aneurysms back in 2011. Her first indication that something was wrong occurred while she was at the gym, shortly after the first season of Game of Thrones wrapped filming.
While working out with a trainer, "I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain," Clarke recalled. "I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t."
She then added, "At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged." The actor also explained how, in an attempt to keep her memory alive, "I tried to recall, among other things, some lines from Game of Thrones."
Following an MRI, Clarke was diagnosed with "a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain." She underwent surgery without complications, but was re-admitted to the hospital again two years later, when they discovered that a "smaller aneurysm" on the other side of her brain had "doubled in size."
Now, after sharing her terrifying struggle with the world, Game of Thrones fans are praising the actor for her strength, bravery, and vulnerability. In fact, many fans are comparing her to the Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, and the character that Clarke herself made famous.
"My goodness, @emiliaclarke, I hope you realize you're actually stronger than the mother of dragons herself," one fan wrote. "No matter how the Game of Thrones ends for Daenerys, Emilia Clarke will always be a khaleesi, a dragon, a queen and a conquerer in my eyes," another admirer tweeted. "That Emilia Clarke interview is both heartwarming and harrowing," a third fan added. "Also, unwittingly, adds that extra element of formidability and badassness to her character. My Khaleesi."
The adulation didn't end there. Countless people have been tweeting about her story in the hours since it was released. "A survivor. A warrior," wrote one fan. "#EmiliaClarke is the true definition of a khaleesi. Greater than any fictional character or television show. What an inspiration!" Another person revealed, "I’ve admired @emiliaclarke since the day I decided to watch Game of Thrones. She really is such a light in the industry and clearly embodies who 'a Khaleesi' should be."
Yet another fan called Clarke's story, "an absolute inspiration." He then added that, "She survived a stroke/brain operations and still seemed like the happiest celeb around, whilst also filming the biggest show on the planet at such a young age, and kept it all private. #EmiliaClarke truly is a Khaleesi."
If you've yet to read Clarke's unguarded account about her years-long, life-threatening experience, go do that immediately. Her story isn't just about the physical pain she underwent — she opened up about the emotional aspect, too, and how "at certain points, I lost all hope. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. There was terrible anxiety, panic attacks." And yet, despite all of that, she managed to push through.
In addition to sharing her story with the world, Clarke has also recently launched an organization called SameYou. According to the non-profit's website, one of their primary goals is to "change healthcare policies, improve the pathways to recovery, and campaign to increase provision," for those in need. A true queen, indeed.