The actress revealed that after the first season of Game of Thrones wrapped in 2011, she was rushed into urgent surgery after having been diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage—a stroke that one-third of patients can die from. She was just 24 years old.
“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. 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,” wrote Clarke.
“I told my bosses at Thrones about my condition, but I didn’t want it to be a subject of public discussion and dissection. The show must go on! Season two would be my worst. I didn’t know what Daenerys was doing. If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.”
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Clarke spoke more about her near-death experiences and shared never-before-seen photos from her hospitalization.
“I was in the gym, and the most excruciating pain, like an elastic band just went like snap in my head and an enormous amount of pressure suddenly,” Clarke said to CBS correspondent Tracy Smith. “And then very, very, very quickly I realized I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t walk. And in that moment, I knew I was being brain-damaged.”
The photos were taken during Clarke’s recovery from her first brain aneurysm in 2011.
Clarke returned to work only six weeks after undergoing invasive brain surgery to film Season 2 of Game of Thrones. “It’s like, ‘Hey, thanks for giving me the job. Super appreciate it. I just had a little thing. It’s fine. I’m fine,’ and so I was pretty much fine,” she joked.
Clarke went on to reveal that she suffered a second aneurysm two years later, and this one almost cost her her life.
“With the second one, there was a bit of my brain that actually died,” the actress explained. “If 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. There was a deep paranoia. 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.”
The actress added that while the journey to recovery was far from easy and she “definitely went through a period of being down,” returning to work and being able to play a badass character ultimately “saved” her from thinking about her own mortality.
(Check her Targaryen phone case!!!)
“You go on the set, and you play a badass character, and you walk through fire and you speak to hundreds of people, and you’re being asked to work as hard as you possibly can. And that became the thing that just saved me from considering my own mortality.”
Watch the full interview below:
h/t USA Today