“Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life,” Clarke wrote. “I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.”
The first aneurysm struck while she was working out in February 2011, soon after the first season of GOT had wrapped.
“I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain,” she wrote. “I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t.” She took a break and retreated to the locker room, where she kneeled by the toilet and became “violently, voluminously” sick.
An MRI at London’s Whittington Hospital revealed she’d suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a bleed into the space surrounding the brain that kills about a third of the people who experience it.
After near-immediate surgery sealed off the aneurysm, Clarke said she woke to “unbearable” pain.
A few weeks later, a nurse asked her for her full name. She couldn’t remember it.
“Nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic,” she wrote. “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.”
Her memory loss, she said, came from a temporary condition called aphasia, a side effect of brain trauma. Although her mother tried to pretend she was lucid, she added, she couldn’t imagine her life without her memory.
“In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug,” she wrote. “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 aphasia finally subsided, and she left the hospital after a month of treatment. But she was exhausted after every day of filming Thrones’ second season, collapsing into bed some nights.
“Season 2 would be my worst,” Clarke said. “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.”
After filming Season 3, a second aneurysm struck, requiring another immediate surgery and another month in the hospital. “At certain points, I lost all hope,” she wrote, adding that she suffered from “terrible” anxiety and panic attacks.
Soon after she was released from the hospital, she said, she attended Comic-Con. Right before she was scheduled to talk to more than 1,000 eager fans, she was hit with another debilitating headache.
“I thought, ‘This is it. My time is up; I’ve cheated death twice and now he’s coming to claim me,’” she said. She stepped briefly off the stage, but her publicist told her that a journalist from MTV was waiting to ask her questions. “I figured, if I’m going to go, it might as well be on live television.”
But she survived the Comic-Con appearance—and now, she said, she’s “healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes” and is back “at a hundred per cent.”
“There is something gratifying, and beyond lucky, about coming to the end of Thrones,” she wrote in conclusion. “I’m so happy to be here to see the end of this story and the beginning of whatever comes next.”