“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke — best known for playing “The Mother of Dragons” Daenerys Targaryen on the hit HBO show — recently revealed how suffering from two brain aneurysms deeply affected her self-esteem.
“I was so full of drugs from being in the hospital that I had a lot of water retention, and one half of my face was quite swollen. I felt so deeply unattractive,” Clarke, 32, told Stylist. “What I can see now is that I could see the pain behind my eyes. And no amount of anything can cover that.”
In an essay published in March by The New Yorker titled, "A Battle for My Life," Clarke revealed she almost died while filming the show.
In February 2011, just as "Thrones" was premiering, Clarke underwent her first of two brain surgeries and an extensive and grueling recovery period.
While working out with her trainer in London, she suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm. At 24 years old, she says she "started to feel a bad headache coming on" but pushed through only to collapse in the bathroom. After being rushed to the hospital and having an MRI, the results were dire.
"The diagnosis was quick and ominous: a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain," she detailed in the article. "I’d had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture. As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. For the patients who do survive, urgent treatment is required to seal off the aneurysm, as there is a very high risk of a second, often fatal bleed. If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees."
Eventually, she was able to return to the “Game of Thrones” set. But in 2013, the star learned she had another “smaller aneurysm” that could “pop” at any time. She then underwent a second surgery.
"The recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery. I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced. I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium," she wrote.
Speaking to Stylist, the “Thrones” actress also said she “just saw pain in [her] eyes” each time she looked in a mirror — a feeling that led her to avoid looking at her reflection altogether, even when applying makeup.
“I found it very, very difficult. I used to put on makeup without looking in the mirror, which probably made me look a lot worse,” she recalled.
Thankfully, Clarke said in the New Yorker essay she “survived," adding “in the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred percent.”
And with her improved health came improved self-esteem. In fact, Clarke said she now avoids wearing a lot of makeup when she can.
“[Now] I always err on the side of wearing less makeup,” she said. “My face didn’t change, but my feelings about myself changed.”
Clarke added: “It’s being inspired. If you look emaciated and tired and full of self-loathing you do not look beautiful, no matter how perfect your hair and make-up is. We should be celebrating having a giggle a bit more. Laughter is free as well, which is good.”
“When you can look at yourself in the eyes and feel OK with what’s looking back at you, then what more do you need?”
Fox News' Jessica Napoli contributed to this report.