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Health Issues and Panic Attacks Revealed

On screen, Emilia Clarke portrayed one of the most powerful heroes of the last decade, but her real life was consumed by health struggles that most fans didn’t even know about. The actress dealt with a serious brain aneurysm just as her career was taking off with Game of Thrones, and that wasn’t the end of it. She has not always shared the details of her health in real-time, leaving fans in shock when she revealed setbacks she experienced years prior.

Through it all, Clarke has taken every opportunity to uplift others, even working with many charitable organizations related to the conditions she has battled. Her work has had a real tangible impact, and has led fans to draw comparisons between Clarke and her character, Daenerys Targaryen. Here’s an overview of Clarke’s health, her advocacy work and her rise to fame.

Clarke’s most infamous health struggle was a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm – primarily because it happened in the midst of her rise to fame, but fans did not learn about it until years later. In a 2019 essay published in The New Yorker, Clarke revealed that she had suffered the ruptured aneurysm in February of 2011. She was treated with a “microsurgical” procedure called endovascular coiling, which reduces blood flow to an aneurysm to stop the bleeding. She had a second aneurysm treated in the same way in 2013.

Clarke said that the primary neurological symptom she experienced after her ruptured aneurysm was aphasia – damage to the language center of the brain that can disrupt speech and comprehension. In Clarke’s case, she struggled to say her own name.

At the same time she revealed her history of aneurysms publicly, Clarke launched her own charity organization called SameYou. It was meant to provide broader access to neurorehabilitation services after brain injury or a stroke – particularly to younger patients. The charity has been a huge success, earning Clarke the Public Leadership in Neurology Award from the American Brain Foundation in 2020. It even got Clarke and her mother invested as Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) earlier this year.

Following the controversial ending to Game of Thrones, fans created an online fundraiser called “Justice for Daenerys,” which raised over $100,000 for SameYou from fans of the series. Its creators said it was meant to express appreciation for Daenerys, and for Clarke after the revelation of all she had gone through during the making of this series.

Clarke suffered a panic attack in late 2019 that prompted her to change her policy about taking selfies with fans. During an interview on the Table Manners podcast, she said: “I was genuinely walking through an airport and I suddenly started having what I can only believe to be a panic attack brought on by complete exhaustion. I was on my own. I was on the phone to my mom saying, ‘I feel like I can’t breathe. I don’t know what’s going on.'”

Clarke said she found a place to sit and was crying as she tried to collect herself when she was approached by a fan. She recalled: “I’m there and the tears are coming out. I’m crying and crying, this guy’s like, ‘Can I get a selfie?’ And I was like, ‘I can’t breathe, I’m really sorry. Just having a minute.’ It was after a few moments like that where I was like, ‘I don’t know how to do this.'”

“When someone’s asking me for a selfie, I want to be able to provide for them what it is they’re after,” Clarke went on. “I’ve just been trying to navigate how I can do it without feeling like my soul is completely empty.” The actress said that she now tries to offer an autograph instead of a selfie whenever fans approach her.

Clarke talked about her childhood in a 2013 interview with Allure, including her experience with bullying. She said: “My mom had rules when I was growing up: Don’t do drugs, don’t have sex, and don’t touch your eyebrows. So I got bullied as a kid for having ridiculous eyebrows. She said, ‘You’ll be thankful when you’re older,’ and I am. My mom used to tell me to brush them with Vaseline when I went to bed.”

Clarke performed several nude scenes in the early seasons of Game of Thrones, and she reflected on that experience as the show was ending in 2019. In an interview on The Armchair Expert podcast, she admitted that it was “terrifying” to be nude on a large film set at age 23, and said she has become “a lot more savvy” about when nudity is appropriate on screen and how much is necessary for the plot. In 2015, she told The Hollywood Reporter that she had actually been offered the lead role in Fifty Shades, but had turned it down due to the amount of nudity required.

Besides SameYou, Clarke has worked extensively with charity organizations since becoming a public figure. In 2011, she became a celebrity ambassador for the SMA UK Trust Team, which raised funds for research into spinal muscular atrophy. In 2018, she became an ambassador for the Royal College of Nursing, calling for greater investment into nursing in the U.K. In April of 2020, Clarke raised funds for COVID-19 relief through SameYou, and was able to provide virtual services for people recovering from brain injuries or strokes while it was unsafe for them to see their doctors in person.

Clarke has advocated for social causes as well, including the Time’s Up initiative in 2018. She joined an organization called Open Door in 2017, which helps young people gain more equitable access to auditions and acting classes. Clarke has worked on other events over the years as well, earning her reputation for generosity among fans.

Source: CBSnews, The New Yorker