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Why Emilia Clarke never mentally recovered from GoT

The Mother of Dragons hasn't been the same since she conquered Westeros.

Ever since Emilia Clarke wrapped up her role as Daenerys Targaryen on HBO's hit series Game of Thrones, she has spoken out about some of the tougher moments she faced both on and off screen. Throughout her incredibly challenging, highly lauded, and decade-long role that made her an international star, the actress survived plenty of harrowing times, no matter how much fame and acclaim she racked up.

Between real-life medical issues, hairpin turns for her character, and uncomfortable experiences on set that left her feeling flustered and powerless, Clarke went through just as difficult of a journey as Daenerys did throughout eight seasons and 10 years. As Thrones was wrapping up its run and in the time after the series concluded, the extraordinarily candid actress has opened up about some of her biggest struggles, and it's not hard to understand why she hasn't fully recovered from Game of Thrones.

A brain aneurysm left Emilia Clarke's Game of Thrones future up in the air

As a fresh-faced star on a huge HBO show, Emilia Clarke was destined for stardom through her demanding performance as Daenerys, but it wasn't until the spring of 2019 that fans realized just how much personal comfort she truly sacrificed for the role. In a New Yorker piece that ran in March of that year, Clarke admitted that she suffered two debilitating brain injuries while filming the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, both of which could have ended her career and life.

After experiencing a serious brain aneurysm right after she wrapped filming on the show's freshman season, Clarke thankfully recovered, but was left frightened, depressed, and anxious about whether or not she would be able to continue working. The actress suffered from aphasia, a condition that renders one unable to speak correctly, in the aftermath of the first aneurysm. During the show's second season, she suffered from serious anxiety and collapsed once, then endured yet another aneurysm after the third season of Thrones wrapped. At that time, Clarke was also preparing for her Broadway debut in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Clarke's co-stars, including Khal Drogo star Jason Momoa, were incredibly supportive of her speaking out about what she had been through, but the experience was undoubtedly terrifying for the young actress. In The New Yorker article, Clarke revealed that she sank to a dark place after her second aneurysm: "Going through this experience for the second time, all hope receded. I felt like a shell of myself. So much so that I now have a hard time remembering those dark days in much detail. My mind has blocked them out. But I do remember being convinced that I wasn't going to live." 

Experiences on the Game of Thrones set left Emilia Clarke uncomfortable and self-conscious

Beyond her frightening offscreen medical struggles, Emilia Clarke also endured plenty of hardships on the set of Game of Thrones. In November 2019, she admitted that some of her nude scenes were difficult to handle, particularly because she felt both powerless and pressured as a young performer on the cusp of international stardom. As a star of a show that literally coined the term "sexposition," Clarke was unsurprisingly asked to perform a number of bare-it-all scenes. Even though nudity was a trademark of Thrones, it's still unsettling that Clarke was often uncomfortable on set and unsure if she could say no until later seasons, once she gained more clout and recognition. 

However, with or without the nude scenes, Clarke also suffered from serious imposter syndrome on the set of Thrones during the show's early seasons. As she told Dax Shepard on his podcast Armchair Expert, she spent "that first season thinking, 'I'm not worthy of requiring anything, I'm not worthy of needing anything at all.'"

How Daenerys Targaryen's personal arc affected Emilia Clarke

Beyond that, Daenerys Targaryen's journey left Emilia Clarke understandably shaken as well. The actress spent years playing her character as a virtuous, justice-driven young queen hell-bent on reclaiming her family's ancestral throne, so it shocked Clarke just as much as anyone else when Daenerys chose at the tail end of season 8 to torch King's Landing from atop her largest dragon, murdering countless innocent civilians in her quest to take the Iron Throne. Clarke admitted that upon reading the script and learning of the big Daenerys twist, she had to walk around the streets of London just to process the character's personal arc — especially considering that after sacking King's Landing, Dany doesn't make it to the Iron Throne, but is instead assassinated by her nephew-lover Jon Snow (Kit Harington).

Clarke will likely always be associated with Daenerys Targaryen, but even Game of Thrones' biggest fans should recognize the sacrifices the actor made for this enormous, unforgettable role.