Less than two weeks after penning a first-person New Yorker essay that detailed her health scares while filming Game of Thrones, the 32-year-old actress stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and discussed how the experience impacted her perspective on life.
"Being completely honest it made me petrified most of the time, which happens a bunch," she admitted during Tuesday's episode of the late-night show. "I wish I could sit here and say I was just like, 'Let's go, I don't know, jump out of a plane,' [but] I really wasn't."
"But I did do Game of Thrones instead, which is sort of quite similar, certain seasons," she quipped.
Despite the fear that it brought, Clarke said that she eventually became even more grateful for her life after the two incidents, which occurred after the first and third seasons of the HBO series.
"At some point you start to realize how lucky you are... The perspective that that gives you is enormous. And then that is, for the rest of your life, you're lucky," she said. "You can know how lucky you are."
Clarke described the brain hemorrhages as "the worst headache a human... could possibly manage to sort of experience," and revealed that she "genuinely knew I was being brain damaged" during the instances.
"You're incredibly ill and you've got this incredibly just horrific, horrific headache and just being violently ill. And somewhere, at some point in my life, I knew that that meant brain damage," she said. "So I just tried to keep as active as possible, move my fingers, my toes, my hands, and ask myself questions. Dothraki lines. Genuinely, genuinely trying to remember. Really trying to force my memory to work as much as I could to stay conscious."
In her essay, Clarke detailed her experience and surgeries that came after learning that a third of patients that experience the same thing "die immediately or soon thereafter."
"I spent a month in the hospital again and, at certain points, I lost all hope. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye," she said of life after her second surgery in 2013. "There was terrible anxiety, panic attacks. I was raised never to say, 'It’s not fair'; I was taught to remember that there is always someone who is worse off than you. But, 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."
When ET's Leanne Aguilera caught up with her Game of Thrones co-star, Iain Glen, he said that Clarke "went through the mill" as a result of her health struggles.
"She's such an amazing lady, and she was so strong, but she had real scares," he said. "I think when you sort of come out the end of something like that, everything must feel golden. I think the Thrones family were great with her. I hope she'd say that, but they shepherded her and looked after her as much as they could."
"I think in a funny way, she was always happy to get back to... the warm world of Thrones as that contradiction [to time in the hospital]," Glen added. "But the spirit has always been extraordinary for all of us as actors while we've been on the show."
The eighth and finale season of Game of Thrones premieres April 14 on HBO. Watch the video below for more on Clarke.