Emilia Clarke dealt with more than just physical pain after her two brain surgeries following an aneurysm. The Game of Thrones star said that her long recovery was a blow to her mental health, and left her feeling “deeply unattractive.”
Clarke, 32, said that after her emergency brain surgeries — the first in February 2011 and the second in 2013 — she hated the way she looked.
At first it was because of the swelling.
“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,” she told the U.K. site Stylist. “I felt so deeply unattractive.”
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But the actress eventually realized that her self-avoidance was not just about bodily changes.
“What I can see now is that I could see the pain behind my eyes. And no amount of anything can cover that,” she said.
Clarke said she went so far as to avoid mirrors.
“After my operations, I didn’t want to look at my own face,” she said. “I don’t normally, but all my emotions were heightened. When I looked in the mirror, I just saw pain in my eyes. I found it very, very difficult. I used to put on make-up without looking in the mirror, which probably made me look a lot worse.”
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Thankfully, Clarke is well beyond those days now — both physically and mentally — but the experience influenced how she thinks about makeup.
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“[Now] I always err on the side of wearing less makeup,” she said. “My face didn’t change, but my feelings about myself changed. When you can look at yourself in the eyes and feel okay with what’s looking back at you, then what more do you need?”
This article originally appeared on People. For more stories like this, visit people.com.
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