Married at First Sight star Bel Clarke speaks out about 'excruciating' brain injury

Married at First Sight star Bel Clarke says while her life changed in an instant after suffering a recent brain injury, she is slowly adjusting to her new normal.

Clarke was out for a run with her dog Millie in July when she tripped and hit her head hard. She woke up on the ground and says all she remembers is a shooting pain in her head and not knowing where she was.

Clarke said she carried on with her evening, which involved driving to the airport to pick up her mum.

"It wasn't until I was driving that it all started going downhill," she told The Project on Thursday. 

"I realised I was falling asleep driving, passing out, because I kept sort of coming to and I was swerving off the road."

After spending some time in hospital, she was discharged with whiplash and concussion and told to rest.

But a few days later she began suffering "excruciating" pain and her mum took her back to the hospital where she was then diagnosed with trauma to the head.

Her resulting brain injury means she now has trouble walking and speaking, and also suffers memory loss and migraines.

Clarke said her injury took her to a "dark space".

"It was when my brother came to me, Dylan, and he said, 'I miss the old you', and then I got sad and I thought 'me too'. I miss me. I can still be me. I just need to adjust to this'."

"There are days when it is very hard and dark and horrible, like for a lot of people, and that's okay and you just try again the next day."

Bel Clarke.
Bel Clarke. Photo credit: The Project

She said while having a brain injury makes her feel isolated sometimes, she reaches out to her Instagram followers - or "Insta-fam" as she calls them - which makes her feel less alone.

"[It's] the community online that has made it so great for me, and that's just the truth," she said. 

"Some people reach out and say that they feel isolated because they also have a head injury and now they feel less alone because they feel like someone else is going through it with them."

"Honestly, out of hundreds of messages, there's been one bad comment which was, 'People obtain brain injuries by watching reality TV'. Like, what?" 

The comment  is a reference to her appearances on Married at First Sight and The Bachelor.

Despite the positivity Clarke said people treat her differently, including staring at her while she's in public or even ignoring her if she's in a store.

"It's something that never really crossed my mind until I'm on the other side of it," she said.

Her recovery is currently a day-by-day process, but Clarke has goals to return to her studies in six months. She also wants to drive again and walk without aids.

"It's those small wins."