A meme featuring Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller was recently shared online by The LAD Bible, in an attempt to poke fun at the actor’s fluctuating weight, and the 43-year-old has hit back at haters in the most positive and thought-provoking way possible, by writing a candid essay about the demons he was facing at that time in his life, and using the body-shaming meme to talk about depression, suicide and other serious issues affecting people all over the world.
The meme in question features two side-by-side photos of Miller, one from his stint on Prison Break, in which he is ultra-thin and covered in tattoos, and another later photo, of a heavier (and happier-looking) Miller, with the caption, “When you break out of prison and find out about McDonald’s monopoly.” When Miller first saw the meme, he admits “it hurt to breathe,” but he found the strength and forgiveness to turn the meme into a teaching moment, penning an incredibly honest open letter about depression, mental health, suicide and body-shaming.
In his essay, which he posted on his Facebook page along with a screenshot of the LAD Bible meme, Miller writes, “In 2010, semi-retired from acting, I was keeping a low-profile for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I was suicidal. This is a subject I’ve since written about, spoken about, shared about. But at the time I suffered in silence. As so many do. The extent of my struggle [is] known to very, very few.”
Miller goes on to say that, battling depression from childhood on, he turned to the comfort of food, which eventually “became the one thing I could look forward to.” While out for a hike with friends in Los Angeles one day, the group came across a film crew shooting a reality show, and, unbeknownst to Miller, “They took my picture, and the photos were published alongside images of me from another time in my career. ‘Hunk to Chunk.’ ‘Fit to Flab.’ Etc. […] Long story short, I survived. So do those pictures. I’m glad. […] As with everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.”
The all-too-familiar body-shaming meme has become a social media staple recently, and Miller is only the latest victim. Although he was initially hurt by the meme, Miller has transformed the entire experience into a source of pride, over the obstacles he has overcome and how much he has changed in the years since the photos were taken. He writes in his essay, “Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without. Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.”
Miller’s open letter has struck a chord with people all over the world who struggle with depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues, and has effectively put The LAD Bible and other propagators of online body-shaming in their place. Miller ended his poignant letter with links to resources where other people who are struggling with similar mental health issues can find help, and left his readers with this thought: “If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. Reach out. Text. Send an email. Pick up the phone. Someone cares. They’re waiting to hear from you.”