We all fell in love with Wentworth Miller is his role as Scofield in Prison Break, with his then slimmer body, covered in a tattoo that was actually the key to break out of prison with his brother. Yesterday a meme of him went viral, one in which his slimmer prison break body is compared to his chubbier self from 2010. In a collective Schadenfreude, many of us shared the meme, probably laughed, and thought nothing else of it, completely unaware of the hurt we were inflicting on a man whose body is evidence of the battle he waged against depression to survive.
Wentworth caught wind of this meme, and he took to facebook to share with us what might be his is most vulnerable story yet. He writes,
Today I found myself the subject of an Internet meme. Not for the first time.
This one, however, stands out from the rest.
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 known to very, very few.
Ashamed and in pain, I considered myself damaged goods. And the voices in my head urged me down the path to self-destruction. Not for the first time.
I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. It’s a battle that’s cost me time, opportunities, relationships, and a thousand sleepless nights.
In 2010, at the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food. It could have been anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. But eating became the one thing I could look forward to. Count on to get me through. There were stretches when the highlight of my week was a favorite meal and a new episode of TOP CHEF. Sometimes that was enough. Had to be.
And I put on weight. Big f–king deal.
One day, out for a hike in Los Angeles with a friend, we crossed paths with a film crew shooting a reality show. Unbeknownst to me, paparazzi were circling. 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.
My mother has one of those “friends” who’s always the first to bring you bad news. They clipped one of these articles from a popular national magazine and mailed it to her. She called me, concerned.
In 2010, fighting for my mental health, it was the last thing I needed.
Long story short, I survived.
So do those pictures.
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.
Anyway. Still. Despite.
The first time I saw this meme pop up in my social media feed, I have to admit, it hurt to breathe. But as with everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.
Of myself and others.
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. Much love. – W.M. #koalas #inneractivist #prisonbroken
Miller reminds us to take care of the crass words we have for other people’s bodies, how quick we are to dehumanize a person because of the way they look, how we feel entitled to telling people how they should look. So many of us carry unbearable pain, pulsing underneath our skin, whether underweight, super fit, or overweight. Our bodies are diaries of our ongoing struggle to feel worthy of life, in a world that too many times tells us we don’t deserve kindness. Internet comments, memes, anonymous letters, points and giggles in hallways, pranks, unkind lovers, ruthless employers, well-meaning family members, opportunities abound for breaking us down.
Make the commitment to not be the person who makes it “hurt to breathe” as Miller wrote. Be one less person to perpetrate the vicious trend of abusing others with our words. And more importantly, let us note that this note from Miller will likely garner a lot more sympathy than an every day person, likely caught in a picture and circulated as a meme for our amusement. Make sure to be as compassionate with this person as you would a celebrity. As the same time, please do not make the mistake to think celebrities are somehow shielded from our words because of their fame.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.