Internet memes are a common occurrence in our timelines and newsfeeds. They often poke fun at celebrities using quick-witted taglines and unflattering photos. At most, they’re good for a momentary laugh. But sometimes, they catch fire and turn into viral cultural phenomena. Such was the case for a meme about Wentworth Miller. When a meme poking fun at his weight went viral earlier this year, he used the opportunity to spread awareness about depression.
The meme, which was originally released by the website The Lad Bible, featured a photo of the actor’s toned physique in 2006 juxtaposed with a pic of a noticeably heavier Miller from later in his career. The caption read, “When you break out of prison and find out about the McDonald’s Monopoly”.
After the meme became a trending topic, the 44-year-old actor took to Facebook to address the mean-spirited photo. He surprised fans with his confession about suffering from bouts of depression.
“I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. It’s a battle that’s cost me time, opportunities, relationships, and a thousand sleepless nights,” he wrote. He referred to the picture used in the meme as a reflection of the lowest point “in my adult life”. After trying his hand with drugs, alcohol, and sex to ease his depression, he turned to food. Comfort eating became his coping mechanism, and the weight gain in that viral meme was the result.
Miller recalled going out on a hike with a friend in Los Angeles back in 2010 when the unflattering photo was taken. They’d accidentally crossed paths with a reality show production crew. Paparazzi were nearby and snapped photos of the star. At the time, similar posts about his weight gain picked up traction in the media. The star says it was the last thing he needed while fighting for his mental health.
But instead of hiding or becoming angry, he’s using his current healthy state as a symbol of survival.
“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.”
Miller shared with People Magazine that releasing his feelings through the Facebook post was a key step for him. Writing about his feelings has been life saving for the actor. And he’s forgiven the people behind the meme.
He told People, “I knew whoever was responsible didn’t know me or know anything about me. They didn’t have a clue what kinds of issues they were bringing up for me.” The Lad Bible has since apologized for the meme.
Miller says he hasn’t had “a major depressive episode” in three years. He says that he does his best to stay aware of his current emotional state. He also encourages people to reach out if they feel someone close to them is in need of help.
“Just let them know they’re not alone.”
Miller last made national headlines after coming out back in 2013. During a Human Rights Campaign dinner that year, he used his coming out story to talk about the dangers of suicide amongst gay youth. If anything, he has proven time and time again that his struggles are a great opportunity to help others.