Hello &

Hello &

Wentworth Earl Miller III

Wentworth Earl Miller III



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Words of Light!

Active Minds National Conference 2016 - Remarks!

Wentworth shared his amazing speech on his Facebook Page for everyone to read. 


[What I'd prepared is below. It evolved on the day. As these things do. - W.M.]

Thank you so much. It's an honor. And a privilege. To be here.

I want to thank Alison and everyone at Active Minds who worked so hard to make this happen.

 Thank you for having me here tonight. Thank you for inviting me to share in your conference, in your community-building, and your plans for the future.

It's such important work you're doing here. It brings me joy to know Active Minds is out there in the world. On and off campus. Spreading the word. Saving lives. And changing the culture.

Way back in 1990, when I first got to college, there was no Active Minds. To be honest, I don't think anyone would've acknowledged - or admitted - that there was a need for it.

When I got to college, no one said, "Hey - it's okay to ask for help. 'We're changing the conversation about mental health.'"

What they said was, "You are now among the best and the brightest."

And I heard that as a challenge. I heard that as a threat.

To me it sounded like the subtext was, if you're the best and the brightest, you shouldn't need help. And if you do, then maybe you don't qualify.

I remember being really intimidated. Everyone I met my freshman fall... Everyone seemed to have it all figured out. Everyone seemed to know exactly who they were. Exactly what they wanted.

"Oh I've always known I was gonna be a doctor... or a lawyer... or a doctor and a lawyer..."

I'd hear that kind of thing and I'd be like, "Wow. I don't even know if I want to get out of bed tomorrow. I don't even know if I want to be here. Like, here here."

And that had been true for a long time.

For me, depression started in childhood. I don't know if it was environmental, chemical, hereditary... Whatever the root cause, it went unrecognized. And untreated. When I was 15 there was a very quiet but very real attempt to end my life. Which I told no one about. And then a few years later, I was off to college. Still depressed. Still struggling. No support system in place. About to tackle a new and daunting set of challenges.

Roommates. Mid-terms. Papers. Finals. Summer internships. Drinking. Dating. Socializing. Questions about identity. Questions about sexuality. Questions about the future. And the threat of having to deal with more of all of that... for four more years.

Very quickly I felt outmatched. Unprepared. Totally overwhelmed.

I started seeing a counselor - for free - for an hour, once a week, at the student health center. Because back then, that's what was on offer. If there were other resources available - support groups, peer-to-peer counseling - if those existed, I didn't know about it.

And the truth is, I was reluctant to ask.

I didn't want anyone finding out what was really going on with me. I didn't want anyone finding out who I really was. Or believed myself to be. Broken. Defective. Not the best. Not the brightest. Not deserving of all these golden opportunities.

Better to just... keep quiet. Just get along. In pain. And silence.

And then one night, the spring of my freshman year, I got as far as I could go.

After the attempt, there was more pain. More silence.

The school took official steps to ensure my safety, my continued enrollment. For which I was grateful. A few friends asked very polite, very awkward questions. Then dropped it. For which I was also grateful.

Because I didn't want to talk about it. I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. It was like every negative thought I'd ever had about myself... I'd just proven all of them to be true. In front of an audience.

The shame was real. And toxic.

So was the stigma.

Two days after my attempt, someone close to me, someone whose opinion I valued, said, "I have to love you less now. To protect myself."

And I thought, "I get it. I understand. It's only fair. It's what I deserve."

Those words haunted me. Silenced me. Right thru graduation. And beyond.

"I have to love you less now."

Almost 20 years later, that was the first line of dialogue in the first scene in the first feature film I ever wrote.*

I sold that script. That movie got made. And my career as a writer was launched.

And in many ways, that was the beginning of me speaking my truth. Of sharing my story with others. Of practicing getting whatever is inside of me - guilt, shame, fear, rage, grief, joy - out.

Disguised as fiction. Of course.

In the beginning, I needed fictional characters to speak for me. Just like I did when I was acting. Because I was afraid. Because speaking my truth was new for me.

But it was a good start. It was good practice.

Now it's 5 years later. I'm not writing screenplays anymore. These days I write about my life. My thoughts. My experiences. And I share all that online. In a public forum. Where it's read by thousands of strangers.

These days I stand in front of groups of people and I speak for myself. About myself. As myself. And it takes practice. Still.

I'll tell you something else. This work... and it is work... good work... requires an enormous amount of trust. Trust in what I'm saying. Trust I have the right to say it. Trust that someone, somewhere is listening. And they know exactly what I'm talking about. Because they've been there too.

By choosing to show up and tell my story, by choosing to be here - like, here here - I trust I'm making it easier for someone, somewhere to tell their story. And maybe add a few more chapters.

I trust I'm being of service to others. And myself. Because I know, now, that when I risk showing up as "unlovable," that is how I show love. When I risk showing up as "broken," that is how I am made whole. Sharing my story is - has been - life-saving. For me.

And it's scary. Still.

Because whenever I do it, whenever I write or talk about the things the younger me worked so hard for so long to keep quiet... Whenever I find the courage to say, "Yes. Me too."... It's like opening a door and walking alone into a pitch-black room... It's dark... and I have to feel my way... and it's frightening... Then I find the light switch... and I turn on the light... and I see I am surrounded... I see a room full of people...

There are so many of us. In here. And out there.

I've been made aware that Active Minds is approaching its 15-year anniversary... And I'd like to offer a very, very early "thank you."

Because that's a lot of students. That's lot of students who've been reached... Who've been made to understand that we all have our stuff... all of us... That sometimes getting out of bed in the morning can be just as worthy of praise and recognition as "A's" on a report card...

That's a lot of young people who know, now, that you can struggle and fall down and ask for help and be the best and the brightest... That one does not negate the other...

One facilitates the other...

That is a noble effort. That is time and energy well spent.

It moves me. Inspires me. I'm humbled I get to be a part of it.

And I can't wait to see what's next. Thank you.


I wish to thank you dear Went for sharing your moving words of inspiration and courage with us.  

Your Words of Light will always be cherished and be a source of encouragement.

I look forward to seeing what's next for you too honey.

I love you!!


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