Everybody Hurts, Including Me, And It’s OK To Ask For Help

This is a story I’ve never shared publicly until recently. It’s a secret about my life few people know. But now, because it matters, because it could help others, it’s time to share.

It’s taken me 5 years to share this story. So this is for you, for your story, for your best. I hope by sharing my story, you will share yours.

And most importantly, for those silently hurting, you will be encouraged, inspired to seek people to help you.

***

In 2010, I found myself living both the hardest time of my life and the best time of my life. Just in different, somewhat disconnected areas.

My professional and business career was starting to soar.

My business, iThemes, was taking off — helping people, getting acclaim and making money. It was the year we released BackupBuddy, our home run product. I was living my dream job as founder and CEO of a growing dynamic company. I was fulfilling a lifelong dream and co-writing a commercial book (WordPress All In One for Dummies with my friend and editor Lisa Sabin-Wilson and others). I was getting asked to speak often. People were noticing who I was … and caring.

Professionally, it was as if the wheels of the jet I was piloting was lifting off into outer space. Momentum. Force. Energy. They were all mine. I could feel the jet arc as it pointed toward the blue sky.

My hand was on the throttle and could feel the acceleration of that jet going upward on my body.

Lisa said it perfectly to me: “This is your year, Cory.”

And it was. Professionally. A true turning point in my career and business.

But personally … simulatenously, my personal life was crashing down around me … or on me.

You could say there were flames even.

The crater of the crash was my marriage of 7 years. It had started crumbling, disintegrating early in the year. And mid-year, it was over as I filed for divorce. That was the crash. The flames came soon after. When the fire hit the jet fuel (as it often does in divorce), it was even bigger explosion.

If my professional career was aimed at the stars, my personal life had crashed and burned.

I was at the bottom. Face down. Bloody nose. Hurting.

At some points I felt like I was being dragged across the embers.

Divorce. There. I said it.

I lost friends. “Friends,” I should say. Everything I believed in, and had built was done and over.

It didn’t happen overnight like some might think. But I won’t point fingers here. It’s not necessary and you don’t need those gory details.

But there I was at 34, reeling from what I thought would NEVER happen. As a child of divorce, watching the heartache it caused, I had vowed to never let it happen to me, and it did.

And when it did, it was a shock to everyone. EVERYONE.

Why?

Because I had not shared what was happening in my life over the course of 6-plus months with anyone that truly cared about me.

I call it the six months of my self-inflicted solitary confinement. My pride, thinking I could handle it all, was the key that locked me in a painful solitude.

My parents didn’t know. My brothers didn’t know. My friends, my pastor. My team didn’t know. No one knew.

So when the news hit, it hit people hard. Full blown shock. They didn’t understand. They thought things were perfect, because in my pride I had meticulously hidden it all from them.

And when I finally shared after that time what had happened, what was still happening, all of the people that truly cared for and loved me were totally shook, to their foundation … but despite that came running toward me with unending love, care, support.

I kept telling myself, “I can handle this, and anything else for that matter. I’ve been through tough times before, I got this,” as though I was Superman. Yet I was and am a mere mortal who was hurting, lost, and desperately needed help.

I thank God I have parents who love me unconditionally. I’m so thankful for them, because they were the first I let know. And they came running to me with arms extended.

I remember one weekend when I was at my absolute lowest that my mom stepped in and cooked for me and did my laundry for me and listened. My dad was there immediately, offering words of encouragement and unconditional support that I savor to this day. He told me he loved me like he did a million times before but these times were so special because I desperately needed to hear them. They were both there for me every minute of it, my first responders. And I think they saved me from going deeper into my sadness and hurt.

My brothers and my sister in laws (the Miller Girls) were the second wave to rush in. I needed them so badly to just hug me and say everything would be OK and that they loved me.

Eventually, my team would know. And through their commitment and passion for our work and for me, they held things together while their leader’s personal life unraveled, often with fireworks before their eyes.

In August of that year, at the recommendation of a good friend going through the same situation, I made an appointment with a mental health professional named Kyle. Together, I began to unwrap the hurt and anger and bitterness and lostness and loneliness so that I could take the next steps in rebuilding my life.

At an early session, he gave me a questionnaire to fill out. And when I was done, it indicated that I was dealing with low-grade depression. I think a little part of me was stunned to hear the word “depression” applied to me. Again, the pride kicked in. And the fact that I have always felt like I was a positive, optimistic, resilient person and that this couldn’t really happen to me.

Pride is ugly, and scary, and dangerous.

I readily admit, I’m not a mental health professional, and that I’m still learning what depression is.

But I know it was enough for my counselor to suggest an antidepressant for a time to get me through some of the toughest parts. I ultimately decided not to do so. But I want to be very clear and say I have no qualms using or not using medicine for depression. There is not judgment either way in me on this. But for my situation, at that time, I felt it was the right decision in my case (again, made in collaboration with a professional).

I do know depression is dangerous if left unmanaged. And I don’t mess around with dangerous, life-threatening things.

I needed help. And I was forced to finally ask for it because I had come to the end of myself. I had bottomed out.

I was in the midst of something I simply could not (and should not) have attempted by myself. It was so unhealthy and unwise to try to do so.

The help that made the difference for me came in the form of people … my counselor and the friends and family who were there to say “I love you,” offer a shoulder or a hug, or just sit quietly with me to assure me I wasn’t alone.

For most of those counseling visits, it was mostly me talking, dumping my garbage out. Whatever was hurting most, or on my heart and mind.

And there was lots of bile, poison, anger, but sharing it with someone who was professionally trained, objective and I didn’t have to see at Thanksgiving felt so freeing.

Other times I talked through issues I was dealing with (meaning people and relationships), and got ways to think about it and act to make it better in my life.

It was slow, but steady progress.

And more and more, each and every day, through the help of my counselor, support from the people who love me, the sun began to shine again.

All because I finally reached out my hand for help. And got it.

Today, almost five years later, the sun shines bright in my life, brighter than it ever has.

My life has changed so much — for the better.

I feel mentally healthy and whole … and yes, happy.

I am married to my best friend, my partner, my lover, Lindsey, who I met a few months after I started with my counselor. We now have two beautiful little babies (Caloway and Lillian).

The sun shines so bright because it is reflected off of them and their love for me and me for them. Like when my son runs to me to wrestle or to give me a hug, or when my daughter smiles at me as she catches my eye, and always, for the love and support of Lindsey, who encourages me to share my story and to just be me every day.

I have friends in my life that I know I can walk through anything with them by my side. Who want my best and vice versa.

I have an amazing team that cares about each other’s wellbeing and enjoys each other.

Oh, and my family, they are the same as they’ve ever been — always there, always loving, always ready.

By the way, this is just one story of a time when I was hurting and needed help. There are many others.

I’m not immune to hurting. Everybody hurts. Some are just better at hiding it than others. But I struggle with the same things, just like you do, they just have different names attached to them, however rosy and picture perfect I still might seek to paint it on the outside.

But it’s a reassuring comfort to know that when the storms approach and threaten (and they will again) … I’ll reach out my hand to these beloved people to walk with me through it.

I can’t, I won’t, ever, try to do this again by myself.

I’m here today, in this place, because these people helped me through a dark valley of my life and I’m happier, healthier and better for their love and support through it …

I hope you’ll do the same.

***
WANT TO HELP SPREAD THE MESSAGE?

Share your own story of hurt and help.

Do it here, your own blog, wherever. But do so in order to help someone know it’s OK to seek and get help too.

We talk so much about physical health and how to achieve it, but it’s taboo to talk about mental health and yet so absolutely vital. Let’s change that.

It’s time to make talking about mental health openly and honestly a good, accepted part of our lives. It’s dangerous and unecessary otherwise.

As I’ve shared my story, I’m always amazed at the response of how many people are hurting, silently.

So the message is this … it’s your story of …

1. Everybody hurts.
2. It’s OK to ask for help.

Go be the message, hope, inspiration and encouragement for someone hurting, silently.

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23 thoughts on “Everybody Hurts, Including Me, And It’s OK To Ask For Help”

  1. I remember this time like it was yesterday, and yet it, simultaneously seems a million years away. So much has happened since then, and I say with confidence that you came out the other end of it in such a better place – but you wouldn’t have been able to predict that, then….it was tough to watch you go through it.

    In retrospect, I was right (of course) – it was your year, and not just professionally. Personally, it was your year to begin the early steps of a transition that brought you to where you are today – – a successful career, respected in the industry AND a beautiful wife, two gorgeous children and you are much more happy, settled and content than when we first met.

    I am so happy for you, Cory – all the way around.

    • You are the best. Thank you for being one of the key people that walked with me, helped me through it to this day. It’s an honor to have you as one of my best friends in this world.

  2. Hey, wish I had known I would’ve been there for you. Always remember no matter what I’m here for ya.

    Miss out lunches like we used to have talking about anything and everything, lol.

    Glad you shared you never know what others are going through. I’m proud of you and glad your mm entslly healthy and happy for your success and happy you have a great partner/spouse in Lindsay. I can tell you’re a great dad. Proud of ya.

    Your big brother in Christ
    Joey

  3. This was truly an amazing article. I believe most people deal with some type of “Illness” and it is ok to reach out and ask! I became a mental health therapist because, I also suffered from depression. It is great to be able to help people, this article needs to be read by everyone. Do you mind if I share this?
    Thank you for being my friend CJ
    Heather

    • Heather, thanks for this. Love your story. So many hurting people and I’m glad you’re one of the ones helping.

      I shared this to be shared as much as it’s able to help other people. So YES.

  4. Cory, thanks for having the courage to share your story. I, obviously, had no idea and its crazy to think when we met to now how well you handled it.

    It makes my heart happy to hear you’re doing so well now. 5 years later you’ve come so far.

    That gives me hope as I iust recently went through my divorce last year. Theres nothing you can do to prepare for it. You will make mistakes and feel lost. There’s day I still do actually. It made it even harder for me because of my kids and not seeing them all the time.

    As time goes on, you get stronger and as you work on yourself you get through it. I can see a lot more clearer today and looking forward to my new direction. In your case it seems like it’s better than ever and I feel confident that’s where I’m headed.

    Thanks again Cory for sharing. This hit home and came at the perfect time.

    • JR, wow, thank you for sharing this and being so open. I had no idea either about yours, but I’m glad you’re on that upward path too.

      Thankfully, I did not have kiddos in my previous marriage, so my heart goes out to you and yours.

      So glad this helped …. and drinks are on me next time! It’s been too long my friend.

  5. Cory, thanks for this post. You continually inspire me to do the brave, honest things, even when it’s easier to just stay quiet—or stay locked up in the prison of perfectionism.

    I know too well what it’s like to be isolated by pride, but now I know it’s true and I want to live it everyday: “while vulnerability is the center of difficult emotion, it’s also the birthplace of every positive emotion that we need in our lives: love, belonging, joy, empathy” (you knew I’d be quoting some Brené! 🙂 )

    Although I didn’t know you back then, I’m so glad I know you now, and I get to be apart of your team. You have so many people that love you and support you and look up to you.

    You and Lindsey mean so much to me and I’m so happy that, on the other side of hard times, the sun shines brighter, and only with that fresh perspective, we can pause to truly appreciate our blessings.

  6. Wow Cory,

    I went through a very similar situation, right around the same time as a matter of fact. 2010 I was in the same cycle, I had just started a web development consultancy, business was going insanely well, was making the most money I ever had in my professional life, but at home, my 10 year marriage was falling apart… your story makes me wonder if there is a correlation.

    I too found myself on the verge of some serious depression issues… and keep things inside for quite a while. I did manage to find the help of a counselor to help me wade through that period… it was tough. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Sean, so glad you found help … thank you for sharing your story!

      Although there are two sides to every story, I don’t believe my professional success was related to my divorce.

  7. Cory-

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s not easy to share something like this publicly, but I hope you feel another step towards healing by doing so.

    As humans, we don’t like to admit “failure”. And as entrepreneurs, it stings a bajillion times more. But it’s not failure…it’s a part of your story and has helped you with who you are now. What if you hadn’t divorced? You would not have the life that brings you so much joy right now.

    It’s important for not only people, but especially entrepreneurs, to hear and share these stories of trial. You are not alone in this and I’m sure your story will be a light to someone…a catalyst for them to take a step towards bettering themselves, whether that’s seeking counseling, talking to a friend, asking a doctor about medication, or just having hope that there is a brighter day ahead.

    Sending you big hugs! Thank you again for sharing.

    • Karen, thanks so much for this … love this. Every thing is a chapter in our book.

      Although my healing happened long ago for this situation (amazing what two little smiling babies will do for your soul), I share so that it might help in someone else’s journey of healing.

      Hug accepted! Hope to see you soon my friend!

  8. Pain! Men believe they can always tough-it-out to deal with it! We don’t cry – Part of our nature right?

    I have been thru a divorce, so many years ago, tho we always remained friends afterward. And that helped a lot.

    Now I’m going thru a rough time and have to ask for help and that is hard to do. In September of 2014, on 9/11 no less, I survived a stroke – my second in four years.

    There is so much I cannot do this time. For a time someone had to feed me – I said at the time: “we come into this world with someone wiping your backside and sometimes we go out the same way”.

    There are days when nothing seems to go right and yet I plod on and get up the next day and say: “Today will be better than yesterday tho not quite as good as tomorrow”.

    So much more but that is for another time. Suffice to say, realize when you need help and ASK FOR IT!

  9. Cory,

    Thanks for sharing your story and creating this opening. Don’t beat yourself up for pride, it was probably the right thing to do. Guys hole up to heal, it’s our coping mechanism. What Amy Pohler called “staying soft through the pain.” But I’m glad you found support; you did so when you were ready. I come from a family of shrinks (that’s why I can get away with calling them “shrinks ;-). We grow by processing our *stuff;* making the subconscious conscious. No way around that. A good therapist / counselor / coach can really enhance your life.

    So I am now wrapping up a three year divorce. I went into teaching when I had kids fifteen years ago. I am an adoptee, and just *had to* be with my boys – the first flesh and blood I had known. I wasn’t the best fit for public schools (that’s another long story, mostly about me trying to make things “better”). When I left teaching, I determined to start an education business to compliment traditional education. My wife of 16 years (at the time), said – in no uncertain terms – “I will divorce you if you do.” She couldn’t emotionally handle the risk of entrepreneurship. I was stuck, I had a family with her, but I’d really found my calling. So we lived in stalemate for two years. I said either get in or get out, she finally say she was out.

    When you have your mission, your personal legacy, you just have to follow it. I wish she supported me in this. the only way to be in a love relationship is with 100% support. Either in or out. Part way just causes a multitude of problems.

    I am now getting ready to launch, and looking forward to a little more sunshine in my future. I’m a recent toolkit subscriber, and now diving in to develop my ~30 or so sites and change the world!

    Cory, thanks again for sharing. In our online world, it’s important to reach across and make personal connections.

    Mike

  10. I was delighted to receive your email sharing your story and journey. I truly believe we can inspire others when we share our stories.

    The last couple of years have also been incredibly difficult for me. I’ve had to seek out more help than ever before for my own issues; a very humbling experience. I also have my own “team” of mental health community professionals and have gotten involved with a couple of advocacy groups. One of my goals is to advocate for mental health/wellness/fitness using technology, including web sites built with….Wordpress!

    Serendipitously, I’ve become involved with WordPress on a freelance basis, learning and growing on my own and with local WordPress Meetup and Wordcamp groups. It’s a creative outlet for me that helps kick depression to the curb where it belongs!

    I’m already a BackupBuddy customer…now I’ll have to select suitable ithemes Themes to build the mental health sites I’m working on. I believe in supporting like-minded people and businesses!

    Thanks for being authentic, honest and open, and keep being you!

    Sincerely,
    Clive Hanuschak

  11. Hey Cory,

    We need to grab a beer one of these days! Knowing a little about what you had gone through, and how much happier you were on the other side gave me a lot of hope during that time in my life, not long ago, http://dav.idmorgan.com/2014-was-crazy/

    I think the feelings are difficult to explain to anybody that hasn’t been through a divorce. That bile you referred to… The extreme anger, hate and hurt; it’s powerful. I never realized I was capable of such feelings. Thankfully I had people in my life I was able to reach out to for help as well.

    In the words of Louis CK, “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce.”

    Things are so much better after the smoke has cleared. My life is on a positive path as well, and heading in a direction similar to yours.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • David, I knew a little what you were going through and hurt for you … so yes, definitely a beer soon!

      I’m glad you’re in a better place … love seeing you smile on Facebook my friend.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story Cory. Ordeals of fire are tough, and we often go through times when we lose the plot. Some people come out bitter and damaged. Others come out humbled and compassionate. I believe you are the latter, as your words often ring with kindness; and in the end, that is all that counts in the world – kindness and love. Depression is often seen as an illness; yet can also be a journey, a metamorphosis, a blossoming into an enriched person who inspires others.

  13. Corey, I think just like you many people suffer in silence. We never know what someone else is going through. I think that’s why it’s important to just be kind to others. It’s so easy to be mean when we are frustrated … someone is too slow to help us, someone cuts you off in traffic… but perhaps they just can’t function the way we want because they hurt inside. It’s the stuff we can’t see that can be breaking someone’s heart. So if for just a moment stop thinking of ourselves, stop being judgemental and cut the next guy some slack.

    Sometimes it only requires a kind smile to help lift a person’s day. Really what does it cost us.

    At times we can hurt so bad there’s just no way to talk about the pain. Then even a stranger comes along and gives us an acknowledging smile as they though can read through our pain. And just for a brief moment we feel better.

    It’s time to just be kind. If it’s what you’d want for your kids, your mom, your dad, yourself… what not show that kindness to others.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

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