It’s Time To Start Talking Openly About Mental Health

At WordCamp Denver last weekend, I shared the most personal, intimate, transparent, open and, perhaps, impactful talk I’ve ever given.

The topic? Mental Health and Entrepreneurship.

In Denver, I shared the stories and lessons I’ve learned in the last 7+ years of how to cope doing one of the toughest, often loneliest jobs ever — being an entrepreneur. (And a BIG disclaimer that I’m not a counselor, just a guy trying to make sense of the world and to survive and thrive in it.)

It’s not too often that I cry, let alone cry in public, let alone cry on stage, but I did. Sharing some of the most personal stories of my life (many of which I’ve never shared publicly) was intense to say the least.

But thinking about the people who’ve made the difference in my life, often the life-saving difference, just opened up a part of me I don’t share too often … and I lost it.

Among other things, I shared:

  • my divorce in 2010
  • the 6 months of solitary confinement I put myself because of my pride
  • the phone call I got from Grant Griffiths, who had no idea what was going on, but called to ask if I was OK and how awesome that made me feel
  • my insecurities and fears (that I still wrangle daily)
  • that my happiness and health have to come first, it’s not my job to make other people happy … and how setting clear boundaries have made the difference in that
  • and finally — that I can’t and won’t ever try to do this thing called life alone again.

(BTW, while I figure out how to share my story in text and the video gets uploaded to WordPress.tv, you can see the slides from my talk here.)

Why did I do this? 

I want my life to matter. And I know my life matters the most when I can help others. Thus, if my story and openness helps someone else who is hurting (often alone and in silence) to reach out and find help, I’m going to do it. Every time.

I shared because we don’t talk much about these things either out of fear or pride. I shared because I know if I share, others might do so as well. I know if I share that I have a mental health counselor who I see on a regular basis (roughly 4 times a year), maybe someone else might take the bold action of booking an appointment with one.

What was the result?

People standing up and going to the microphone in the Q&A part, not to ask a question, but to share something intensely personal, often crying while doing so. It was a humbling time of openness and community like I’ve never seen it, with plenty of tears all around. And many people saying thanks (and giving me hugs) for my openness in the hallway afterward.

Here are some of the online responses too:

 

So in the days that have followed my talk in Denver, I’ve determined that I want to keep championing the topic of maintaining good mental health and openness about it as well as resources to maintaining good mental health much like we do with physical health.

Only louder.

There are too many hurting people out there … and I want to help.

So expect to hear more from me on this soon. (And in the meantime, I hope this will be encouragement to do so yourself.)

UPDATE: I’ve shared the story of my divorce in 2010 here

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18 thoughts on “It’s Time To Start Talking Openly About Mental Health”

  1. Cory, as always you say the right things at the right times. I am struggling with many things.. and I need to keep priorities straight.

    1. Me – mental, physical and Spiritual Health.
    2. My wife – our relationship
    3. Vocation – without income cannot supply our basic needs
    4. Basic needs – Food, shelter, etc.
    5. Everything else….

    Sometimes I get stuck on #1.. If I lose this, I lose the rest…

    Thanks for sharing.. keep the faith!

    -Dennis

  2. Now I’m sorry I missed the talk. I do think this is a huge step in the right direction. We all admittedly deal with the pride that’s inherant in our soul. As a business owner that’s increased and the perception is often magnified to negatively. I admire your openness and long for more entrepreneurs to do the same.

    Thanks Cory.

    • Thanks, Cody! It’ll be on WordPress.tv soon I hope but it won’t be the last I’ll be sharing on the subject (and hope others do as well).

  3. Corey –

    Thank you for sharing your story. When a leader in our community speaks up like this, it makes it that much easier for others to talk about their own mental health issues.

    Please keep sharing and encouraging others to do so. Its helping me and I know it is helping others.

    Take care,
    Josh

  4. Cory,

    Thank you for sharing this! I am so looking forward to watching the video of your talk. Just reading your post gave me chills, or as my daughter says, all the feels. Including leaky eyes, also.

    I’ve struggled with this so much in the past. It is easy for me to go into what I call “hermit mode” and just shut out everyone and everything. But I’m finally realizing that I need community.

    Community in life, community in church, and community in work. Doing what so many of us do (work online, alone) that work community can be difficult.

    I’ve tried to fit into community online, but sometimes it feels like it’s a lost cause. Or maybe I forgot to take off my Cloak of Invisibility. Or maybe I missed the memo with the secret handshake or password.

    Whatever, sometimes I feel like it’s not worth it to try.

    But reading your post today, at the exact right moment, struck a chord with me. It encouraged me and reaffirmed my decision to keep on plugging, but also keep on finding ways to fit into the community.

    Maybe my thoughts don’t make sense, but to me, they do, and your post was just what I needed.

    Thank you!

    • Paul, “leaking eyes” over here as I read your comment. We all hurt. Sharing helps me at least. Thank you for doing so. And I’m so encouraged and overjoyed it made your day a little bit brighter.

  5. Holy crap, Cory. You nailed this one. Gosh, I’m so humbled by your words, and that you’re choosing this path to help others. Every single day I feel a certain isolation. I miss IRL “in real life” connections, and yet love my independence of work, choices, and schedules as an editor and coach for writers, primarily all online.

    This type of isolation is pervasive in the entrepreneurial community. I’m certain of it. It’s the cloak we entrepreneurs wear. And yet, if you believe the tweets and FB posts, there’s so much bravado, and much less truth. What we read is a microcosm of reality. Behind some of those posts I recognize the fear, isolation, and worry.

    Because of your “outing” I’m encouraged that more and more entrepreneurs (and everyone who posts online) will be willing to shed the cloak and speak out for sharing truths as you did in Denver, followed up by this post. I’m heartened by your lead. You’ve set the stage for more discussions like this. I’m eager to follow your lead and join in the convo. Thank you, thank you, man!

  6. Cory, whatever you’re plotting as a next step – I want to be involved. I actually have a B.S. in Psychology. Mixing entrepreneurship and mental health is right up my alley. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it as an opportunity before…

    • Gordon, thank you so much for wanting to help!

      My plan is simple right now:

      1. Share my story. Publicly and boldly.
      2. Encourage others to share their stories.
      3. Collect a set of solid resources for hurting people to seek and find help.

  7. Cory,

    I have enjoyed your honesty within this article and although I wasn’t present at #wcden I feel as though your strength can be felt from afar. The community around you supports and respects you. Thank you for sharing and bringing mental health to the forefront.

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