Cory Miller: 00:00 When I’m able to ask someone else that loves and cares for me, help you know, getting past the ego, the guilt, the ambition or whatever that is, and then being able to receive. I try to give as much as I can, but really finding the joy of receiving help and support. I think it’s been pretty dang life changing.
Nathan Wrigley: 00:36 Welcome to episode eight of the press forward podcast. Thanks again for joining us and if this is your first time with us, I hope that you find it useful. You can get this podcast each and every week by subscribing to us on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. Just use the buttons on the episode pages over at wpandup.org forward slash podcasts today we’re going to be hearing from Cory Miller and this is a trigger warning that throughout this episode we will be talking about depression and relationships. The Press Forward podcast is created by WP and UP. They’re a charity working in the WordPress space to support the WordPress community. That help is freely available at wpandup.org we’re trying to gain a better understanding of where our resources should be targeted and if you feel able to help us, we’d love you to complete our survey. It’s a WP and UP.org forward slash go nearly 1000 people have already done so and it’s provided some interesting information.
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Nathan Wrigley: 03:36 So today we talked to Cory Miller. He’s been at the forefront of the WordPress seen for as long as I can remember his work at ithemes framed his success. They launched a string of popular plugins and themes and became a household name in the WordPress community. This success led to a level of notoriety within the community. As ithemes popularity grew, Cory was therefore in the limelight and was rightly associated with his business successes. If you are a casual observer of Cory’s, like you might think that he was having an easy time of it. The business was doing great and his public posts and appearances cemented this idea. But as we discover in this episode, it was not all plain sailing underneath it all. Cory was having to work through many things that were not publicly disclosed. Things would contradict the widely held image of him.
Nathan Wrigley: 04:37 As we all know, it’s really easy to bury the parts of your life that are not going well. Push them down and try to ignore them. We keep aspects of our lives private, sometimes even from those who are closest to us, hoping that matters will sort themselves out if we just give them enough time, but as you will hear, Cory went through a lot and decided that it was time to talk openly about his personal struggles. He opened up and started to let people around him know what was really going on in his life. This opening up also extended to the WordPress community. He talked at WordCamps and was able to help others through his ability to share his story. Cory has for the last couple of years, been very willing to talk about his mental health. He’s been a pioneer in the WordPress space in this regard. Being able to reach a wide audience as a household WordPress name. I read somewhere that he can trace his first mental health encounter to a very early age, nice classroom at school. He was not aware of what it was at this time, but looking back from where he is now, it’s easier to understand what happened. So I opened the discussion with Cory. He by asking him if mental health concerns have been ongoing or more isolated in nature.
Cory Miller: 06:02 I think it’s definitely in reviewing my life, a recurring theme I could say when you’re talking about the classroom, I think it was in fourth grade and my parents and my mom and Stepdad had just divorced and we moved back to our small town where our family is originally from and sitting in a classroom and fill in like so alone in the world, being surrounded by people, but feeling alone. And, um, you know, as I look back on my life for sure specifically as I’ve tried to champion mental health awareness and in the stigma that whatever you call it, seasonal depression, depression, highs and lows in life for sure has been a recurring thing throughout my life
Nathan Wrigley: 06:46 from what Cory said, they were clearly stimulus, which could be attributed to his depression. But I wanted to know if there was always an obvious cause, could Cory look back and confidently say that this event was a trigger for this and another event or trigger for that perhaps that does not need to be a recognizable trigger at all and the onset of his depression might have no calls at all.
Cory Miller: 07:14 Yeah, that’s a great question. I think over the last couple of years I’ve started to really be even more aware that this could be, you know, a genetic thing or something that I’ve suffered with. You know, I’ve read quite a bit that, you know, we all have this default setting of happiness and contentment and um, I see people that are just, they were like my son, he wakes up just smiling and happy in the world and I’m like, I want to kind of turn over and go back to sleep. So I don’t know. In the past couple of years, I’ll tell you I’ve more, I’m wondering more and more about depression specifically in my life. I think it has been triggered maybe by external events that have deep internal moorings. You know, may have, you know, I’m not a psychologist by any means, but may have triggered some things that maybe I felt clear in my life. So that’s a really good question. I think there is some genetic brain to it and then also external events and how I handle them.
Nathan Wrigley: 08:09 So Cory has come to believe that there are several components which causes depression. He described some of it is genetic, but other causes might be wrapped up in his environment. I’ve heard that people can attribute them, move to the weather. Perhaps Cory has experience of this.
Cory Miller: 08:29 Yeah. When you, you said the weather for sure. We had a, it feels like months of just gloomy, cold. And I was like, you know, I just want some sunshine. And then we had about a week or two of just really not ascension at the, Oh man, that I felt my mood kind of lift a little bit.
Nathan Wrigley: 08:47 So Cory mentioned his fourth grade class and clearly he’s long out of school. So I wanted to know his depression had been a regular feature of his life often done periodically or did it hide itself for extended periods of time only returning more recently?
Cory Miller: 09:07 Yeah, it’s, I’ve definitely struggled more with it in the last, uh, I’d say eight, eight years specifically want to talk about in 2010 11 going into the divorce, walking into a counselor’s office for the first time in a while and can I go running down a battery of questions and, you know, saying I was suffering from depression. That’s happened several times since then. Um, I went to that battery and go, okay, yeah, I’m, I’m suffering with depression. You know, I think of it as maybe perhaps seasonal depression, but definitely triggered by some events. So, but in answer to your question is it’s definitely gotten more intense in the last eight years. I would say a lot of life changes, kids marriaged force, all that kind of stuff. Uh, selling the business, you know, the, the kind of things that that we call mid life, uh, I wouldn’t say crisis, but the struggle of mid life, I’m 43 now. Definitely had been more intense, intense in the last years.
Nathan Wrigley: 10:07 No doubt. At some point in the past, you’ve reflected upon the idea that what someone sees might not be the same as what you yourself see. How do you know that other people see red or green as the exact same color as you do? I guess that we could extend this to emotions and feelings to how do we know that one person’s experience of happiness is the same experience that you have. The same could be said for depression. So I wanted to know what Cory actually feels like when he’s experiencing depression.
Cory Miller: 10:45 You know, looking around and going, if you just take an assessment of life, it particularly my life, uh, I fell like I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted and then going, why don’t I feel happy at the moment? And this, this kind of odd insight, our reflection of I’ve got everything and then something, this doesn’t feel right inside, you know, just, just walking in life and then realizing, especially with my partner Lindsey realizing she’s seen something I’m not seeing. And then trying to understand that, you know, I think I’m very, very introspective person that I’ve read recently that that perhaps is not the best to my wellbeing and mental health. Um, specifically in a book called insight about self awareness and that, uh, maybe I’ve caused myself to be even more miserable, but bouncing it off other people in my life when they can see and I kind of gauge, okay, something may not be just working right.
Cory Miller: 11:48 I’ve heard specifically as I’ve been more vocal about my own story in heard others and comparing go, okay, it doesn’t feel like that where there’s a weight, it’s just this, I don’t know, more sunken, uh, filling at the time. And of course I am still pretty good at putting on a good face and trying to shield and hide what I’m actually probably feeling. So, and then of course there’s all kinds of terrible, uh, ways to cope with it that I have not always been the best about abstaining from. But you know, specifically in the last couple of months, uh, reading up on cognitive behavioral therapy in reading a couple books and going, okay, so there’s some triggers associated with some of the bad habits. For instance, our call say and really reviewing what are those moments that that triggers in their urges. And I think it’s really going back to what I alluded to earlier is that feeling of being alone. I’m morning to distract myself, whether that’s boredom or whatever it is. And I think those particular triggers that you know just don’t feel very good
Nathan Wrigley: 13:02 for anyone who has identified that they are dealing with depression. There must’ve been a moment in time when they decided that this was something to understand and possibly get support with, but there are also likely to be many people who have not yet identified their depression. Perhaps they know that there’s something there, something they need to work through, but they have not yet made a decision to seek support. I wondered if Cory had any advice for these people based upon his own experiences.
Cory Miller: 13:35 Yeah, my strong advice, the thing I have to even tell him myself is that we don’t have to suffer in solid state. There’s so many of us I think, and I’ve been to the experience where have built my own cage of soliditude and suffering and then the realization that a don’t have to do that, that I can reach out and seek and get help and support. They don’t have to do it all by myself or Phil, Phil alone and like I’m burdening anyone 18 out and getting, getting support and help is the biggest thing. It’s something I still have to encourage myself to do by the way, and I’ve got, you know, people in my life that helped me. Hey Cory, maybe it’s time to go talk to someone kind of thing, but I think that’s the one recurring message I want to share is that a, you don’t have to suffer in solitude, that you can reach out and find and get and seek help and support.
Nathan Wrigley: 14:27 Cory talked about building his own cage of solitude and suffering. I usually associate cages with prisoners, people who have had their freedom taken from them, still alive but not in full control of their own destiny. Stymied, stifled. Is this what it feels like to Cory?
Cory Miller: 14:53 That’s great. You picked that up is because I do feel like I put myself in solitary confinement probably around that 2010, 2011 phase when I was going through some really tough times in my marriage. And the people that love me most did not know. You know, I purposely did not share some of the things that were heading out until it, it ended. And um, the shock from my own parents for instance, where my first phone calls and were very shocked and surprised that, you know, what I had been going through because I had put myself into that cage and solitary confinement. So I realized that about myself that I do, you know, there’s probably a married reasons why I would do something like that, but I realized my tendency is to hide things and then build that kind of a cage around myself. So, but now my wife, Lindsay won’t let me do that. I’m pretty good at that, but she just knows my bs and won’t, won’t allow me to do that.
Nathan Wrigley: 15:51 Cory, you can now speak of these moments of locking himself away with great clarity. He now has an understanding of what he was doing, but that’s all in the past. And we all know that thinking after the fact is easier than in the moment. So I wanted to find out if Cory had any understanding at the time that he was locking himself away.
Cory Miller: 16:17 Yeah, I think, uh, I’d just gotten good at doing it. Where Liz aware, somewhere in there I was doing it with her. It was a self defense mechanism or filling of, you know, pride and ego and not wanting to share the embarrassing truth of what was going on. You know, I’d get very good at curating a very good public kind of image and persona over the years. And then when the reality was, you know, I was hurting inside.
Nathan Wrigley: 16:45 When Cory was coping with depression, I wondered if he was resentful that this was happening to him. Not all people have this in their lives and it’s easy to feel that other people have it better than we do. The grass is always greener, you might say. Did Cory ever experienced resentment that he was suffering from depression while still others were not.
Cory Miller: 17:11 I don’t think so. I don’t think so because I do. I’m pretty cynical. So when I do see somebody just joyously happy, I think, you know, there’s always, we’re always wrestling with something to realize that everybody’s got things going on, you know? No, no scenario is perfect. So I think I’m pretty cynical. If somebody like Jewishly happy all the time, they go, okay, what’s really kind of going on? But that’s just my own depravity. Probably
Nathan Wrigley: 17:42 One of the things that Cory mentioned earlier was how he benefited from sharing stories about his depression. Other people taking that step, telling people who you trust about this can be of great help, but plucking up the courage to do it can be hard. I wonder if Cory’s decision to share had come from himself or hurt other people, helped him to open up.
Cory Miller: 18:09 Well, I been to the counseling several times throughout my life and then when it was actually my lawyer who said, uh, you need to go, you need to go talk to somebody and gave me the name for the, the counts counselor I’ve had for eight, nine years now. And so, um, yeah, that, that’s how that all came about and very thankful for it. Now I’ve got that relationship with the counselor where I can call and make an appointment pretty much on a very short notice. Uh, we’ve actually used him, you know, while we were out of state, called in and talk, talk with them. So having that kind of lifeline too professional, it’s been absolutely critical, but it was at the face of my, a lawyer at the time,
Nathan Wrigley: 18:52 seeking help from a professional counselor can be a real source of support. They are a person removed from your everyday friend network, someone who can listen without judgment. Yet for some it’s a hard decision to call up a counselor and make that first appointment. Knowing the Cory did, could he tell us whether he thinks counselors are a useful resource?
Cory Miller: 19:19 Oh, it’s so much easier for me to be able to go and dump my, uh, my garbage, so to speak, on a professionally trained and licensed professional. I give the, you know, the example of like, if I were to share some of the things I share with my counselors to some of my family and build a little bit hard at Thanksgiving to say, pass the cranberries, but they, for one, you know, my family’s not trained to help me with those things. The other thing is there’s some, uh, you know, when I talk about that the iceberg and that on top is our public life and below the surface are the things that we’re all deal with. I don’t say you should broadcast those things. I think that we just should not deal with those things. And solitude, there’s professionally trained and licensed counselors out there in the world.
Cory Miller: 20:08 Um, there’s key support people that we can lean on to instead of suffering and solitude. I’m not disclosed to some very close friends and family, you know, I’m suffering with depression at the moment or whatever particular issue that I’m challenged with, but not maybe go into big detail, you know? And I think there’s more to say. There’s trained people that have hears of experience dealing with these. And then to realize my friends and family might not have that. And also, uh, so maybe being aware of the issue to a friend’s and families just so they understand what I’m going through but not, you know, unpack all of it with them. My wife actually studying right now to be a mental health counselor. She’s got a couple of years to go. So, but still I think, you know, I’ll still go to a separate counselor and therapist when I’m working through issues cause I, you know, I think some of that doesn’t all need to be unpacked with friends and family. But there an awareness that you’re going through something,
Nathan Wrigley: 21:09 even though talking about mental health is becoming more common, we’ve still got a long way to go for a variety of reasons. Some people still find it difficult to share their own stories, reach out for support and even listen to other people relate their own experiences. Some people are able to speak, others are not yet. Does Cory think that people talking about their own mental health is good for all people? All of the time.
Cory Miller: 21:45 There’s a trend going on and it’s a good one, which is where more and more people are talking openly about mental health and it’s vitalness too. I Dunno, happiness and, and living life on this planet. And so I love that because the more and more of us talk openly about it, we normalize the conversation. You know, you were asking about talking to friends and family. There are still, even though they loved me dearly, that are uncomfortable, if I were to say, Hey, I’ve struggled with depression and I don’t think they’d know how to act or react to that. And that’s part of the, I think the work that needs to be done, that to normalize the conversation to on the language around it about how you can talk with someone who is maybe suffering from depression or some other mental health or illness. And you know, we just don’t have that, all of that language right now I think to understand it.
Cory Miller: 22:38 And so people that have never felt maybe that kind of depression, the sting, you know, dealt with mental illness that don’t understand it as much. And I just go, well, just wait a little bit because life happens and you’ll see there. There’s just struggles as part of life and I think so. The more and more we talk about it, I am. That’s why I share my story. I don’t share it for therapeutic reasons. That’s what I do in private with my own therapist. I shared it because I want to end the stigma. I want to normalize the conversation so that we can talk more openly about it so that we don’t have people in our suffering in solitude.
Nathan Wrigley: 23:15 One of the themes that keeps coming up in this young podcast is the impact that modern life has on our mental health. The always on, always available attitude in which you feel adrift without a mobile device. This is something that people in the WordPress space need to be particularly mindful of. So I pose the question to query as to whether he thought our modern lives are a contributing factor in people’s mental health.
Cory Miller: 23:45 I think it’s the pressure making it worse. You know, we have all of this connection and technology and should theoretically help us be more human. To each other. And then, you know, we see from studies and research out there that, uh, it’s actually detracting from our mental health. So I think there is a cultural angle too for sure going on that we’ve said it’s not good to talk about our feelings. We’ve ostracized people because they talk about their feelings. But I think that starting to change a little bit to understand that people were really wrestling with things. So technology for sure has the ability to help us, could help us. But I think, you know, we’ve seen by and large it’s potentially detracting from it. I mean, I’m guilty of it. I’ll, I’ll be sitting there with my kids and realize that I can’t have a moment where I just don’t, I’m just sitting there, you know, I brought my son to, uh, one of the government services agencies we have here, the tax commission, and we’re having to wait.
Cory Miller: 24:43 And I was really finding myself fighting myself not to look at my phone but to talk to him. So that’s part of it. I think there’s another side, there’s another side to this too, which is, you know, if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the pyramid is that we’ve lived in one of the most, if not the most prosperous time in history, we have access to food, water. Now we’re connected through technology that we said, I’ve got a truck that that can drive virtually anywhere I want to go. So, you know, but I think we’re not fully equipped as humans to understand, okay, all of these blogs, you know, safety, uh, security, all those things are kind of taken care of when we’d go up the pyramid. I think in my own experience, I’ve wrestled with that of what is meaning and purpose in life.
Cory Miller: 25:33 That’s been my struggle specifically as I’ve gotten older, had success and perhaps climbed the pyramids, so to speak and have a lot of words. He’s down down period now. I was, now we have to have the, we always have those kinds of kinds of concerns. But you know, I don’t know if we’re adept or equipped to properly deal with the prosperity we’ve, we’ve held, not, it’s crazy to say, but when you’re down down on the pyramid and just worried about your next meal, you don’t have time or room to think about the bigger, what’s my meaning? What’s the meaning of life? What is my purpose of my life? But as I’ve experienced success materially, you know, it’s, it’s been that wrestled. There’s a, I’m the creator of the Dilbert cartoons. He’s got a fantastic book. But you know, he talks about as people have scaled the pyramid, what’s the first thing they do?
Cory Miller: 26:24 You know, we think about the rich billionaire philanthropists out there. They start thinking about how to help people down down the pyramid. You know, you see Bill Gates, uh, helping with poverty and different things. App in Africa across the world is different issues. And I, I’ll tell you going up the pyramid, there is a struggle there. And I think, you know, my kids are going to have, have been born into a world where they will have to worry about where water chemistry from more or less, uh, food. They’ll, they’ve got, you know, a family that has, you know, modest means, but money to buy clothes and things that they might need. Whereas, you know, my, my, uh, mother was a single mom raising kids and you know, earning minimum wage at different parts where we always had food on the table. But, uh, we weren’t by any means wealthy. And so I think that’s the other part to this is, you know, we’ve got a lot more room and time to think about what is the meaning of life, what is my purpose in life? And I think that’s a, that’s a struggle for some, I’ve seen some entrepreneurs specifically go through that where, you know, overnight, so to speak, they probably don’t have to worry about money for the rest of their life. And that’s, that’s a struggle that most of us don’t, I don’t think are equipped. Me specifically haven’t been.
Nathan Wrigley: 27:40 Earlier in the podcast, Cory talked about some of the things that he does, people who he sees to assist him in achieving his mental health goals. I guess that we all try to find a way to get into a routine, which helps us some thing that we can rely on and reproduce over and over. But did Cory find that his strategies always worked or did they sometimes fail him, leaving him to rethink
Cory Miller: 28:12 specifically in the last couple of years now, something I haven’t shared publicly, I talk about 2010, 2011 since it’s in the past. For me, those wounds have healed. Um, and share those for specific reasons. But, you know, in the last couple of years, I think probably one thing that has stuck out is that I, I did not ever take, you know, medicine is present and in the last couple of years of have very much thought about that. In fact, I had a conversation with my medical provider, uh, about a year ago specifically about that, say, okay, you know, she, should I, is this something I should actually think through? So that’s probably something where, uh, having a conversation with a counselor, having people in my life that loved me, support me, they know what I’m going through, and then also go in at maybe it’s not getting better and I need to go to a different particular solution. Like for instance, an antidepressant.
Nathan Wrigley: 29:12 Cory’s mental health has occupied him for many years. People who go to cm medic are often looking for answers the cure. That means that they no longer have any symptoms, but mental health is more complex than that. I asked Cory if he viewed this as a journey with a final destination where he would never again experienced depression or whether this was more of an ongoing journey.
Cory Miller: 29:43 It’s a lifelong journey for me. Um, I want to speak to others, but for me, I mean, it’s a lifelong journey. I think the moment that I say, oh, I will reach some kind of into this success, let’s say, or something that I’ll have conquered it is the probably the time that I will underestimate its power. So it’s a forever journey for me. It’s something that once, if I ever think for a moment I’ve liked it, I think that’s when I’ll probably fall flat on my face and I had fallen flat on my face. Definitely a lifelong journey.
Nathan Wrigley: 30:17 We often talk about all of the things that we’re going to do to help our mental health and I stress the word do, but there’s also a lot of things that we should perhaps stop doing, things that we should forgo in order to help us. I wondered if there had been assessed station of something which Cory had found to be of benefit.
Cory Miller: 30:43 He knew I haven’t completely stopped drinking alcohol, but I know its effect. It just makes everything worse. It’s just a cascading problem. So I, I know an a very clearly identified that that is, does not help specifically with depression and mental health challenges that I might face. So that for sure being identified that is big and then, you know, making sure what I’ve stopped doing, I guess I could put this under this category is stopped being in situations or relationships that are toxic. Um, I’ve been in those as several parts of my life and a seen the effect of it and then being able to say, no, that’s enough set down boundaries to those. I won’t say I’m perfect at it, but I’m very vigilant about making sure I’m not in a toxic, any kind of toxic relationship
Nathan Wrigley: 31:39 Along with the things that we might stop doing. I asked Cory whether there are places that he insulates himself from areas that he chooses not to go to because of the impact they have on him.
Cory Miller: 31:55 It’s a, it’s hard for me to go back home to where my home town, which is about an hour and a half from here. It’s hard for me sometimes to go home, although I have gone home. Uh, just because there’s memories that, you know, I’ll drive by our old house and start going down that thread a little bit and thinking it’s just not so healthy. I’ve got, I’ve got a great family kiddos and amazing wife home a work that is so good that I don’t really need the wallow in some of those memories. And then to see some of my loved ones, um, age is, is it’s tough now. I’d, I’m not abandoning them. Um, but it is something I’ve told my wife. I said every time I go back home, man, I just kind of, it takes me to kind of recover from that because it’s just seen relive in some of the old memories that, you know, I just rather not relive. And uh, and then also seeing, you know, people that I love very much get old
Nathan Wrigley: 32:53 to round off the conversation. I asked Cory if he could distill some wisdom that he’s gained over the years, some discovery that he made, which he found valuable, meaningful and share it with us.
Cory Miller: 33:11 I think when I’m able to ask someone else that loves and cares for me, help, you know, getting past the ego, the guilt ambition or whatever that is. And then being able to receive, I try to give as much as I can, but really finding the joy of receiving help and support. I think he’s been pretty Dang life changing. It’s still not easy. I’d rather give help and support then get help or ask for help or support, but you know, finding that connection with other humans that just love you and care for you I think has been for sure life changing for me and something that had not suffered with some of the things we’ve talked about may have never gotten that opportunity because of pride or whatever it is. So you know, having that human connection is pretty special.
Nathan Wrigley: 34:06 I remember that WP and UP are here to help you visit WP and UP .org. The press forward would podcast is brought to you today by Greek Geeks. Green Geeks offer a specially engineered platform that gives WordPress users web hosting that is designed to be the fastest, most secure, scalable hosting available in multiple data centers. They WordPress hosting makes deploying and managing WordPress websites easy with automatic one click install managed updates, real time security protection, SSD raid 10 storage arrays, power casher and expert 24 seven support to make for the best web hosting experience and we thank Green Geeks for their support of the press forward podcast. That’s it for this week. Please let us know if you’re enjoying the podcast. If you’re finding it useful or helpful, you can reach out to us at WP and UP.org forward. Slash contact. Remember that there’s a serious point to all of this though, and that is the WP and UP is here to provide help and support that help is available to you or people that you know and can be accessed at thewpandup.org website. Please spread the word about this new podcast. Tell your friends and subscribe on Itunes or your favorite podcast player.
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