In the Spring of 2013, I entered into the hardest season of my life.
I found myself addicted to Ambien for sleep, carrying Ativan in my wallet in case of a panic attack, and wearing a holter monitor to examine the hundreds of skipped heart beats I was experiencing daily.
Stress was killing me
And what made it even harder was that I couldn't stop. At the time, I was the CEO at Sevenly and had 40 employees to look after. I was a husband, a guest speaker, and our home's sole provider. I had pressure layered up to my eyelids.
But our story gets even more difficult … Just a few weeks into this season of torment, my wife begun going through her own battle of mental illness. I remember days where I was fighting off a panic attack while coaching her through reasons to live.
While my version of anxiety included panic, insomnia, and phobias, hers included chronic depression. And there is nothing harder than coaching mental illness while struggling with it yourself.
Our reality was harsh, we were both in a time when all we really wanted was for someone to take care of us. We didn't have the emotional bandwidth required to help each other with anything.
Consequently, this season caused a catastrophic pain in our marriage. Life was flat, dark, and focused purely on survival. We lost the healthy ability of venting to one another about life's struggles fearing we might trigger additional panic or worry. We lost the capacity for connection and found ourselves lonely and hopeless.
It was time for a plan
My wife and I learned that happiness and health is a choice. But we understood nobody could start the journey, but us. We had to make some changes.
We began with reducing our commitments. We said no to dinners, meetings, and even vacations. We developed healthy routines that we followed fanatically, we read the Bible and prayed every day, we bought a cabin in the woods to help us relax, we opened up with people about our struggle, we stopped working past 6 p.m., we hired therapists for each of us and and even a marriage counselor for both of us, and we quit taking medicines that treated our symptoms and focused on true solutions for healing.
Chronic stress and mental disorders uncared for can destroy your life. And for those who amplify it with their lifestyle, it doesn't build in a day or week or even a month. It builds in our daily decisions. The yes's when we already have too much on our plates. The pursuit of more success when we really need to learn the peace of contentment. And the forgetfulness of people, practices, and mentality that allow us to remain balanced.
Eighteen short months later, my wife and I are on a new journey with our baby in a new state and a new commitment. We are stronger and more aware of stress triggers than ever before. We are building a balanced life around the things which keep us healthy and allow us to live out the purpose set in front of us.
For those of you struggling with mental disorders or chronic stress, we encourage you to make the first step in changing your life. Get help, change your routine, and lean into the pain. Our story proves healing is possible.
Dale Partridge is an entrepreneur and founder of Sevenly.org and Startupcamp.com. Described as "a mind who feels the trends before market," Partridge teaches leaders and organizations how to position their brand, love their people, and develop profitable corporate social responsibility programs. He's a renowned expert on branding, consumer psychology, and marketplace trends. He is an avid speaker and has been featured in various business publications including the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine, Fox News, NBC, INC Magazine, Mashable, MSN Money, Forbes and the Los Angeles Times. Dale resides with his family in Bend, Oregon.