Everyone has desires, goals, and dreams. As kids, we draw out big plans for our lives with our dreams. I was no exception. I wanted to be a storm chaser (yes, I was a kid when Twister came out), a famous country singer, a paleontologist…. the list goes on and on. I never realized I would wind up in the industry that my mother always told me I would be in. Ever since I can remember, my mother has told me that I would be a dentist. She had a dream about it one night when I was a toddler and the prophecy was then passed on to me. As a kid, I did not see myself growing up to be a dentist or working in any kind of medical field. I wanted the glamorous life and that did not include wearing scrubs and working with patients. Dentistry it was though. How did she know? I have always been aware of my mother’s strong intuition, but this was just uncanny. I love telling that story to my patients when they ask me how I wound up in dentistry. I, however, am not a dentist. I am a dental assistant.
I fell into dentistry during an erratic time in my life. I was 20 years old and no stranger to the night life. I was waitressing at a saloon and was staying out late, every night, partying with my coworkers. To say I was making poor decisions would be a massive understatement. The party was always on when I was around. Unfortunately, this also meant being exposed to a ridiculous number of drugs and alcohol. One day I woke up, after crashing for three solid days to sleep off one of the parties, and I realized I was spiraling out of control. I decided to make a big change and I was officially on a mission to take better care of myself. I took a chance on a local dental practice and got the job. Everything was perfect with my new position. I made decent money and only worked Monday through Thursday. I felt like my life was finally shaping up. The timing was perfect too, because what I did not realize when I left the “party scene” was…. I was pregnant.
My first couple of years as a dental assistant were amazing. I had a knack for working with patients and I began to fall in love with the art of dentistry. By the third year though, something changed. I lost the desire to be there. I cannot remember the exact moment I began looking for an escape, but it happened by my fourth year with the practice. I found myself skipping work to sit at home and do nothing. I had an easy excuse at that point, because I just had my second baby. Nobody questioned me, they just assumed I was being sincere when I called in sick or when I blamed it on my kids. I finally exhausted this method and concocted a plan to escape. I made the decision to quit my job and go back to college. It was the worst plan for anyone in my situation because I was separated from my first husband and we were going through the notions of divorce. I did not let that influence my decision at all though…. I quit my job.
Just Passing Through
Eventually, I went back to work as a dental assistant. My time at the next practice was so short-lived, it is not even worth listing on my resume. I was pregnant with my third baby during that time and I did not want to be there. I never got the chance to come up with a reason to quit because my son gave me a reason the moment he was born. My son was born early, resulting in many complications with his respiratory system. Due to the scary conditions of his birth and the long road of recovery ahead of him, it was necessary to stay at home with him because he was not healthy enough to go anywhere until he was bigger and better equipped to handle an illness. I happily obliged.
Once my son was cleared to go to daycare, I went back to work. The next dental practice I joined was one of my favorites. I meshed so well with the doctor. She was laid back and easy to work with. My first year at her practice was amazing and I even considered enrolling in hygiene school so I could become a hygienist at her practice. Hygiene school was not something I ever desired. The idea of working in such a repetitious manner never appealed to me. I preferred the excitement of emergencies and the unknown. My interest in that route peaked though and I was excited about my dental career. Something happened during my second year of working at her practice though. I lost it. I cannot recall the moment I faded away, but it happened…. again. I began calling in sick all the time and even racked up a few medical bills just to prove I was sick. I did not want to be there. But why? I had such a cozy spot and I loved my job. Why was I so unhappy? During this time of despair, I came up with a new plan of escape. I was going to go back to school with the purpose of going to dental school. I was going to fulfill the prophecy. I mustered up the courage to push the plan onto my fiancé, and he was nothing but supportive. This man has been the biggest supporter of my life since we got together in 2011. Oh, how I love him. Anyway, a month before my college classes began, before I could even turn in a notice at work, I was involved in a car accident. I sustained significant injuries to my back and was immediately pulled out of work. My fiancé gave me the opportunity to do what most mothers only get to dream of doing. He offered me a chance to be a stay-at-home-mom so that I could recover and heal. I was so excited and grateful. My wish came true! Was I happy that a car accident bailed me out of something I was so desperately trying to get out of? Yes, I was. I never said that out loud, but it crossed my mind often. What is wrong with me? Why would anyone be grateful for an accident that really hurt them, just to get out of work? I am not okay.
My first couple of years staying at home with the kids was everything I hoped it would be. By the third year, after my parents moved several states away, I began abusing alcohol again. After witnessing me sink into the lowest low I had ever been in, my husband gave me an ultimatum. I could either check myself into rehab, go back to work, or lose my family. My reckless behavior had taken an enormous toll on my family and I knew I had to make a change. I decided to go back to work. I joined a practice with a new doctor who was just getting started out there in the world. The first couple of weeks were tough as I adjusted back to working again. I can remember sitting in the parking lot crying on the phone to my husband because I did not want to be there. Something did not feel right. I stuck it out though, with my husband constantly encouraging me to overcome my anxiety and doubt. Before long, I was back on top of the world again. I worked so well with my new doctor and he recognized my skills and abilities to be valuable, so he promoted me to be the manager of his practice. I was ecstatic! I felt like all my hard work was finally being appreciated. I thrived in my new role. My boss then took on a second practice and eventually merged it with a third practice. I felt like I was unstoppable during those days. The work was endless, and I was drowning in every bit of it, but I did not care. I was on fire!
One can only be on fire for so long before they burn out. I was no exception. During my second, and final, year managing the practices, I lost it. I became easily frustrated over anything that came my way. I began to resent so many things about my job and even the people involved with it. I cared about those practices and my position in them so much, but I was not doing well handling the stress of it all. I was paid very well to cover the excessive work I endured, but I have never been one to be swooned by money, so I began to rebel against it all. I started looking for reasons to skip work, again. I began abusing alcohol and spiraled out of control…. again. I turned in my notice a couple of times, never leaving because my boss needed me, and I was naïve enough to think he could not handle it without me. The third notice was the final notice though, and I walked away with no regrets.
I say I have no regrets, but I am lying to myself.
So here I am.
A 33-year-old, part-time, dental assistant. Exhausted and burnt out beyond repair. I went back to my favorite practice when I left the big, multi-practice nightmare. I knew my husband would not be okay with my desire to drop everything and stay at home again, so I thought this might be my way out. I embraced this change, even though it was a big step down along with a massive pay cut. I considered it to be a break for myself. What I did not foresee was my inability to come out of the funk I was in. I did everything I could think of to make myself happy again, but it did not matter. What I thought would be a good solution now appears to be more of a band-aid that was placed on something broken. A band-aid will cover up the break, hide it for a while to make it look okay, but true healing will never happen until the break is reset. My life is being held together by band-aids right now. How do you reset what has been broken? How do you move on when you cannot make sense of why you gave up in the first place? I have asked myself these questions recently because I am realizing that I am far from being in a good place. I wear many masks though, so I have it covered. For now.