The 15-Year Itch and Embracing Change

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the author's brown dog faithful through change

Is the 15-year itch a “thing”? It was for me! After 15 years of serving up dental hygiene care to a group of (mostly) awesome patients in the clinical setting, I began to feel the “itch.” Here’s my story of what catapulted me into fully embracing change.

For me, exploring other career opportunities was not a result of the infamous “hygiene burnout” you hear about in hygiene school. Mine was a mental burnout. I was tired. Not tired of dental hygiene but tired of being in a bad relationship.

Recognizing the 15-year itch

Who was I? Who had I become? I was lonely and sad. I was four years into an on-and-off-again relationship that was unfulfilling and loveless. For most of the relationship I was told how awful I was, what a mean person I was, how no one liked me (and other words you wouldn’t use on your worst enemy).

This was my fiance, the person I shared a home with, the father of my four babies. He was a textbook narcissist. His alcohol-fueled verbal abuse had started to become the new normal in our home, and I was drowning. Each day I had to put on the happy face to go out in public; but when I was home, I retreated into a shell. I wanted so badly for him to change that I pretended everything was okay.

But he wasn’t going to change

Finally realizing that I was the one who had to change, I fully embraced a radical turn-around. I needed to learn to love myself and my career again. I needed to replace sadness, self-doubt, and zero confidence with the girl I used to be. She had to still be in there somewhere. How had I become this girl? The girl I said I would never be.

Looking back I still am not sure how I allowed someone to steal my fire and joy, but I did. Is it still hard to admit? Absolutely. I leaned in hard to my faith, friendships, and a great counselor. I told her in our first meeting that I wanted to be “the old me.” Carefree, confident, smiley, and unstoppable.

It took a lot of time and effort

There was a stretch of several months full of counseling sessions, crying it out, no dating, lots of girls trips, and good wine before I felt like my old self again. But still I just shake my head and wonder how I could have allowed someone to steal my worth. The whole ordeal was like living an out-of-body experience.

I will never again be defined by someone else’s words or thoughts about who I am. I am my own cheerleader, supporter, and biggest fan. My friends help me out too. One friend said, “Pray hard for what you want! God loves and values you.” It’s true. We have been given so many gifts, and one of those is resilience. Tapping into that is where my happy ending began.

Now I do what I love

After taking the initial steps to healing, I made a career move to a position as a practice consultant. I’ve heard that God introduces us to people for reasons we may not realize at the time. And now, years after meeting Christina, I know it’s true. She was the catalyst in introducing me to my new career at ACT Dental. This was game changing! Now I do what I love with a group of supportive, motivated, awesome individuals.

They have taught me so many things, I couldn’t begin to thank them. But one piece stands out. They taught me to be highly aware and pay attention to my contribution and my self-talk. This is not only in my professional life but in my personal life too. I am enough. I can do this. Focus on the good. It’s always there.

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