My first real job was working with children and adolescents at a psychiatric hospital. When I first applied, I thought I would never get the job because I was currently a waitress at a local café. I had grown tired of serving people food and the not-so-great tips.
At first, this job seemed no better. It was a minimum wage job and I only worked part-time. I wasn’t making much money and the twelve hour shifts did not feel like they were worth it. Truthfully, the first four to six months in that place was not pleasant.
The job itself was ruthless. There were times when I would go home feeling beat. Some days I felt like I was working in a juvenile detention center versus a place of “healing.” As time went on, the rest of the staff became more like family and I found my reasons for being there. It wasn’t always easy but my first taste of true psychosis reeled me in.
I can’t go in great detail but hopefully my writing will help paint a fictional but real picture of what it was like to work with these children and how they felt. I had a few patients who truly made an impact on my life and how I viewed mental health.
I used to wonder where the children were that you saw on the news. These awful cases of abuse that went unseen for such a long time.
How did they come out of this? Were they ever the same again? Can the human brain be trained to forget all that trauma?
I would have to say no. The human brain forever holds onto that trauma.
However, the coping skills acquired to survive have often been the most intriguing of it all.
I have experienced children who have created an alternate world in their head to escape the realities of their situations. There have been times when the most horrendous situations left a child thinking the disturbing things that went on at home were normal.
There were many nights I had to turn the music up loud enough on my way home to silence my own thoughts. There were good day and there were bad. I even recall many names and faces that will never leave me.
In the end, I knew exactly why I was there. It was not by random.
Penny Mae is about a child who has been abused and battered by her own father. She is sitting in a visitation room across from her dad and mother. The mother is not aware of the abuse. Her way of coping was by having an imaginary friend named Penny Mae. When she was admitted and evaluated she told the doctors about Penny. They began administering medicine to help her but that makes her best friend disappear.
Children are often the first to be treated for their unhealthy behaviors but many abusers are never punished for their contribution to it.
So that is the story behind Penny Mae.
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