Karyl Anne Geary

Job Description

Job Title: Mental Health Worker Job Code/ Req#: 1234
Special needs child psychiatric unit Travel Required: n/a
Level/Salary Range: Low. You will work for administrators who have never worked on the unit. Say “yes, ma’am” to overtime and paycuts and shortened hours and higher patient-to-staff ratios because of budget cuts. Ignore their annual raises. Know better than to request a raise. Position Type: Full-time, 3rd shift
HR Contact: Minimal Date posted: Ongoing
Will Train Applicant(s): Training will cover hospital policy. It will not come close to what employees actually experience on the floor. Posting Expires: For this, we refer you to the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
Job Description
Role and Responsibilities

  • Sweep up the shattered glass of children broken by a diagnosis. By a father’s fist or a mother’s drug habit. By an uncle whose “Come sit on my lap” was not a friendly invitation. By a stepfather who thought six months was the perfect age to become a sex worker. Know which pieces can be glued back together and which pieces are so sharp they cut whoever picks them up.
  • Scrub feces from the bedroom walls of a little boy compelled to smear. Maybe he knows no other way to communicate what was done to him. Maybe he needs the pressure of digging in his rectum. Maybe he likes the texture and smell of shit caked into his nailbeds. Learn to choke back vomit and disgust at the mess. You will never get used to this.
  • Wipe tears from the round cheeks of a ten-year-old girl delayed by neglect and fetal alcohol syndrome who says she just wants a mommy who loves her–never mind the twenty two foster mommies who have already given up. Pretend your heart doesn’t break when that same little girl begs “But please don’t leave me! Puh-lease take me home with you. Nobody else will ever love me.” And, pretend that you don’t think she’s right.
  • Feign pleasure at the sight of a visiting mother. Wish her a “good visit.” Hide your urge to grab her by her hair and slam her face into the wall like she did to her seven-year-old son. He now spends his days trying to kill himself or you, but he has learned to say your name and the word “frog”—and the phrase “good job-job” when he pees all over the floor. He tries to refuse visits but has not yet learned the word “no.” When his mother leaves, throw his stuffed frog at his head until he giggles and momentarily forgets about being abandoned.
  • Tuck in an eleven-year-old freckle-faced boy. Tell him “Sweet dreams.” Ignore that he either has nightmares of homelessness or is too medicated to dream at all. He will demand “have sweet dreams for me, and tell me about them.” Make up some dream about a puppy running through a field because he loves dogs and he will say “that was good. I don’t even care that you made it up.”
  • Grab a six-year-old boy who’s determined to slam his head against the linoleum and just as determined to hurt anyone who tries to stop him. Hold onto his tiny body tightly enough to keep him safe but not so tightly that you hurt him. He is angry and sweaty, and your grip will slip. When he is calm, you will both be in need of a shower. We do not provide staff shower facilities, Once you see how poorly the children’s showers are cleaned, you will not want to shower here, anyway.
  • Hide your sighs of relief when the night ends and you get to go home. For most of these kids, this dingy locked psychiatric unit is as close to home as they’ll ever get.

Qualifications and Education Requirements

  • High school diploma and three years of experience; or BA/BS in a Social Sciences discipline and on year of experience; or just know someone who works here.

Preferred Skills

  • Patience: More than humanly possible.
  • Reading: The same books, over and over and over, every night.
  • Math: Count the bruises on your skin from the hands and feet and teeth and heads and rage of these babies who were too small and too afraid to hurt whoever hurt them.
  • Memory and Recognition: Remember and name each bruise and every story, because you may be the only one who does.
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Karyl Anne Geary is an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College and works on a psychiatric unit with children with developmental delays. She is the founder and workshop leader of the Rojong Yoin Writing Community in Louisville and is also working towards an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Spalding University. Her essays and poetry have been published in Sweet, New Southerner, so to speak, Stonecoast Review, IUSoutheast Review, and Barbaric Yawp. She is currently at work on a few projects, most notably a collection of essays about growing up in Kentucky and a segmented memoir about healing personal trauma while simultaneously working with child trauma victims, and blogs at karylannewrites.wordpress.com

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