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Editor’s note: This is second part of a three-part series about a journey Laconia Daily Sun Managing Editor Roger Carroll made through the mental health system after a personal crisis that brought him through an emergency room, a placement annex and, finally, a designated receiving facility at Franklin Regional Hospital.
After a few hours sitting in the room Joe was guarding in the emergency department, I was escorted to the Annex, which had all the charm of one of those park-and-ride lots off the interstate. I had a room to myself that featured a curtain where a door might have hung, and a bed. There was a wall-mounted television and a small sink that was prison-issue stainless steel. There was no window and no bathroom. The latter was down the hall, past the nurses’ station where a security guard was perched outside in case of trouble.
Not much happens at park-and-rides, and the same could be said of the Annex while I was there.
One of the nurses talked to me for about 10 minutes when I first arrived in what seemed like an attempt to take my emotional temperature. When he departed, I sat on the edge of the bed, buried my face in my hands and cried—deep, body-wracking, convulsive sobs.
As if on cue, another nurse showed up with a box of tissues and it was then that I noticed the small video camera mounted near the ceiling, next to the television box. I was under 24-hour surveillance.
How did it ever come to this, I asked myself.
The time I spent in the Annex — about 27 hours — is a mind-numbing blur of naps, meals and bad daytime TV shows, with a couple of visits from my wife as the only highlights. I had a two-minute conversation with my therapist on the second day, but no treatment took place there.
Toward the end of the first day I was informed that they had arranged a bed for me in a psychiatric facility at Hampstead Hospital, a short distance from Manchester, but they wanted to interview me first.
I spoke on the phone with an admissions person and she gave me an overview of what I could expect. I would be under the care of a team of mental health professionals, she said, and they anticipated I would be there for about five days.
That all sounded fine, but I balked when they told me I would have to be transported to the facility in an ambulance. I didn’t see that coming and grew agitated, arguing that I was perfectly capable of driving myself.
My resistance to a long ambulance ride, I discovered later, was interpreted as refusal, and the arrangement was abandoned and another placement sought.
My wife Janis arrived at the Annex after she got off work. She was ushered through a security check and allowed in. She brought me a meatloaf sandwich, chips, a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies and a bottle of tonic water. She also brought a book I had been reading. She stayed for about 90 minutes and we filled each other in on our days, which felt a little weird since mine had been so surreal.
I was sorry to see her go, grateful for the support and aware that not everyone is so lucky to have the kind of support system I do.
She was back the next morning around 8, an angel bearing a large cup of coffee.
This time, though, the nursing staff refused to allow her to bring anything into the room.
It’s against the rules, we were told.
I understood the reasons behind a rule like that — some unscrupulous types might try to smuggle in more than coffee. I was annoyed, however, that nobody had mentioned that when I first arrived, and I told the nurse that Janis had been allowed to bring me food and drink the night before. The nurse attributed that to the night staff not following the guidelines, and said there would be no coffee this morning.
I tried to argue with her, but she rooted through a file cabinet in the office and returned with a set of guidelines.
“Do you want to read them?” she said sternly, thrusting out a sheet of paper.
“No,” I said, my voice rising a little. “I want this place to be consistent.”
She didn’t budge, and after venting a little more, Janis and I went to my room. She was almost as annoyed as I was, but we put it behind us and talked about happier things for a half hour. She then headed off to work in Laconia and I went back to the mundane existence of life in the Annex.
Other than the visits from Janis, the only non-staff interaction I had at the Annex occurred when I took a seat in the dayroom and watched The Weather Channel’s coverage of the storm that was dropping snow on New England. Watching TV from a different location actually felt like a change of scenery. Plus, it felt good to sit upright for a few minutes.
A woman who seemed to be in her 30s came out of the bathroom and stopped to look at the television.
“I used to live in Massachusetts,” she said when she noticed the reporter was broadcasting from there.
She wore the same kind of paper scrubs I did and looked tired, her thick blondish hair pointing in every direction. Nobody looks good at the Annex, apparently.
“Annie,” (not her real name) the nurse called out from the station nearby. “You know you’re not supposed to talk with other patients.”
It was not her first stay at the Annex, I learned later when I met up with her in Franklin.
My case, in nonmedical terms, was “a can of corn”— an old-fashioned baseball term for a lazy fly ball that is easily caught by an outfielder.
The technical diagnosis, according to my psychiatrist’s notes, was “adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct.”
The nurse practitioner who examined me recorded “Depression F32.9” in my records, meaning it was a single episode of major depressive disorder, unspecified.
That, in a way, was good news.
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