My community cares

Brian is all smiles standing outside Unit 91. After being admitted for three weeks to this unit in November 2015, he returned to work at the Grey Nuns Hospital and found staff warm and receptive.

Commentary by Chaplain Brian Greenwood

When I awoke that brisk November morning, I realized my spirit was depleted of everything. There was nothing left to give; the numbness in my spirit was palpable. Depression had crept up on me for a lot of good reasons, and I fantasized ending my own life. Terrified and humiliated, I called a psychiatrist. Either I reached out or I followed through on the plan.

Within the hour I found myself in the Emergency department at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, where I serve as a chaplain. Familiar faces, sights, sounds and smells at once reassured me—then unsettled me. “How irresponsible and embarrassing to come to the hospital I serve for such a humiliating disorder,” I thought.

“You’re a chaplain,” I scolded. “You should have never gotten sick in the first place."

I was admitted for three weeks of treatment, observation and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and I wrestled with my fears. I was afraid I would not improve or, if I did get better, would not be accepted back into my workplace.

I’m making my story public because I have a lot of gratitude to express. Not only did I get better, I was accepted back with open arms. I feel healed today—the combination of psychiatric intervention, medication, spiritual reframing and ECT have me back on the floors caring for patients and staff alike. I feel in touch with a newfound compassion and competence. I truly feel spiritually integrated and well.

Brian Greenwood (left) and Benson Lai stand outside the Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization Program (PPHP) room, where Brian received electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) three times a week last November. Benson was one of the registered nurses helping to administer his treatment, and Brian credits ECT and nurses like Benson with helping him feel the best he’s felt in 10 years.

Since my return to work, I’ve been called to support patients on the unit to which I was admitted. This has brought me face to face with the people who cared for me while I was ill. To their credit, at no point in my reintegration to ministry have I felt ostracized or demeaned. There have been no judgments passed my way or words expressed that would undermine my work with patients or staff. 

My two biggest fears—that I would not improve or that I would somehow be humiliated—turned out to be paper tigers.

So I share my story for a few reasons. I want to emphasize that any of us can become ill and reaching out is not the end of the world. We really do provide good care in this hospital; we can get better and retain our sense of community while promoting personal dignity.

I’m grateful to all those who cared for me when I was ill, and I am thankful for the sense of community I have at the Grey Nuns.

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