Back from the edge

As the co-host of The Start, weekday mornings on 680 CJOB, it’s Greg Mackling’s job to embody the friendly Manitoban persona. And he does it well.

Meet him once, and the veteran Winnipeg broadcaster will quickly make you feel like you’ve been friends for years. He has a warm smile, sparkling blue-grey eyes, and has battled bipolar disorder and depression for much of his adult life.

Now, he’s speaking out.

Indeed, Mackling had to face his demons in his early 30s, after he fell into a spiral of severe depression and even suicidal thoughts. His path to recovery eventually brought him to the McEwen Building at St. Boniface Hospital, where mental health services are offered.

Almost 20 years ago, Mackling was in a serious car accident and had suffered a frontal-lobe brain injury that went undiagnosed for more than a year.

“I was living in Calgary at the time and making a six-figure salary. My dreams were coming true; or so I thought,” he says. “I lost everything after the accident in June 2000. I lost my home, I lost my job, and all my belongings went into storage. I couldn’t effectively plan my day or organize my thoughts.” Mackling slipped into a serious case of depression.

“I battled for a solid year and a half to two years with maybe taking my own life,” he admits. Mackling had started to doubt his own importance to his family and friends.

“One weekend, I drove my car from Calgary to Vancouver, just sort of wondering what the best curve might be not to make in the Rocky Mountains.”

Mackling closes his eyes, putting himself back behind the wheel. “All these years later, I’m still pretty in touch with the thoughts and feelings I was having that day. I was kind of done,” he says softly. “The voices in my head were winning, the ones who always told me I wasn’t good enough, or smart enough, or attractive enough.”

“What I was dealing with felt bigger than I was. It felt as though I wasn’t strong enough to overcome it at the time. But for some reason…I don’t know what stopped me; either I wasn’t strong enough to go through with it, or there was something stronger pulling me back from the edge.”

Mackling moved back to his hometown of Winnipeg and ended up living on his late grandfather’s couch for close to three years. “A lot of times, it was the people who understood the least of what I was going through who were solidly behind me,” he says. “My grandfather, who was in his 80s, opened his home to me. Even though he had friends who suggested that I was lazy, and just trying to take advantage of him. He would have none of it.”

Sensing he needed help, Mackling had many questions about his mental health. He found a psychiatrist in Winnipeg, the late Dr. Fred Shane, who he says went out of his way to find the answers he was desperately looking for. It was Shane who diagnosed Mackling’s brain injury.

Next came cognitive rehabilitation, which included object assembly exercises and puzzles. “The late Dr. Marvin Brodsky and I worked every Thursday for a year and a half, to try and get my brain and synapses firing, and rework the wiring in my brain,” says Mackling. He also benefited from talk therapy with Dr. Janine Cutler, Psychologist.

This mental health story continues in the fall 2019 issue of Believe.

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