Living with A Mental Illness Isn't Always Living

January 26, 2011 Holly Gray

As someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I'm well aware of the toll living with a mental illness takes on relationships, jobs, and self-esteem. I struggle with things that come easily to many, and seemingly benign things can have a profound impact on my ability to manage the very basics of daily living. Even so, I'm incredibly fortunate. The ugly reality is that many people with a severe mental illness aren't lucky enough to worry about whether or not they're successful at work, or fret over how their illness affects their loved ones. They're homeless, destitute, unable to advocate for themselves, and have no one to help them. Some people have paid a very high price for having a mental illness. Mark Ellinger is living with Bipolar Disorder. And he's one of those people.

mark-ellinger-1Barely Living with Bipolar Disorder

Our guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, Mark Ellinger wasn't properly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until 2001. He struggled for years with what he now knows were severe manic episodes and incapacitating depressive crashes. Living with a mental illness he didn't know he had, Mark coped as best he could, but eventually ended up homeless and near death. He paid a price some of us with severe mental illness never have to.

Between 1985 and 1995 I lost just about all that was dear to me - friends, family, business, home, and possessions - and for the next six years I plumbed the depths of experience and my own psyche, living on the mean streets of San Francisco as a homeless junkie. It damn near killed me and I was hospitalized for ten weeks.

mark-ellinger-2Today Mark is a writer and photographer, no longer homeless or struggling with addiction. Living with Bipolar Disorder isn't easy for him, but he's now in treatment and has managed to rebuild his life. Like so many others, he knows firsthand the price severe mental illness can exact on people's lives. He graciously agreed to share his experience with us.

Video on The High Price of Living with A Mental Illness

Watch our video interview with Mark Ellinger, the High Cost of Mental Illness, as he talks about what living with Bipolar Disorder is like for him, the impact severe mental illness has had on his life, and what he's learned from living with a mental illness.

You can find all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show in the table of contents.

Share Your Experiences

Are you living with Bipolar Disorder or another severe mental illness? Has living with a mental illness ever felt like not really living at all? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights on the high cost of mental illness. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

APA Reference
Gray, H. (2011, January 26). Living with A Mental Illness Isn't Always Living, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Holly Gray

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