Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health Care as Self- Care by guest Mariah C. Ely, LCSW

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the wkazuend-25768ater?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”  – David Foster Wallace

The quote above is from a commencement address given to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College by the author, David Foster Wallace. Through this allegorical snapshot, Wallace brilliantly encourages increased consciousness of oneself and one’s surroundings by highlighting that we oftentimes become so distracted by our immediate world that we’re no longer present enough to recognize that we’re in it. I truly believe that self awareness is the key to successful transformations. Answer this… “Pretending no dream is too big and no desire is too unattainable, I would _________.” Do you constantly think about the changes you listed, but somehow never start the change process? What has been getting in the way?

Psychotherapy is the perfect vessel for answering these questions; however, there are two illogical reasons posed by many people throughout the history of the counseling profession that turn them off from seeking help: 1. Stigma 2. Fear. It has been long believed that if one seeks therapy then one must be “unstable”, “crazy”, “weak.” To the contrary, making positive changes to your mental and emotional self is the best decision one can make when working toward a better, healthier, and stronger state of being. Is there a stigma against going to the gym to increase physical strength? No. Seeking support for mental and emotional strength is just as important, and works in conjunction with physical fitness and healthy lifestyle. And then there’s fear. Fear exists for good reason, mainly to protect us from predators. But when your fears turn inward your mind will believe whatever you tell it. And therefore your mind becomes the predator. To face your fears is to face your vulnerability and your shame which can be difficult to look at. But you are also chasing your success, your happiness, and your truth. Those are harder to find; they’re not as comfortable as shame and self doubt. But they are so worth the work! So get out of your comfort zone, and embrace the positive changes you might make that would allow you to live in the present and to be fulfilled. Stop asking “what the hell is water?” and dive in.

Mariah C. Ely, LCSW


Mariah C. Ely is a licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in integrative health and wellness counseling, relationship issues, and mindfulness.

Call for a free consultation: (516) 519-3932

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s