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Releasing the Doctoral Guard

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From time to time, and specific chapters of our lives, requiring an influx of creativity and problem-solving, these friends resurface in our lives for various reasons. For some of us, these imaginary friends are genuine. To others, they are just shadows on life’s periphery. Growing up, I never had much need for imaginary friends. I was surrounded by other students in a world where people still lived, ate, and breathed in a very interconnected labyrinth. For me, that Labrinth was schooling.Until my last semester in college, I was still surrounded by friends, professors, students, and family. As the final semester unfolded, I became more and more disconnected from the outside world beyond the university and within my own collegiate affairs on campus. I knew I needed a course correction, something to reposition myself amongst my classmates again.

I was on a mission to become a doctoral student. That mission was taking on water quickly. I found myself in academic and social peril beyond my ability to cope or identify a solution to right the ship. My mission was critical. Despite all the problems I encountered, I was deadset on leveling up and moving on to higher learning. I needed a plan of action, and I also needed support. With little time to spare for devising a workable plan on the go, and with little backing left from friends and staff, I created a legion of people willing to support me unconditionally in my quest to become a doctoral student.

My plan’s etiology traces back to the “Home Gaurd. Nazi Germany’s last-ditch effort to secure its borders and prepare for defense from the Russian counteroffensive. For me, the stakes were just as high. If my quest failed, as far as I was concerned, the campus, its ideology, and the academic contribution I would provide the school would be lost forever. So, in keeping with the magnitude of the issue evolving, my solution was to commission what I termed the Doctoral Gaurd. The doctoral Gaurd was my last line of defense to acts of retribution from the university and other matters that were becoming intrusive to my stance and standing as a student.

THE DOCTORAL GUARD

“The split occurs in the history of the English language during the Regency period; division between unreason and reason, the point of departure from Play too Dangerous in language.”

—J. Peters, “Contesting Admission”

I was determined to fight on, but I needed support. So I took an idea from my earlier college days and retooled it for my new situation. Back in the glory days of my undergraduate experience, I had made polo shirts for my friends, each with a hand- stitched insignia to represent our little clique. I had an artist draw up a logo, and working with a local uniform store, I had the digital image stitched onto a dozen uniforms for me and my friends. They all loved the shirts. Some still have them as a reminder of our carefree younger days.

I needed to please the people around me—the staff, my class friends, community members, or anyone else who might rally around me and my plan to become a doctoral student. I called this band of supporters the “doctoral guard.” Moving forward, they would be my army of academics and allies. Everyone would have a uniform, a step up from the polo shirts I had made years ago.

I paid thousands of dollars to design and make this uniform. Each had an insignia with a ranking composed of premilitary stripes, and two lightning bolts on the collar, suggesting the speed and mystique of the Nazi SS and higher-level party members. The uniforms of the SS stood apart from the general army uniforms, and my doctoral guard

would be a shining example of power on campus. I designed a special jacket just for me. It had my name and “Ph.D.” embroidered above the pocket. The inside lining was a breakaway vest with the insignia.

I hoped that the doctoral guard would shield me from further mishaps on campus, and that it would also regalvanize my support base before my situation became completely unmanageable. As head of the doctoral guard, I would send nightly emails to random friends, faculty, and others, making requests and soliciting advice.

In all, twenty full body uniforms with matching pants and all the trimmings were made. But when the uniforms were finally ready, I couldn’t find anyone to wear them.

Despite my doctoral guard’s failure in 2008 to help or ease my suffering in Binghamton, I still believe in its importance. I still firmly believe in the use of support when going through difficult times. This is why, to this day, I always have a bandwagon of allies by my side (albiet electronically). My guard continues to serve as my effervescent unassailable battle-ax against the unknown when times are unpredictable and troubling. And when it gets awful, the guard is stranger to enacting acts of scission to cut loose from trouble and heartache. While this group may not realize their importance yet, I am hoping this explanation will help clarify. Sometimes, it isn’t who is watching your back, their power, or clout; it just knows someone is there at all in case your plans go awry. My modern-day doctoral guard is just a group of friends on Facebook messenger. They receive alerts from time to time, usually during a change in my mental status or the emergence of a life-shifting/alterning event.

As far as I am concerned, the need for my doctoral guard was always temporary. After all, armies are only summoned during wartime and calls to action when there is an emergent need. The need for my doctoral guard was mostly dependent on the ongoing war against the university. Research papers needed writing and revising, and articles required to be registered and hurled at the university for maximum devastation. Since I have returned to duty as a scholar under the psudonym name J. PETERS. My guard has been at my side every day. With my guard’s help, this once defensive legion has transformed under the direction of its First Chair, DRW, into an offensive battalion. The battalion signals to the scholastic world we are here for the long haul are not disbanding until final victory. Today, the university is acknowledging receipt of the mission and the more massive accomplishments I have achieved to date. With this said, the war is at an end.

I would now like to thank all guard members who held fast and were first in action, in the field, and through all electronic mediums hurling our rallying cry towards Binghamton. For your help, I am eternally grateful.

 

 

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

"I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others."

"In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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