Lost Chapter of University on Watch “The Dying Man”

Lost Chapter of University on Watch “The Dying Man”

After moving into my new home, I truly wanted to make it place of self-care, joy, and peace. Things went so poorly where I had previously resided, that I didn’t want to take anymore chances with my living environment. Shortly after moving in, I began reading Technologies of the Self, by Michel Foucault. From this text, I learned, theoretically how to better self-manage in the face of societal and departmental disturbances. However, the application from theory to practice proved rather differently.

In the beginning, I would lay out a bagel and cream cheese breakfast for the house from Dunkin Doughnuts. There was a table in the downstairs where everyone ate their meals by and large, and I couldn’t think of a better “I’m here stay folks! ” than welcoming the new members of my house with fresh bagels and cream cheese. This good will gesture collapse fairly quickly, after people in the house complained I was leaving food the on the table and misunderstood my offerings as just being a messy and inconsiderate eater. I didn’t let this stop me, in my roll out of good will gestures to the new house.

The roll out came to an end when my resources were so depleted that I couldn’t afford to feed myself. Right around the time I began to run in financial difficulties and was pretty much grounded at my new house due to lack of gas money and funds for transportation, Dr. H asked me point blank: “Jacques, how do you feel about a dying man coming to visit us here at the house?”. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what she meant. A person who was figuratively dying like myself? Or truly medically ill? Dr. H had a habit of speaking in metaphors so I couldn’t be certain what she really talking about.

Well, a few days later, I found out exactly what she meant. One day, the door opened two our house, and in marched Dr. H and a tall, grey haired man, hunched over, and very sickly looking. When they walked in I was sitting in my favorite chair in the house. It was an armchair, with high armrests. When I saw this man’s medical status I knew I had to relinquish control of the chair. The man needed a high seat so he could get back up, after sitting down. I also wanted to leave the room rather quickly as medical illness, and disfigurement, has long since bothered me.

I sat perched in the other room trying to listen to their conversation but made out very little of it. I couldn’t figure out why she brought this man to my house. Were they friends? Was she looking after him something similar to my relationship with Dr. H? Or was the reason altogether different? My theory was this was a lesson in self-care. Dr. H was showing me, in no uncertain terms, what it means when people ignore their body and its needs: death. Clearly, Dr. H was teaching me there is a lot at stake here. My health needs to be my first priority if I was to truly be successful pitted against the university. I would need to take extra special care of myself moving forward.

That is exactly what I did. Every night, I read more and more of Technologies of the Self, and took a long soothing bath afterwards. With my robe on, I would make my way from the downstairs bathroom to my room in the middle of the first floor. Cleanliness, unlike what the monsters at the University made out, was in fact, my first priority. Perhaps it was because I was already marked as unclean, or maybe it was the developing heat of summer ahead, but I loved the beginning months at my new home when I would enjoy looking my best in the face of criticism at the University. The criticism would continue to escalate as my situation escalated in direct relationship where the quotient was disaster ahead.

I knew in my heart that the road ahead would be difficult. I knew it wouldn’t be easy if I was to overcome everything in my path to victory at the university. The house had a lesson of its own to soothe my worries further. One of the first things I noticed when moving into my new home was a large picture in the kitchen. The picture had a saying written all over it: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead“. Dr. H was quick to notice my facial expression when I noticed the saying for the first time. I had this smirk painted all over my face, or so I imagine. Dr. H, seeing the smirk, gazed at me and said: “Ah! Yes!”. Dr. H loved my persistence and at the time, stubborn attitude when it came to acts of resistance. In turn, I found the same character traits in Dr. H and together we loved each other’s will against the inhumanity around us in Liberty.


J. Peters

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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