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Almost catatonic to escape the shame-1970 (25-26)

As a freelance programmer, I had one client

Working for myself as a freelance computer programmer, I had one client who paid me on retainer, which was enough for me to do okay. Frances Zubryd worked as a business consultant. Her main client was Catholic Social Services, which managed group homes for children. Frances and I worked together on providing regular reports that Catholic Social Services used to track the status of the children within the group homes. 

A Manhattan studio apartment was our office for the afternoon

Frances treated me quite well and we worked effectively together. One Saturday afternoon she and I met in a Manhattan studio apartment where she had an office-time-share arrangement with other businesses that might also use the apartment when scheduled. We spent about two hours discussing the design and production of some upcoming reports. We were finishing up and she was preparing to drive back to Hauppauge, Long Island to her home. She said to me, “There is no one else booked for this place tonight so you can take your time cleaning up and leave when you want to.” 

A "frolic in the hay" with my new girlfriend

I was so excited. I called my new girlfriend Nancy who lived in Brooklyn and invited her to join me. We could enjoy having sex together in this “new apartment.” She arrived within 45 minutes.

The doorbell rang

We were naked and in the middle of it on the big bed when the doorbell rang. It was a second-floor apartment with a walk upstairs. I whispered to Nancy, “Nobody’s supposed to have booked this apartment for the evening. It’s probably a mistake. Let’s just ignore it.”

Nancy hid in the bathroom

We “ignored it” for over ten minutes. But it kept ringing and ringing. Finally, I decided to answer it. I quickly put on my clothes and asked Nancy to hide in the bathroom. 

The businessman is pissed

As the businessman came up the stairs he was rather pissed, explaining that he had booked the apartment for the evening. I apologize profusely and told him I would clean up right away and leave, if he could just wait downstairs. He said, “Okay, but I need to use the bathroom first.” 


I felt shame down to my toes. I said, “Okay, but I have a friend in the bathroom.” Fortunately, Nancy had dressed and she came out looking rather cool and non-flustered. I noticed the look of disgust and upset on the man’s face and felt even more ashamed.

I was startled awake the next morning by an emergency phone call from Frances

Nancy and I went back to her apartment in Brooklyn that night. It was late before we got to sleep. We were awakened in the morning by the telephone. Nancy answered and said it was for me. It was my client Frances calling; I must have given her Nancy’s number as a place that she might reach me. 

The man from the night before had reported the incident to the association responsible for managing the shared apartment and they had called Frances with the complaint. Although she was not screaming at me, Frances expressed deep disappointment in my behavior and emphasized how much she was relying on me to be able to service her client. I was apologetic as it was possible to be, reassuring her that nothing like this would ever happen again.

I was terrified as I noticed my mind begin to collapse inwardly toward a black hole

As I hung up the phone with Frances, my shame and guilt were so intense that I could feel my mind start to withdraw into itself, to try to find that untouchable refuge in a world of non-responsiveness. I had read about catatonia and its allure at that moment terrified me.

Talking my way back from the precipice

Of course, Nancy overheard my side of the conversation. I shared with Nancy what was happening to my mind and asked her to let me just talk about it. I had a sense that if I just kept talking and sharing openly with Nancy that I could short-circuit that part of my mind that was looking for that escape from my shame. I felt grateful to Nancy that she seemed to understand and she just listened.

As I continued to talk and share with Nancy, I could feel my return to “reality” and began to have confidence that I could get through this.

Frances was generous and gracious with me

Frances never mentioned the incident again and we continued to have a good business partnership together for several more years. I was deeply grateful to her for that.

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