I suffered a case of mild hypothermia awhile back, and while it's something my roommate teases me about now, it wasn't funny at the time.
I was cleaning my house. It was at a time when the restaurant I was working for was experiencing its seasonal closures and cutbacks on hours. I was spending more time at home than working. It was around the time I was learning the ropes of how to make a full-time income from home, but wasn't yet generating a solid income from sponsored sources, though I still had my article writing to provide me with a steady paycheck.
I had worked with words all day that day and I needed a break. My roommate had headed out with his friends, and was out for the evening. Trash day/recycle day happened to be the following day. I had my bins already positioned in the street. I couldn't write anymore, so I started to clean. I was sorting between stuff that I'd held onto for years, old magazines, articles, information that I had found useful at the time but was no longer relevant to what I was working on, new junk mail that needed to be recycled, and garbage that could not be recycled. I'd get handfuls of items together and then I'd walk to the street where the bins were and I'd throw the items out.
Since I was home alone, I'd lock the door every time I came back inside, and then unlock it when I went back out. I'd forgotten to unlock the door. I ended up locking myself out of the house. My keys were inside, and my cell phone was sitting on my desk. I wasn't exactly dressed for the winter evening. The temperatures had dropped to nine degrees and I was wearing a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a pair of flip flops, not exactly cold weather appropriate attire. At least it wasn't snowing, but there was some light wind.
I was stuck outside for two hours. I had plenty of resources around. My neighbor across the street would have helped me. My neighbor next to me would have helped me. I have a good relationship with both of them. I could have taken an easy fifteen minute walk to the Walgreens, or to a friend's house, and called my roommate to tell him what had happened, but every time I would walk to the street, I would realize how dark it was and how much open space surrounded me. Fear of going any further held me back.
Fortunately for me, I had eaten, so my body was in a burning state. I had plenty of liquids in me. I was pacing. I never stopped shivering. My body never left a heating state, but I was still exposed to the cold for a long period of time. I'd like to think my survival instincts would have kicked in, that I would have just broken a window and let myself back inside, but they didn't.
When my roommate found me, I was cold, my body was numb, my feet were swollen, and he had to go into quick action to warm me back up. Blankets, hot liquids, heaters, and eventually a hot shower.
Once upon a time, I'd had the same fear issue standing in the parking lot at my workplace. We were having a Christmas party in the fine dining restaurant. It was one of the rare times when the entire staff could actually show up and celebrate together. When I arrived, the parking lot was completely dark and I realized I was surrounded by a lot of open space, and I froze. I could not get myself to move away from my car toward the building. I had to text Drew, a friend of mine who is like a brother to me, he found me (so did Otha) and they both walked me into the building. It was a complete moment of fear due to a horrifying experience I'd gone through.
I had become dependent on being walked out at night, for my own safety, that I felt like it reinforced the notion that I was in danger. After that incident, there came a point where I'd breeze right by security and walk myself out. I pride myself on my independence. And while I know that everyone had the best of intentions, and were doing what they felt was right, I just felt like they were making the fear worse. I'd driven myself to plenty of places, walked plenty of parking lots alone in the dark, and was never hurt. The detective that worked on my case told me that I didn't need to be afraid to go outside; I just needed to be aware of what was going on around me. In the case of the hypothermia, fear got the better of me and could have done far more serious damage than a bunch of stupid letters, with declarations of love, coming to me in the mail.