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  • misdirected mind becomes a prison.

  • And I've lived most of my life shackled up by my own mind—a prisoner, a slave, engaged

  • in a constant battle.

  • This became most obvious to me a couple years ago, when I thought I had a heart attack.

  • It all started when I took an energy drink before working out.

  • After my first set, I struggled to take full breaths, my heart pounded, and it felt like

  • oxygen wasn't entering my lungs.

  • I sat down, struggling to breathe properly, and after half an hour, I finally felt normal

  • again.

  • That event instilled a new fear within me: a fear of death.

  • I never thought about Death much before that day.

  • It sat way in the back of my mind as an abstraction, as a concept, as something I knew would happen

  • one day, not as something I felt in my day-to-day life.

  • But now, in the calendar of my mind, Death no longer sat far off in the future.

  • I felt like our meeting was soon approaching, and my mind wanted to find Death's number

  • to tell him that now was not a good time.

  • But everyone know's that the reaper doesn't compromise.

  • His meetings are final.

  • Over the next few weeks, the same symptoms occurred intermittentlyshortness of breath,

  • rapid heart rate, and the addition of some chest pain.

  • I became acutely aware of my own heartbeat, noticing when it was fast or slow, uncomfortably

  • feeling it beat against my chest when I slept.

  • And one day, my symptoms reached a peak, and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack.

  • I rushed to the emergency department, and after several tests, the doctor decided it

  • was likely a panic attack.

  • But he also discovered a murmur in my heart and sent me off for further testing.

  • I felt a sense of impending doom.

  • I became obsessed with avoiding my perceived doom.

  • I shrank from the world and struggled to leave my home, worried that might trigger another

  • attack.

  • My thoughts became paranoid.

  • Did the doctors miss something?

  • Will my follow-up tests show that something's actually wrong?

  • After a few weeks, the results came in and nothing was wrong.

  • I was in great health.

  • But the panic attacks continued.

  • Life became smaller, less colourful, less exciting.

  • My comfort zone shrank down to the size of a point, and even within that point, the fear

  • of death still loomed.

  • I felt like a prisoner in my own body.

  • I needed wisdom to free myself, and I found it in the writings of Epictetus, an ancient

  • Stoic philosopher.

  • As a former slave, he knew something about freedom and imprisonment.

  • Epictetus believed that freedom arose when one focused only on the things if life they

  • could control, and imprisonment arose when one focused on the things in life they could

  • not control.

  • This concept is commonly referred to as the dichotomy of control.

  • I had latched onto something I couldn't control: death.

  • I suspected something had happened on the day I had worked out after taking an energy

  • drink, some anomaly in my body.

  • And that anomaly led to my sudden fear and realization of death.

  • And in trying to control the uncontrollable, in trying to control death, I secretly trapped

  • myself in a mental prison.

  • And the prison of my mind took on a physical manifestation as I trapped myself in my own

  • home, afraid that leaving might cause more panic attacks.

  • I could have controlled my food choices, my exercise regimen, whether or not I left the

  • comfort of my own home, and whether or not I got my health checked out.

  • But I couldn't control death.

  • And the more I tried to control it, the more I shrank away from life.

  • I hit rock bottom.

  • I decided I had had enough.

  • I'd rather have lived a short, full life than a long, empty one trapped inside my own

  • home.

  • I needed to let go of the desire to control death, and I did it in the only way I knew

  • how.

  • I went back to where it all started: exercise.

  • I decided to go for a run, and I decided that if I died on this run, if my heart gave out,

  • it would be okay, because it was better to challenge my fear than let it consume my entire

  • life.

  • Unsurprisingly, I ended up not dying on the run.

  • And as I challenged the fear more and more, it began to recede.

  • As I focused more on the things I could controllike my breathing, my diet, and my exercise regimenmy

  • body began returning to normal.

  • I breathed normally once again, my chest pains disappeared, and I stopped getting panic attacks

  • soon after.

  • I find when I desire to control things I can't control, such as death, aging, or even views

  • on YouTube, I become a prisoner to my own mind.

  • On the other hand, when I surrender control to Fate and focus on the things I can control,

  • I become the master of my own mind.

  • I escape the mental prison.

  • It would be a mistake for a reader of this essay to think that there's any advice here.

  • This essay is simply the report of my own experiences with living in and escaping my

  • own mental prisons.

  • But upon examining his or her own life, a viewer may find that they too are trying to

  • control the uncontrollable, and by doing so, they have trapped themselves in

  • a

  • mental prison.

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How My Mind Became A Prison (& how I escaped)

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/21
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