“Agoraphobia is a prison”: Man confronts anxiety disorder that has restricted his life to one mile from his home


Agoraphobia has gripped Cecil Jackson’s life since he was 19 years previous. He’s one of an estimated 2 million adults within the United States who’ve the anxiety disorder that causes them to keep home to keep away from conditions that might trigger a panic assault – like touring or going too distant from home. 

“I have been colorfully living and silently suffering for years,” Jackson stated. 

Jackson has missed household weddings, birthdays and even funerals due to agoraphobia. He has restricted his life to one mile from his home — residing throughout the road from his job and a grocery retailer.

“For me, agoraphobia is a prison,” he stated.

Recently, Jackson watched the “CBS Mornings” story about longtime anchor Karen Swensen stepping away from her TV career after overcoming a sequence of tragedies. Jackson stated it was that story that brought about him to take a clearer take a look at his personal struggles and attain out to “CBS Mornings” lead nationwide correspondent David Begnaud, asking Begnaud to be with him as he broke his boundaries.

“That was so powerful. I’m a 35-year-old Houstonian, and I suffer from agoraphobia. I seemingly lead a normal life as a local store manager, but no one knows that I haven’t traveled beyond a one-mile radius from my home in over 10 years,” Jackson advised Begnaud. 

Jackson’s late mom additionally suffered from agorophobia, however he by no means imagined it might occur to him, too. His signs first appeared when he was driving on the freeway, headed to faculty, on a sunny day. 

At first, he stated, his coronary heart started racing, his arms felt weak and he felt lightheaded. Jackson stated he tried to ignore these signs, hoping it was one thing like starvation, however he was additionally having respiration points and his imaginative and prescient grew to become distorted. That’s when he began experiencing depersonalization, by which issues “don’t appear to be real,” Jackson stated.

“Eventually, I went into a complete panic,” he stated.

“That morning, I thought I had the world at my feet,” he stated. “Hours later, the way that I viewed the world, the way that I viewed life had completely changed.”

Jackson stated one of the simplest ways to describe agorophobia is feeling like he is residing in a glass field — “like there are walls and boundaries that I cannot get past. And if I attempt to, or when I do, I literally feel as though I’m going to die.”

In 2016, he discovered Dr. Karen Cassiday, the proprietor of the Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago. Throughout the years, Cassiday not solely responded to him. She additionally organized for a native therapist to deal with him with a session held on-line.  

This previous year, Jackson stated he has accelerated steps to get well. He has lost 90 kilos in seven months by going meatless and giving up soda.  

CBS News organized for Cassiday to fly to Houston to assist information Jackson as he confronted locations and circumstances. 

Jackson had a checklist of objectives he wished to get executed throughout their meeting, together with going to his therapist’s office, going to the grocery retailer and using an elevator — one thing he hasn’t executed in 4 years.  

“The last time I attempted to get on one, or got on one, I jumped off,” he stated. “So I kept trying to get on, but it got so overwhelming. I just said whatever’s up there, I won’t see today.” 

The two launched into the escalator collectively, Cassiday teaching Jackson each step of the way in which.  

“I want you to reframe the anxiety to say ‘This means I’m doing something really good. This means I’m actually successful. I’m bringing it on,’” stated Cassiday. 

He would experience up and down 4 instances, counting on workouts to induce dizziness to make it by way of. It was not quickly after that Jackson seen that the workouts have been working.

“The sweaty palms, the dizziness, the sensitivity to light, I think I stood there for like three minutes talking to her… and it just subsided,” Jackson stated. 

One of these workouts is a fast respiration method referred to as hyperventilation, by which Cassiday would deliberately provoke Jackson’s anxiety. That is executed to get him used to the feeling of panic and study that he can deal with it and train his physique to not reply with panic assaults, she stated.

“I want to give you practice recovering from a panic attack so that you discover you can do it,” Cassiday advised him. “You don’t have to be afraid of it. And even if the next time you go to your therapist’s office it’s the worst traffic jam ever, I want you to feel confident that you’re going to get there.”

For the primary time in years, Jackson took an escalator by himself. He did not simply cease there: Together with Cassiday, he went to a grocery retailer for the primary time in years.

“It’s amazing to be here,” Jackson stated as he slowly walked by way of the aisles. 

He appeared quiet however not visibly nervous. But he managed to get by way of the cashier by himself and was all smiles as he walked out of the shop moments later and high-fived Cassiday.

Jackson additionally ran outdoors his condominium advanced for the primary time ever and went to his therapist’s office for a face-to-face appointment — a step towards his future remedies. 

He stated he wished to share his highway to recovery to assist others struggling from psychological sickness — but additionally to “be seen.”

“Initially I thought that in telling my story that I needed to be in a place where I was recovered. You know, ‘Let me be recovered so that everybody will see, you know, what it looks like at the end of the road,’” Jackson stated. 

“I think that sometimes when you suffer, you feel like nobody sees you,” he stated. “And when you deal with agoraphobia, people write you off, and you’re often hidden in the shadows. I hope that others feel seen by me sharing this message.”

David Begnaud

David Begnaud is the lead nationwide correspondent for “CBS Mornings” primarily based in New York City.