A Texas man says he’s been living ‘in a prison’ for a decade as he battles agoraphobia, which has left him afraid to travel more than a mile from his home.
Cecil Jackson, 35, of Houston, Texas, told CBS this week that he has missed out on family milestones, including birthdays, weddings and funerals.
He describes his life like a ‘prison’, stuck in one area and basically unable to leave.
Jackson is now working to tackle the phobia that has cost him years of his life, and hopes to help the millions of others who also suffer from the condition.
‘I have been colorfully living and silently suffering for years… for me, agoraphobia is a prison,’ he told CBS.
Cecil Jackson (pictured), 35, of Houston, Texas, suffers from a devastating case of agoraphobia that prevents him from traveling more than one mile away from his home
Jackson (pictured) told CBS that he has missed weddings, funerals and birthdays within his family due to his fear of uncomfortable and uncertain situations
Jackson said that he has missed weddings, birthdays and funerals for family members out of fear caused by his condition.
He first began to suffer from agoraphobia when he was 19, over 15 years ago.
His life has become extremely limited in the meanwhile, as he can only comfortably travel to very specific places where he feels comfortable.
Jackson works as a store manager and lives across the street from his workplace. His home and workplace are the only two locations he regularly travels to.
He said symptoms of his condition first started appearing when he was driving to school one day when he was young, when suddenly his heart began racing and he felt lightheaded.
Things then escalated, as his vision became distorted and he began to suffer from breathing issues.
Jackson said that he ended up going into a panic and his life has not been the same ever since.
Jackson (left) connected with Dr Karen Cassiday (right) who runs a clinic in Chicago in 2016, they met for the first time as a part of his CBS segment
Cassiday has assisted Jackson in receiving treatment in recent years, helping him connect to local therapists. She arrived in Houston and also gave him counseling in person to help him work through his anxieties
‘That morning, I thought I had the world at my feet,’ he said.
‘Hours later, the way that I viewed the world, the way that I viewed life had completely changed.’
He was already familiar with the condition, as his mother suffered from it, but did not expect it to take over his life in this way.
‘There are walls and boundaries that I cannot get past’ Jackson explained.
‘And if I attempt to, or when I do, I literally feel as though I’m going to die.’
According to the Mayo Clinic, a person with panic disorders or other phobias is more likely to develop agoraphobia, though since it is a psychological condition it does not have tangible risk factors or ‘cures’ like others would.
The main way to treat agoraphobia is through therapy and medication that treats anxiety, though it can be a long and arduous process.
In 2016, Jackson came in contact with Dr Karen Cassiday, who runs an anxiety treatment center in the Chicago area.
They built a bond, and Cassiday even assisted Jackson in finding a local therapists that could conduct online sessions with him.
Cassiday traveled to Houston to meet Jackson, and helped him expand his boundaries and try things he had been scared to do in recent years.
Jackson, for example, rode in an elevator with Cassiday and a CBS crew, the first time he had done so after he had a panic attack four years ago.
With Cassiday’s (right) help, Jackson (left) was able to go into and elevator and even a grocery store for the first time in years
Jackson (pictured) was also able to comfortably go out on a run through his neighborhood for the first time ever after receiving counseling
‘The last time I attempted to get on one, or got on one, I jumped off,’ he said.
‘So I kept trying to get on, but it got so overwhelming. I just said whatever’s up there, I won’t see today.’
He managed to ride the elevator up-and-down four time while Cassiday coached him in ways that would teach his body to deal with feelings of panic normally.
Cassiday also helped Jackson go to a grocery store for the first time in years as well, along with an in-person trip to his therapists office and he went for a run outside for the first time ever.
As he works towards recovery, he now wants the four million other Americans that will feel symptoms of agoraphobia throughout their lives know that it can be fixed.
‘I think that sometimes when you suffer, you feel like nobody sees you,’ Jackson explained.
‘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.’