Cecil Jackson, who has, says his life has completely changed after undergoing therapy and speaking about his struggles publicly with CBS News. But although he and his family celebrate his progress, Jackson says his experience with agoraphobia is "still a process."
"My life has not been the same," Jackson told "CBS Mornings" lead national correspondent David Begnaud. "It will never be the same and I'm excited."
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes someone to avoid situations that could cause them to panic or feel trapped, like being in enclosed spaces or traveling too far from home, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Jackson was diagnosed with the disorder when he was 19-years-old. He told Begnaud earlier this year that he'd missed important family events including weddings and funerals and that hadn't traveled beyond a one-mile radius from his home in more than 10 years.
"For me, agoraphobia is a prison," he said in April.
In 2016, Jackson found the owner of the Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago Dr. Karen Cassiday and put him in touch with a local therapist to treat him with an online session. CBS News later arranged for Jackson and Cassiday to meet in person for exposure therapy, which included trips to the grocery store and riding escalators – tasks he had not done in years.
Five months later, Jackson says he's doing "amazing" and that going grocery shopping is now part of his normal routine.
"I'm learning to go towards fear and I think that honestly, the biggest thing for me has been really accepting the freedom that was always there," he told Begnaud via Zoom. "I just didn't know how to operate in it."
He's since been on a freeway, to a nature preserve, a number of parks and to visit friends.
"Many of these things are things that just happened," he said. "They were not planned. I just woke up and said 'Today I'm doing what I want to do today."
He says his progress has "enhanced" his relationship with his siblings, adding that he and one of his sisters have "some big plans in the coming months."
"Of course we can do more together, but I honestly think that their joy really comes from being able to call me and ask 'Where are you?' And I love it," he said.
But Jackson says navigating the disorder is still a process. He has not yet been on a plane or gone to certain places, although he says he one day does want to.
"There are still places here that I have yet to go," he said. "But I think that for me the difference now is that I'm okay with being afraid and still doing it."
And though he still has things he'd like to achieve, he told Begnaud that the process taught him that he has the tools to reach them.
"I always thought that I needed something, that there was something that was going to come and rescue me whether that was a person or a thing and I thought that would be the magical thing that did it," Jackson said. "I waited for a long time for that thing to come and what I discovered in this process is that the missing part was me. I needed me. I hadn't connected that link. When I realized that, I understood that everything that I needed was already inside of me. It had been there all along."
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