Before Paula became famous, she says she hid a painful secret for more than 20 years. In the book, Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cookin' , she reveals that she once struggled with agoraphobia, the fear of being out in public.
These days, Paula thrives in the spotlight, but back then, she was terrified to leave the house. "[My] heart would beat so hard and so fast that [my] arms would go numb," she says. "You thought, surely, this was the moment you're fixing to die."
Paula hid the truth from almost everyone—especially her children. Jamie, her oldest son, says he never knew his mom had agoraphobia. "I just thought she liked to stay in the house," he says.
Some days were worse than others. "Sometimes the fear was so great, I couldn't go out the door," she says. "Sometimes I was able to go to the grocery store."
When Paula was a prisoner in her own home, there was one thing that seemed to help. "Stepping up to my stove would help calm some of my fears," she says. "To me, cooking is therapeutic. … You just kind of forget everything except what you've got going on in that pot."