A North Carolina woman says she is happy with her choice after she intentionally blinded herself.
Jewel Shuping said that her fascination with blindness began when she was a child.
“When I was young, my mother would find me walking in the halls at night, when I was three or four years old,” she told Barcroft Media. "By the time I was six, I remember that thinking about being blind made me feel comfortable.”
Shuping, 30, has Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), a rare psychological condition causing an able-bodied person to feel they are meant to be disabled. In 2006, she blinded herself with the help of a psychologist willing to drop drain cleaner into her eyes.
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The process itself was agonizing despite the fact that Shuping used numbing eye drops she acquired in Canada.
"It hurt, let me tell you," she said. "My eyes were screaming, and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin. But all I could think was, 'I am going blind, it is going to be okay.'"
Shuping added that the day after the incident, she was "joyful," until she realized she could still see.
However, her vision gradually disappeared over a six month period. Her left eye collapsed in on itself and was later removed, and her right eye has glaucoma and cataracts.
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Before Shuping made her blindness permanent, she simulated vision impairment. In her teens, she began wearing black sunglasses and acquired a white cane. By 20, she was fluent in braille and she now uses that skill to study for her degree in education.
"I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth," she said.
"When there's nobody around you who feels the same way, you start to think that you're crazy," she added. "But I don't think I'm crazy, I just have a disorder.”
Despite how happy she is with her loss of vision, Shuping hopes speaking out about her experience will raise awareness for the disorder and encourage sufferers to seek medical help. There is some debate in the medical community regarding whether or not it’s ethical to treat people with BIID by honoring the patient’s wishes to make them disabled, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
“Don’t go blind the way I did. I know there is a need but perhaps someday there will be treatment for it,” Shuping said
"People with BIID get trains to run over their legs, freeze dry their legs, or fall off cliffs to try to paralyze themselves," she added. "It’s very very dangerous. And they need professional help."