Ever since she was a little girl, Jewel Shuping dreamed of being blind. The North Carolina resident was born perfectly healthy, but she became so obsessed with losing her sight that at age 21, she took matters into her own hands.
Shuping claims that she had a psychologist pour drain cleaner in her eyes, then waited to seek medical attention. Afterwards, she gradually lost her eyesight and is now almost completely blind, she says.
“I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth,” the 30-year-old says.
Shuping has Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) – a rare condition causing able-bodied people to believe they are supposed to be disabled. She has long fantasized about being blind.
“When I was young, my mother would find me walking in the halls at night. When I was 3 or 4 years old,” Shuping recalls. “By the time I was 6 I remember that thinking about being blind made me feel comfortable.”
Shuping acquired a white cane in her teens and could read Braille fluently by the time she was 20. As the years progressed, so did her desire to be blind.
So, she decided to take matters into her own hands. In 2006, Shuping claims she found a sympathetic psychologist who agreed to pour drain cleaner into her eyes (the two first met for a few weeks to make sure Shuping was ready).
“It hurt, let me tell you. My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin,” Shuping says. “All I could think was, ‘I am going blind, it is going to be okay.’ ”
The two waited for 30 minutes before going to a hospital, where doctors worked to save Shuping’s eyesight. But the permanent damage was already done and, over the next six months, Shuping’s eyesight gradually faded.
Shuping has refused to name the psychologist who she says helped her blind herself.
“I was so happy, I felt that this was who I was supposed to be,” Shuping explains.
Shuping’s decision to blind herself put a strain on her relationship with her family. She initially told them she lost her eyesight in an accident, but upon learning the truth, Shuping’s mother and sister cut off contact with the her, she claims.
However, Shuping says she has never been happier and does not regret her decision – although she does not recommend her drastic method to others.
“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.
“It’s very dangerous. And they need professional help.”
Now Shuping, who is studying education, wants to both raise public awareness of the condition and help other blind people live independent lives.
She admitted that she understands why some people would be angry about her deliberately blinding herself. But, she says, “the way I became disabled doesn’t really matter.”
“I went blind on purpose, but I don’t feel it was a choice.”