No one would choose to blind themselves—at least, that's what you would think. But Jewel Shuping did just that. Shuping suffers from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), a rare condition where an able-bodied person believes they are meant to be disabled.
Shuping was so determined to be blind that in 2006 she asked a psychologist, who sympathised with her compulsion, to pour drain cleaner into her eyes.
The desire to be blind started back 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. By the time I was six I remember that thinking about being blind made me feel comfortable."
This compulsion went with her through childhood, where she would stare at the sun for long periods after her mother told her it would damage her eyes. She wore thick dark glasses as a teen, carried a white cane when she was 18, and learned braille by the time she was 20. Shuping terms these actions "blind-simming".
By the time she was 21 she couldn't stop thinking about being blind, which is when she approached a psychologist to help her. The psychologist put numbing eyedrops in her eyes, followed by drops of drain cleaner. "It hurt, let me tell you. 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.'"
As for those who think ill of her for doing this to herself, she reminds them that it wasn't really a choice. Her condition drove her to it.
"I do understand why some people would be angry about a person giving themselves a disability," she says. "They think it's a ploy to get social security, or a waste of advocacy that would be better focused on people with an involuntary disability. But I feel that the way I became disabled doesn’t really matter. If someone were to say that its fundamentally selfish to blind myself, I would say that it’s selfish to refuse treatment to somebody with a disorder. This is not a choice, it’s a need based on a disorder of the brain."