Standing blind

The idea of going blind sends chills down my spine. I get a taste of it every time I take off my glasses or contacts: the world turns into a terrifying formless thing. It’s just a bleeding of colors, nothing else. I am shocked into humility every day, and I want myself to be. Sometimes I sit with my severe poor eyesight, trying to appreciate this fragility, a disability that some of my ancestors had to deal with before there was eyesight correction technology. Thankfully I can always put a clarifying lens over my blankness, bringing a sharpened world. Science has given me a gift: to see things I wasn’t born to see. I live on borrowed sight and relish every second of it. To go blind completely? The idea of it breaks my heart.

But this is exactly what Amber “Jewel” Shuping wanted, and she got it. This month she’s taken to the press with the shocking story of how she willfully blinded herself. Jewel has a condition known as BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder,) a disorder where an able-bodied person feels like they will only be “right,” if they are maimed, or disabled in some way. Sometimes this presents with a desire to amputate a limb, but Jewel says that from a young age she couldn’t stand being able to see, and once she became an adult, she sought to fix it. “I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth,” she told Barcroft.

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision ~ Hellen Keller

Snopes uncovered that in 2008 Amber started posting on online forums about her desire for blindness under the alternate name “Jewel.” Earlier this year she made headlines with a different backstory. In articles about her desire to raise money to donate canes to poor blind children in Indonesia, she says she went blind accidentally while cleaning her drain. Snopes dug into her internet past, which indicates that this is just the lie she gave her family. The real story seems to be that Jewel intentionally went blind with the help of a psychologist she saw for a year, Dr. Allen C. Piening.

Jewel says she stayed with him for two weeks before she was intentionally blinded using drain cleaner. The process started with some eye-numbing drops, which can also lead to eye damage, followed by a few drops of the powerful chemical we use to flush out our plumbing. The hope was that the damage would be severe enough to warrant removal of her eyes. She was taken to the hospital after the ccausti administration for medical supervision, and while she was there the unsuspecting nurses and doctors tried and failed to save her eyes. One eye was removed at some point, and the other developed glaucoma and webbed scarring.

What would cause someone to want this to happen to them, and why would a doctor help someone go blind?

Jewel claims that the doctor, who lost his license at some point according to Snopes, gave her intensive therapy treatments for a year before aiding her in this desire. Instead of developing a plan to help Amber accept her body the way it was, her therapist facilitated a painful session of self injury.


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