Intentionally Making Yourself Blind


Before I go further, please make sure you have watched the video I posted above. Now read the story that accompanies this video: http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/what-body-integrity-identity-disorder-and-why-did-it-make-woman-blind-herself-355402

If you’re in the visually impaired community, you have probably seen this video and heard people say “She’s crazy!” “What a psycho!” “How idiotic,” and things like that. You probably also have heard people say “She has a mental illness,” “How sad,” “You know she said at the end of the video that she wouldn’t recommend this to others who have the same disorder.

Can you guess which one I was? Yes, the second one, the one reminding people that she does have Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) which is a mental illness. However, I do still have mixed feelings on this.

On one hand, putting the mental illness aspect of this situation aside, I do not feel that I would ever intentionally make myself blind. And I’m not just talking about the act of making myself blind, but I’m not sure if I was born again if I would choose to be blind.. but that’s a story for another time. I do totally embrace the fact that I am blind now and wouldn’t change it. I love the life I live, and a lot of that is due to opportunities that have come up as a result of living with a disability and being very involved in this community. Still, I don’t know that I would choose to be blind. I just don’t know though.

On the other hand, Jewel does have a mental illness. Think about somebody with depression for a minute. We wouldn’t call them “CRAZY” for not getting out of bed in the morning or missing work when they were particularly having a rough day. We wouldn’t call them “CRAZY” if they became so depressed that they thought they needed to end their life. We would have compassion for them and try and get them help. So why are so many people so judgemental of Jewel? A large part of it is that mental illness is still very stigmatized, and as sighted people or people without disabilities, I can see how a lot of people wouldn’t understand why a person would want to become disabled and have many more challenges in a given day. But here’s the thing, she didn’t WANT it.. she felt that this was something she needed to do. She felt she was intended to be blind from birth.

I have seen some compare this to people who are transgender. They feel they were born the opposite gender as they biologically are. Sure, there are a lot of people who disagree with transgenderism and do not believe it is something that can truly happen, but I personally don’t see a lot of people calling individuals who identify as transgender crazy as often anymore, luckily. There are still hate crimes, unfortunately, but I do not see them getting called these nasty names.

So why are we calling someone who feels that she is meant to be blind all of these things? It’s not that much different.

Let’s talk about the psychologist that helped her become blind now. How unethical is that? As counselors, we took an oath to do what is in the best interest of our consumer/client. But there are most definitely boundaries to this and I definitely feel that this psychologist crossed those boundaries. Why isn’t there anything about him being prosecuted? Why is his name not mentioned? I get that this is probably because she supports his decision and is grateful for the psychologist helping her, but still. I believe that he should lose his license to practice. I also was confused at first why he took her to the hospital immediately after but figured this was to make sure that it didn’t cause any unwanted effects, especially because the drain cleaner was running down her face.

There have also been people in the visually impaired groups who hope that she can’t get Social Security or access to programs for the VI, or get a guide dog. I can kinda see their point but the fact is, she is now blind, for the rest of her life, and does need support and services, regardless of how she became blind. She also probably still needs some mental health treatment to work through all that has happened.

If you watched until the end of the video, you saw that Jewel did state that she would not recommend doing something like she did if you had the same disorder. Get treatment.

I found this story very interesting. It led me to have a lot of emotions, but mostly I felt the need to respond to many haters on the threads and remind them that she does have a mental illness and does need help, and will continue to need help.

Published by

Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

2 thoughts on “Intentionally Making Yourself Blind”

  1. Jessica, As usual, I enjoyed reading your perspective. I like the way you approach the difficult topic of mental illness. I had not seen this video before, although I have heard of this disorder. The details of this story are so startling.

  2. Great piece. The headlines about Jewel and her decision to blind herself were so click-bait-y I couldn’t make sense of the situation. Thanks for sharing your take on it.

    I also wonder about the psychologist involved. Even if she supports the psychologist, I would assume the professional licensing board would be accessing this doctor with or without patient support.

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