When I run into disabled people my first thought most of the time is wondering how they got in such a situation. In the case where it looks like it might have been as a result of an accident, I wonder what type of accident it was. What type of lives did they live prior to the accident and what has it been like being disabled?
It really is fascinating to me how a part of the body stops functioning and I've wondered how I'd cope if I had a major disability. As a kid, I'd mimic a one-handed person or blindfold my eyes to get a feel of what it was like.
One time, my mum got into an accident and had to use crutches for almost a year. When no one was watching I'd pick the crutches and try to walk around with them. As I said, I find stuff like this fascinating and I was a curious kid.
In Nigeria, people stare a lot and it can be very uncomfortable. I can only imagine how hard that can be for someone who has one form of obvious disability or another so I try not to stare. I could think about a thousand and one reasons why they're disabled but I would never make eye contact.
Several times I've heard people talk about how they don't like it when strangers make pitiful comments to them because of their disability and I totally get it. I see how that can be draining, minding your business and getting told sorry every time you step outside.
No one plans to be in such a situation and I bet if they had the opportunity to, they'd gladly reverse the disability. Well, that's not the case with Chloe Jennings-White, a research scientist from Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Transabled Paraplegic
Chloe was four years old when she visited an aunt who had been in a bike accident and used leg braces. It was at that young age she realized she wanted to be disabled.
She tells Daily Mail, 'I wanted them too'. 'I wondered why I wasn't born needing them and felt something was wrong with me because I didn't have them.'
At nine years, she intentionally fell off her bike just to disable her legs and since then, she has lived the lie of being disabled. She lives her life in a wheelchair wearing leg braces most of the time.
"Something in my brain tells me my legs are not supposed to work,' she said. 'Having any sensation in them just feels wrong."
She loves skiing and admits to skiing really fast with the hopes of having an accident. She's caused herself several accidents in a bid to injure her legs. In a real ski incident, she got a minor back injury and had a reason to use leg braces. It was during her search for the leg braces she discovered there were more people like her who wished they were disabled.
She was a part of a research study by Michael First who diagnosed her in 2008 with Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) also known as Body Integrity Dysphoria or Amputee Identity Disorder.
What Is BIID?
'Body integrity identity disorder is a disorder characterized by a desire to be disabled or having discomfort with being able-bodied beginning in early adolescence and resulting in harmful consequences'. Wikipedia.
A person suffering from this disorder feels their physical form doesn't match up with the mental image they have of their bodies. It often comes with the feeling of not using their limbs or wanting to be amputated.
It usually begins around ages 8-12 and spans till adult age. A sufferer is usually one who grew up with an older person who was disabled.
In extreme cases like Chloe's, the sufferer might want their limbs cut off and would force doctors to do it. She found a doctor willing to do the procedure of breaking her spine as she desires but lack of funds has caused the delay.
Cause of BIID
There is no clear known cause of BIID but researchers have inferred from a study that people who had BIID relating to their left leg had MRI scans that showed less gray matter in the right side of their superior parietal lobule. The missing gray matter was connected to the desire to wanting to amputate their left leg source.
A Mental Disorder?
Some experts believe BIID is a neurological disorder where the brain refuses to see a body part. In the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organisation in 2018, BIID was classed as 'Body Integrity Dysphoria'.
There is no evidence-based treatment for BIID recorded. Michael First had recommended Chloe a wheelchair after her diagnosis.
'The chair gives me psychological relief, instead of physical,' she said. 'I know it can be difficult for people without BIID to understand, but it's what we feel.' Daily Mail.
Her doctor Mark Malan says the one question he asks people is, is it better to fake using a wheelchair or committing suicide?
After hiding it for years from friends and family, Chloe is now open about her condition identifying as a transabled individual.
No Ethical Limits
This is a very interesting condition and my thoughts are, it is a mental condition. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I was really curious about being disabled and it obviously goes beyond curiosity with BIID.
I had no doubts that no doctor would agree to the procedure Chloe desires. Surprisingly, there are doctors who do it but she just can't afford it.
It seems highly unethical to cut off working limbs or break a spine and it's way too extreme. I also think it is unfair and highly disrespectful to those who are actually disabled.
The method of treatment adopted seems pretty absurd, why give them a wheelchair which enables the disorder as a form of treatment when you should be taking it away?
In a world of people being whatever they want to be, I guess there are no limits,