Jewel Shuping Claims Psychologist Blinded Her with Drain Cleaner

Published Oct. 2, 2015

NEWS:   A woman named Jewel Shuping claims a psychologist poured drain cleaner in her eyes to help her achieve her dream of blindness.

On 30 September 2015 Barcroft TV published a video to YouTube titled "I Made Myself Blind: Living With BIID" (Body integrity identity disorder), profiling a woman named Jewel Shuping and her extraordinary claim that her blindness was self-inflicted:

The clip clocked in at just under six minutes and represented the virtual sum of everything known about Shuping and her odd tale, information that was widely aggregated across online news sites.

Shuping maintained in her interview that after two weeks of treating her, a psychologist had assisted her in blinding herself with her full consent:

Ms Shuping said she was “blind-swimming” or pretending to be blind. “The idea kept coming up in my head and by the time I was 21 it was a non-stop alarm that was going off,” she told Barcroft.

In 2006, Ms Shuping said she found a psychologist willing to pour drain cleaner in her eyes to help her fulfill her wish to become blind.

Shuping said the psychologist put numbing eye drops into her eyes, and then a couple of 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,” she said. “But all I could think was ‘I am going blind, it is going to be okay.”

The woman says it took about half a year for the damage to take full effect.

“When I woke up the following day I was joyful, until I turned on to my back and opened my eyes — I was so enraged when I saw the TV screen,” she told Barcroft TV.

Several aspects of the story were cited as questionable by skeptical readers, such as the fact that all the news articles on the topic cited the Barcroft TV clip as their source, with no additional verification or discussion of whether Shuping's first-person claims were plausible (or even possible), nor any questioning of whether the time frame during which Shuping prepared for her "treatment" was one a medical professional would deem reasonable to consider, decide upon, and forge ahead with inflicting a permanently debilitating and intentional injury on a patient.

Readers also questioned Shuping's claim that the unnamed psychologist in question performed the "procedure" on a couch (not in a sterile medical environment), using only a topical numbing agent before applying drain cleaner to her eyes. Shortly thereafter, she claimed, the psychologist in question transported her to an emergency room, a juncture at which (apparently) no doctors, nurses, or other hospital staff thought to question why a patient had presented with a severe intentional injury. Shuping made no mention of any interest in her case by law enforcement or mental health professionals (despite the unambiguous physical harm she claimed to have purposely sustained), and while it would perhaps be crude to examine Shuping for the purposes of media interest, she offered no visual proof of injury to her eyes (which remained closed for the duration of her appearance on camera).

In a 17 April 2015 article about her by North Carolina station WNCN, Shuping went by a different name (Amber), gave a different account of how she was blinded (one that posited it as accidental), and said that she was initially depressed (rather than elated) at her loss of vision:

Amber Shuping, 29, lost her eyesight in a freak accident at the age of 20.

“I was pouring drain cleaner down the drain and it splashed back in my face.” Shuping said.

Depression set in following the accident but Shuping said she learned to cope with her loss.

“Once I learned that my life wasn’t over, I was OK with it,” she said.

However, the Yahoo! discussion group "wanwannabe blind 2" includes archived posts from mid-2008 in which a woman named Jewel discussed her desire to be blind and her plans to achieve that state, writing on 18 June 2008 that she intended to use drain cleaner to destroy her eye and make it appear that she had suffered an accident:

I am planning to use Alcaine to numb my eyes (this is an eye anesthetic used in surgeries and such, it is available from Canada without prescription), then will use inhibited sulfuric acid drain cleaner (the name is 'Drain Flow') to destroy my eyes to the point of mandatory removal. As my need is for total blindness, this I feel is the best way to do so. It will be made to appear as an accident, where the drain cleaner splashed into my eyes while I poured it into a clogged drain. I have talked to someone who has used this method with full success, as her eyes were removed and she is now totally blind.

Some research done by a friend indicates that using too much Alcaine will cloud the eyes and cause blindness. I am not sure how much Alcaine would be necessary for this, or how much blindness it would cause, but it may be worth looking into.

The following month, (13 July 2008) Allen C. Piening, Psy.D. (whose license has been revoked in Illinois) posted that Jewel had met with an "accident":

Jewel has asked me to post a note to all of you so that you can know why you have not heard from her. On June 28 she had an accident which resulted in severe damage to both of her eyes. As a result she was admitted to the hospital and had her eyes washed out for several hours. She remained hospitalized until July 4. Upon her release from the hospital, she was only able to see light and some colors. She is no longer able to read print and has learned and is literate in braille. She can see light and color but cannot distinguish images. She is now independent in cane travel and can use public transportation as well as any blind person can. However, at this time she is experiencing terrible debilitating eyepain that is expanding into horrible headaches. At this point she is anticipating an eye surgeon's appointment tomorrow and will be requesting bilateral enucleations to relieve the pain her sightless eyes are now giving her. She is not able to post this herself because her computer has not been adapted for her use. She appreciates all of the support that you have for her and wishes to thank the group for the support that enabled her to make her dreams real. She says that her only problem is to get rid of the pain which is sapping her stamina. Otherwise she reports that she is very happy with the outcome. Please do not send her e mails until her computer can be adapted so she can use it again. You will all be advised of when that happens.

Jewel then posted again a few weeks later (25 July 2008) to say that she was not fully blinded by her "accident" but would "just pretend that my vision is deteriorating" and "will find ways to make that deterioration true":

Greetings to the group from Jewel. As Allen wrote, I have injury to both eyes due to an 'accident.' I am currently working closely with an eye specialist who is helping me recover, but unfortunately will not approve the removal of my eyes, despite the severe injury to them. Severe alkaline burns to both eyes have left them with cataracts, corneal and congentivial (sp?) defects (that's the clear 'window' over the eye and the white part of the eye), and glaucoma (the pressure is not great currently, with neither eyes' pressure going higher than 25, though 2 weeks ago, my left eye went up to 39 [normal pressure in the eye is 20].

Unfortunately, the damage to my eyes was not great enough for the doctors to approve removal of my eyes. Because of this, I have up to now been suffering severe pain from the burns. I am now on pain medicine that controls the headaches, but am still having a lot of burning sensations in the eyes. My doctor says my burns are healing well, and it does a bit better, but unfortunately (in my mind), my sight has recovered a bit, despite my attempts to stop such by not using the medication that is supposed to help my sight, just the medication to heal the burns. But I am happy with where I am now, and with the glaucoma may lose more sight over time. My doctor says my vision could currently be possibly correctable to 20/400, if not for the cataracts. He wants to do surgery to remove the cataracts, but cannot do anything until the burns are healed, so that gives me time to get used to the vision loss, and then tell him that I don't want the surgery because I am happy with who I am, and am tired of all of the medical treatments. In this way, I will keep the low vision that I have.

My husband, who is back on leave from Baghdad (military deployment) fiddled with the controls for my computer, changed it to high contrast, extra large icons, and fiddled with the font size and such to allow me magnify what I see on the screen so I can read it. This puts a lot of strain on my limited vision, but allows me to use the computer, which is a big plus for me, because now I can communicate with all of you. Please be patient with me, though, because it is a log process to read and reply to messages. The work that he did on my computer will be sufficient to allow me to use my computer for now, and hopefully I will be getting a working sound card for my computer and will get Windows Jaws so I do not have to use what vision I have and I can start preparing myself for further vision loss (whether it come from deterioration due to the defects caused by the injuries, or from further 'accidents' planned by myself).

I am much further along on my path to blindness than before this injury, however I am not satisfied quite yet, because I am still sighted. I still blindsim by keeping my room dark, so that I do not see anything, only light and dark, and am enjoying being able to 'play' blind with my family, and keeping my eyes closed...they do not know that I can see better than they think, and over time I will just pretend that my vision is deteriorating, and will find ways to make that deterioration true.

My husband is taking my vision loss well, and to tell the truth, our relationship seems better for it. He enjoys being my eyes when we go out, and likes to watch TV with me and narrates when a movie goes quiet so that I know what is going on. It is very sweet, and I am happy with the way it is going. Everyone but me is hopeful that my eyesight will recover fully, but they seem to accept that it may not, and I am sure they will be okay with my vision loss as it progresses as long as they know that I am still in good spirits, which I am.

Well, I've typed enough for now (typing is so easy for me, since I learned to type without looking at the keyboard since a young age), and I hope that you all enjoy reading my update, and I will try to keep up with messages the best I can, and will answer any questions you might have to the best of my ability. I thank the group for your support and want all to know that I truly am glad I found this group.

Jewel said in response to this article that:

Believe it or not, it is all true! The reason my eyes stayed closed is because my eyelids were damaged and do not open properly unless I hold them open with my fingers. If I were to show my eyes, you would see that the left one is a Carolina blue prosthetic and the other has a very white cataract and a webbing of scars.

I spent only two weeks with the psychologist at his home, but spent almost a full year in talk therapy and other treatments from the psychologist, and tried many treatments from meditation to yoga to guided hypnosis. I have done CBT and other therapies as well, and continue to do talk therapy for my mental health.

Jewel Shuping referred us to Barcroft TV to obtain more information about verifying her story. Barcroft TV provided non-responsive answers to our inquiries asking for more details to help validate their report. Like many vague but viral stories of its type Shuping's claim was lifted and re-written by scraper sites, many of which adapted the tale to then-current events by describing her as "transblind" or "trans blind."

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.