Chloe Jennings-White Wants to Be Crippled
Fully able to walk and ski, at 58 Chloe Jennings-White wants to live in a wheel chair for the rest of her life. Is she crazy? Does she want attention? Does she want disability payments? No. There is an entirely different reason.
She has Body Integrity Identity Disorder, or BIID, thought to be caused by a faulty right parietal lobe, where the brain maps the body. The supposition is that the lobe cannot see a certain body part and reports it missing, thus causing deep disturbance in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. She believes both of her legs do not belong to her and to make things right she dreams of becoming paralyzed from the waist down. "Something in my brain tells me my legs are not supposed to work," she says. "Having any sensation in them just feels wrong." In trying to understand how she feels, imagine yourself with a migraine headache. You can tell yourself you shouldn't feel the pain, but that doesn't ease the headache. She feels terrible anxiety and cries. Her fears are soothed when she is in a wheel chair. She knows she is irrational but the suffering she feels outweighs her reason. Her brain tells her something is wrong with her body and it inflicts daily suffering because of its faulty mapping. BIID sufferers do not accept one of their own limb or limbs and seek to amputate them or become paraplegic.
Born in London, a Cambridge-educated research scientist now living in Utah, she is not ignorant. Since the age of four Chloe knew she was different and wanted to live as a disabled person, wearing leg braces like her aunt, hurt in an accident. At nine, in North London she rode her bike off a stage, landing on her neck four feet below, trying to cripple herself. Today in the Utah mountains she skis extremely fast and aims for the most dangerous turns, always pushing the edge because she might fall and injure herself. She feels the greatest peace on the slopes. After a skiing accident, she suffered a minor back injury and searched for leg braces online. While searching she discovered a name for her mental condition, BIID, finding she was not alone. "It was a huge relief," she said. "I wasn't a freak--there were hundreds of others like me."
For years she kept her daily torments to herself but now has come out of the closet and, as part of a BIID research study, began using a wheel chair after consultations with Dr. Michael First, who recommended it to help relieve her suffering. She openly uses it despite accusations. She is a fraud. She wants attention. She has to be insane. In the past she bandaged herself secretly. Today she lives openly with her condition despite intolerance, insults, and online threats.
To ease her daily suffering, she spends most of her time in a wheelchair, though able to stand and walk. In 2010 she found a doctor overseas willing to cut her sciatic and femoral nerves, but she could not afford the $20,000 he wanted in order to render her an invalid. Of it, she said, " I know, truly and deeply, I won't regret it if I ever can" afford it. This is a strange statement indeed and we--with normal brain maps--can only begin to understand it by imagining ourselves with her brain, one that daily over-rides reason with fears, tears, and anxieties.
Her current psychiatrist, Dr Mark Malan, underscores the severity of her disturbance by saying this: "The question I often ask is, is it better to have somebody pretending to use a wheelchair, or to commit suicide?" Here is a video of her: