|Chloe (see image below)|
What alerted me to their existence last week was the "Envy" segment of Morgan Spurlock's documentary series, Seven Deadly Sins. One of those profiled was a man who craves disability so badly that he spends many hours in a wheelchair for the fun of it!
The show reminded me of a documentary I watched a few years ago about people consumed with the desire for limb amputation. Some of those who fail to locate an MD willing to oblige them (naturally, that's most) resort to DIY amputations.
And lo and behold, a simple Google taught me that the subjects of both documentaries are actually categorized together as sufferers of the same condition which has acquired not one but three official names: Body Integrity Identity Disorder or BIID; "Amputee Identity Disorder" or "Transability".
Dr. Michael First, the research psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York who coined the name BIID, said he estimates that there are thousands of people in the United States suffering quietly with it. Of his two current patients in New York City, one uses a wheelchair full-time and the other uses it at home in secret. Neither physically lacks the use of their legs.
First has studied 52 subjects who yearn to be amputees and 53 who want other disabilities including spinal injuries, blindness and deafness.
"The phenomenon starts in childhood in almost all cases," he said. "They go through life feeling chronically uncomfortable, miserable. The way that they should be is not the way that they actually are."
I realize that in this age of acceptance and inclusion - about which I'm generally passionate - these suffering folks shouldn't be criticized. My heart should overflow with compassion and understanding for them. I should share their joy when they finally sit in a wheelchair or don braces for the first time.
Here's one woman's memory of her first moments in a wheelchair:
"I was filled with this unbelievable joy. A feeling of completeness, of rightness, of relief. I felt, rather than heard, a door slamming behind me, the lock turning, no going back now... I couldn't stop smiling. In fact I had a huge, idiot grin on my face."
|The same Chloe, hiking in May this year. She wears leg braces and uses a wheelchair, even though her legs are healthy. The Cambridge graduate believes both of her legs do not belong to her and dreams of being paralysed from the waist down.|
And I'm not alone. Many people with disabilities, along with transgenders (since the BIID'ers align themselves with them), are incensed.
Some researchers, however, believe that these people are not mentally ill but neurologically impaired. A 2005 study of two men who desired leg amputations found that they actually showed abnormal brain scans when researchers pricked their skin below the imaginary line of desired amputation. Researchers at the University of California in San Diego concluded that it could be a problem with the right parietal lobe which is responsible for mapping the body.