There’s no denying that wheelchairs have made a huge difference in the lives of the men and women who don’t have the use of their legs, but that doesn’t mean being disabled is easy by any stretch of the imagination. Every day can be a struggle, and complications arise in many situations that require patience and ingenuity. Not everyone in a wheelchair will experience this, though, and you may be surprised to find out why.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, 61-year-old Chloe Jennings lives every day with a rather strange compulsion—to live her life in a wheelchair. And when she isn’t skiing through fresh powder on Rocky Mountain slopes, she does just that.
Why does she do it? The answer to that, actually, is quite fascinating…
Like many people who use a wheelchair, Chloe Jennings-White has a tough time navigating the walking world. At least, that would be the case if there weren’t one little caveat to her condition. You won’t believe when you find out what it is…
When Chloe was nine years years old, she drove her bike off of a wooden deck she’d built at a nearby park. It wasn’t an accident, either. She was, unbeknownst to her, feeding a psychological need that had taken root in the back of her brain: she was hoping to break her back and end up in a wheelchair.
Fifty-two years later, Chloe remains able-bodied. When she’s faced with a flight of stairs, she simply stands up and walks down them. If a hill is too steep, she does the same—but, internally, knowing that she can do that at all still drives her crazy.
“I have fantasies about having a car wreck and becoming paraplegic,” Chloe said in an interview. In fact, she’s so desperate to be handicapped that she found a surgeon willing to perform a surgery that would make that a reality. The only thing stopping her from going for it is the steep price tag.
Chloe didn’t know why she felt such an urge to rid her legs of their functionality, and she only felt relief from her constant need to damage herself when she started using a wheelchair in 2008. Around the same time, doctors diagnosed her with body integrity identity disorder (BIID), a psychological disorder wherein patients believe they’d be happier as a paraplegic or amputee.
Yet despite believing she belongs in a wheelchair, Chloe still participates in the extreme sport of downhill skiing, which she says “carries a lot of benefits… in terms of BIID.” Still, her friends and family worry about her when she’s on the mountain. “They know it’s in the back of my mind that I want to get injured,” she says.
To help her deal with BIID-related anxiety, Chloe sees Dr. Martin Mallen regularly. She explains to him the biggest struggle of her condition is educating those who believe she only acts out for attention or disability checks.
But Chloe’s condition doesn’t just put her extremities in danger; it can put others in harm’s way as well. In 2009 for instance, Chloe survived a car wreck at 75 miles per hour, but quite a few questions surrounded the event. “I could not say for sure, at that time, that I had not done it deliberately,” she says. What if someone in the other car had been injured?
Chloe doesn’t just ski to get her extreme sports fix. In fact, even at 61 years old, she enjoys taking to long stretches of road or winding mountain switchbacks for a hike. Just like with her skiing, this makes her friends and family very nervous.
Chloe’s hiking friend David Allen is just one of the many who worry for her safety. “She could die doing some of the stuff she’s done in the past,” David says. That’s no understatement—crashing bikes and cars, hiking mountain passes and jamming down slopes is enough to put anyone in danger, let alone someone trying to get hurt.
With all the friends and family worried about her, Chloe still hopes to raise the $25,000 necessary for the paralyzing surgery. “When I have that surgery, I just know, it will be the happiest day of my life,” she says.
If you want to see more on Chloe’s story, check out the video below. It’s such a strange sight to see her get out of bed and into her chair without using her legs—but it makes her happy. Wait until you see her routine…
Of course, Chloe isn’t the only person out there affected by BIID; however, for others, the psychological condition manifests differently. If you want to learn more about the condition, check out the BIID website.
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