In February, a 20-year-old woman from South Carolina tragically clawed her own eyes out while hallucinating on meth. The story made national news and, this week, the woman is speaking out. In a story published by Cosmopolitan, Kaylee Muthart opened up about her struggle with addiction, the horrific incident that left her blind, and her path to recovery.
Muthart’s first time taking methamphetamine was an accident. She’d dropped out of high school when long work hours and a heart arrhythmia started to affect her grades, and was having a difficult couple of years. At 18, she started to drink and smoke pot recreationally. Once, though, a friend gave her pot laced with either cocaine or meth and, a devout Christian, she initially felt the drug brought her closer to God. She notes that she’d never wanted to use hard drugs, since addiction runs in her family.
It was only months later, after a breakup and job loss, that she turned to drugs like meth and ecstasy.
The drug use was largely due to loneliness and depression, and doctors would later diagnose her with bipolar disorder. She began using meth frequently, first smoking it then later snorting it and shooting up.
The connection between mental illness and drug abuse isn’t discussed often enough in the United States, even though many people struggle with both. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are 7.9 million people in the country with co-current mental and substance use disorders.
It’s no secret that resources for people struggling with drug addiction and mental illness are limited in the United States. There’s a major shortage of psychiatric facilities, even though the number of people diagnosed with mental illness continues to rise. Public funding for drug addiction can be limited in some areas as well, and private rehabilitation centers can cost a lot of money.
Muthart’s mother, Katy Tompkins, recognized the signs of addiction and sought help for her daughter. She urged her to enter rehab, but in the United States, an adult can’t be committed against their will unless they are a danger to themselves. It was only after recording their conversations that Muthart’s mother was able to get a court summons for rehabilitation, but she was too late.
In the interview with Cosmopolitan, Muthart recalled being high the morning her mother went to the courthouse. Muthart, who had taken a larger dose of meth than she’d ever used before, misinterpreted an exchange with a friend as a religious calling, and thought blinding herself would be a sacrifice. She describes pulling out her own eyes, blinding herself, though she was unable to feel the pain because of the drugs in her system.
Muthart is fortunate, however, that people were nearby and paramedics were called right away. She was taken to the hospital and given treatment.
When the story first broke, Muthart’s mother spoke to the press.
In spite of everything, Muthart is optimistic and is making plans for her future. She is learning to navigate the world without eyesight, and is still planning to get her degree in marine biology.
If you or someone close to you is struggling with drug abuse, addiction, or mental illness, please contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).