Three months after she permanently blinded herself while under a meth-induced psychosis, Kaylee Muthart is home and adapting to life without sight.
On the morning of February 6 — just days before she was set to enter a drug rehabilitation facility at the urging of her mother — Muthart says she unknowingly took a hit of laced methamphetamine.
The resulting intense hallucination led Muthart to gouge out her own eyes, using only her hands, while outside of a church in Anderson, South Carolina.
After undergoing emergency surgery to clean her empty orbital sockets, Muthart spent weeks in recovery at Greenville Memorial Hospital before completing a stay at a psychiatric facility. She was then cleared to return home to her mother at the beginning of March and has kept clean of illicit drugs ever since.
Now, reflecting on the ordeal, Muthart, 20, tells PEOPLE, “I actually feel like a person. I feel like myself, and I don’t feel like I’m chasing something.”
“It, actually, feels really nice. The way it worked out is the way God had it work out, that’s just the way it is… but I’d rather for it to have happened than to still be stuck in that world.”
Muthart has since participated in mobility and orientation training that has helped her recapture a small part of the independence she once had.
Though she does her best to keep her mind focused on the improvements she’s made, Muthart admits feeling moments of considerable sadness and frustration when the weight of her new reality sinks in.
“I’m a very optimistic person, and I went in with an optimistic outlook — but at some points, you’re going to fall down,” she says, before adding that it’s her faith has helped throughout much of her healing. “That’s just life.”
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Muthart has spent much of the last few weeks listening to Netflix by using its audio description option – which provides additional narration that explains what’s happening onscreen for the visually impaired. She’s also spent time practicing instruments like the guitar and piano, and has learned to play Coldplay songs like “Clocks” and “The Scientist.”
Still, on most days, she finds herself sleeping in until the late afternoon.
“My dreams are colorful, and it’s like being able to see again,” she says. “They can be strange, and switch scenes really quickly. But it’s comforting because it’s colorful. I like sleeping a lot because it’s like I can see.”
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Since that fateful day in February, Muthart’s shocking story has made headlines across the world. Muthart says she’s been approached in public by many who have expressed sympathy and shared stories of their own battle with drug addiction.
“People that are actually on drugs will understand that drugs are capable of doing the things that they did to me,” she says. “Sharing my story might make them realize that, or it might encourage them to stop.”
In the coming weeks, Muthart will join a three-week rehabilitation course with the South Carolina Commision of the Blind that will help her refine her current orientation and mobility skills. Then, on July 3, she will undergo the first of two surgeries to her orbital cavities that will prepare her to eventually receive prosthetic eyes.
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Because Muthart was recently denied Supplemental Security Income, the family hopes to use a GoFundMe page to help with finances until her Social Security benefits start in September.
Once things level out, Muthart says, she is aiming to restart her path toward college to concentrate on the field of marine biology.
“There’s definitely something inside of me that wants to say, ‘Well, what else can I do now that I’m blind?’ ” she says. “But something just cries out deep inside of me, ‘Go for your goal. Do what you’ve always wanted to do. Show everybody that you can do it.’ ”
Muthart says despite it all, she’s really been able to rediscover herself again.
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“You can’t walk through life thinking that there’s never going to be any pain. That life is just one big battleground,” she explains. “You have to fight for yourself, nobody else is going to fight for you, the way you would fight for yourself. That’s why you should never give up on who you are.”