64 chapter 3: Mental health
When Neelima was an adolescent, she tried to commit suicide by drinking
acid. The acid completely burned out her gut and stomach. The skilled
Indian doctors who saved her life told her she had a choice: after her
operation she would either be able
to speak or to swallow small portions
of food, but she could not do both.
Neelima chose to be able to swallow.
Neelima remained mentally strong
after her voice box was removed and
she could no longer speak. In spite of
this handicap, Neelima finished her
school exams and took up a career in
Always a good cook, Neelima made
a name for herself by preparing food
at home and selling it.
Learning to value yourself is not always easy, but it can be done by taking
The first step is to meet other people. If you are not used to going out, you might try
sitting at the door of your home and greeting your neighbors. Then, if you are able,
go to the market and talk with people there. As they get to know you, they will find
out that women with and without disabilities are not really very different from each
other. Each time you go out it will become easier to meet and talk with others.
Sometimes a woman’s disability makes
it hard for her to talk with others. Women
who are deaf or women who cannot speak
clearly can try using gestures or pictures to
communicate. A deaf woman could also teach
some sign language to her neighbors. Start
by picking out 2 or 3 people you want to talk
with. Try to find people who are patient and
willing to work with you. Together, you can
find ways to communicate about more and
more things. Then, over time, you can work on
reaching out to more people.
May I have
The potatoes are
so nice this week
that you should
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007