What can I do when I get diagnosed with leprosy (Tamil)
When diagnosed with leprosy you may experience feelings of shame, fear or despair. There might be a fear of the disease, of impairments of the body or the treatment. There may also be fear about the family, about having infected them or being rejected or excluded from social life.
Especially as a girl or woman you may feel fear. Women often do not have the same access to education like men. You may feel dependent and fear that the disease will lower your social worth and you will be abandoned from the family or that you will have less opportunity to get a job or will be affected by poverty.
All these feelings are very understandable. But today, leprosy is curable with a multi-drug-therapy. It can be treated at home, and a few days after starting the treatment you can’t transmit it to others.
There is no reason to be rejected, to be excluded or to be refused from participating socially in the family or community, in religious festivals or other activities. There is no reason for a divorce. You can regularly continue schooling or working, and you can continue to stay with a peaceful mental state with your family in the community. This refers to not only the disease leprosy, but also any disabilities you may have gotten as a consequence of leprosy.
But it is important that you don’t hide your diagnosis. It may be very helpful to inform your family about the therapy and that there is no danger of a transmission. It is important that you get the full treatment as this will help you to avoid many further impairments of the body. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please inform the health worker before starting the treatment, as it may be necessary to adapt the medicines in order to protect your baby! But usually, you can and should take the treatment as it is safe for both, mother and child.
Also, it is important to take good care of your body, and injuries to protect your body from further damage. You can ask a health worker for information. There might be a self-care group, where you can find support.
At the same time, it is for sure that you will have to handle a lot of issues, and may still have to face discrimination, social rejection or social exclusion leading to mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. If you are suffering from this, don’t be afraid. It is not true that this means that you are crazy.
Many people in this situation feel the same and you can get support. There might be self-help groups, where you can talk about your feelings and get support from other people in the same situation. Here you can learn about your rights, and how to make use of them. You can learn how to make your own decisions and take control of your life. There may also be other options, like individual support. Please talk to a health worker and ask for psychosocial support.