A week ago, I finally got my persons with disabilities (PWD) card. Since then, I have been able to enjoy the "perks" that come with it. I now get discounts whenever I buy my medicines and movie tickets and eat in restaurants. I can be entertained at the PWD and senior citizens counter. I can ride at the front coach reserved for senior citizens, pregnant women, PWDs, and passengers with children at the MRT an LRT. I can even use the pay lounge in malls for free.
All these things that I am now able to enjoy make me happy. But these aren't the only reasons why I am thankful that I now have my PWD card. For me, being issued a PWD card means that society recognizes my illness as a legitimate one. That I am not making it up. That it is not all in my head.
Last week, whenever I would take the train to go see my fiance PM, I would be hesitant to go to the front coach. I was afraid that the guard might not let me go there because I am physically fine. I was afraid that people would stare at me and whisper that I should be with the regular passengers.
But none of these happened. When I showed my PWD card to the guard, she let me in, ahead of dozens of people queued up at the station. When I approached the front coach, I showed my PWD card again to the guard, and he let me in. Nobody whispered that I shouldn't be there. All the senior citizens, pregnant women, and passengers with children just went on with their business.
Issuing PWD cards to people with mental illness is a step toward fighting the stigma about mental illness and mental health. It is recognizing that people like us have needs that are different from the rest of the population. And most importantly, the PWD card that we carry with us at all times is a symbol that society accepts us and our condition. That we are given the understanding and the concern that we need. It is like society telling us, "Hey! We know what you're going through. Everything is okay. Don't hide from us." And this, for us, counts as a major win.