I went to the supermarket last night to buy bread and vegetables. When I was about to pay at the counter, I showed my persons with disability (PWD) ID so that appropriate discounts would be applied to my purchases. Here's how our conversation went:
Cashier: Kaano-ano niyo po ito? (How are you related to the owner this ID?)
Me: Ako po 'yan. (I own that ID.)
Cashier: Ha? PWD ka? (Really? You're a PWD?)
Me: Opo. (Yes.)
Cashier: Talaga? Disabled ka? (Really? You're disabled?)
Me: Sa isip po. (A psych disability.)
She then proceeded to punch all my purchases and apply the discount. As she was doing so, she told me, "Hindi ako makapaniwalang PWD ka. (I can't believe you're a PWD)." I just smiled. She didn't mean any harm, but deep inside, I was hurt.
I was hurt because why did I still have to explain what my disability is. People with crutches or in wheelchairs don't get asked if they really can't walk. People who are deaf don't get asked if they can't hear. People who are blind don't get asked if they really can't see. But because my disability is not physical, I am asked to explain myself.
The girl didn't speak in a mocking tone or what. Maybe it was her first time to be shown a PWD ID with "psychosocial disability" written on it. Maybe it was her first time to see a PWD with complete arms and legs, with all five senses intact, and who's doing grocery shopping all by herself. Had I been a bitch, I would've thrown a fit and asked that her manager be called. But I decided to just understand, to cut the cashier some slack, and just bear my pain in silence as she punched all my purchases at the counter.
It has been a day since that experience, but I still couldn't get over it. I think of the many instances when people look at me when I get permitted to ride the PWD and senior citizens area in trains. I remember how one woman snapped at me, "Miss, pumila ka! (Miss, fall in line!)" when the guard let me get ahead of everyone else at the bag inspection queue at the LRT.
Whenever I experience this, I get angry. I don't deserve to be treated that way. We mentally ill people don't deserve to be treated that way. But the pain I feel is more intense than my anger. I have a disability. It's diagnosed. I have a PWD ID with my diagnosis written on it. Is it still not enough?
This is why mental health education is important. Small steps are being made. We already have the Mental Health Law. But our society still has a long way to go. I am hoping that someday, no one else will be snapped at when he or she gets allowed into the priority lane, and no one else will be asked to explain what his or her disability is.