Azrina Rahim, founder of Shifting the Paradigm How it all began I was first diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and years later Bipolar Disorder, followed by Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I did not seek professional help early on \u2014 I was afraid of being labelled by the stigma surrounding mental illness in Malaysia. Actually, I was first diagnosed because my friends were the one who took me to the hospital after a bad episode. After I got professional help, I was extremely transparent and forthcoming with my employer. I told her I\u2019d need to go for my psychiatry and psychotherapy appointments. It wasn\u2019t an issue at first... Then she started putting a target on my back.\u00a0 \u201cIt doesn\u2019t look good on me when you don\u2019t enter the office,\u201d she\u2019d say, even though I was on top of all my responsibilities and was performing well.\u00a0 Soon, my relationship with my boss took on a toxic dynamic. All of this was detrimental to my mental health. Finally, I quit. Between my mental health or my job, I had to choose the former to look after my mental stability.\u00a0 After all, what is the point of keeping your job if your mental health worsens to the point where you can\u2019t focus on work, therefore losing your job anyway? \u201cCertain emotions, certain feelings can\u2019t quite be put into words and I found art allowed me to speak without words.\u201d - Azrina I fell into using unhealthy coping mechanisms\u00a0 Being in denial made me resort to certain detrimental habits. I hung out with a crowd who enabled them, which made recovery difficult. The effects of those habits overshadowed my symptoms; people were not aware they were actually symptoms because it just looked like I was \u2018in the zone\u2019. When you\u2019re in with the wrong crowd, they tend to enable certain behaviours because it\u2019s \u2018fun\u2019.\u00a0 In 2019, I was having a really bad year. I started hearing voices in my head, and I had episodes constantly.\u00a0\u00a0 It came to a point where I had to be hospitalised, and the doctors reshuffled my medications.\u00a0\u00a0 When I came out, I realised who really cared about me, and who didn\u2019t. I learnt from then on, that who you keep around you is very crucial to your recovery. Good friends don\u2019t make you feel bad for going through your episodes. They just show up, are understanding, compassionate, don\u2019t judge, and are just human to you.\u00a0 Through this experience, it allowed me to see who my real friends are. I could have been more transparent with my diagnosis \u201cMy paintings are split into different series that each tell its own story. They\u2019re a collection of stories brought to life by the emotions and feelings associated with my episodes.\u201d - Azrina As for family, it took years of suffering behind their back before they knew.\u00a0 My mother had a difficult time processing the news, but came to acceptance and is trying her best to do what she can to help me cope with my condition. I\u2019ve been transparent with everyone around me regarding my condition ever since. Looking back, I could've been more honest about my condition and gotten professional help earlier on instead of dealing with it my own way.\u00a0 I also would probably have made better decisions on a lot of matters.\u00a0 Being on a manic episode, a lot of the time, I tend to overestimate my own capabilities.\u00a0 Sometimes I say yes to more things than I can handle, and when I can\u2019t meet those expectations, it damages my credibility and self-confidence.\u00a0 How stereotypes become stigmas \u201cI\u2019ve been artistically inclined from a very young age but it wasn\u2019t until I was first diagnosed with DID that I realised its therapeutic effect.\u201d - Azrina Sometimes people generalise mental illnesses, like \u201cWhat real difference is there between Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder anyway?\u201d\u00a0 With every mental illness, you have to look at it case by case. For example, Borderline Personality Disorder intensifies every feeling I have, if I\u2019m happy, I\u2019m really ecstatic, if I\u2019m disappointed, it feels like my world has ended. It\u2019s extremes of emotions that I have to pull myself back. With Bipolar Disorder, I\u2019m either in a state of euphoria or dysphoria. The thing about BD is that I can be in a manic episode and then only realise I was in one when I\u2019m out of it. So every day, I have to constantly stay realistic.\u00a0\u00a0 But for someone else, they could show it completely differently. We may not get the same episodes, we may not even go through the same type of emotions.\u00a0 Maybe there\u2019s that 1% who can\u2019t control themselves and can\u2019t function at work, but the 99% can absolutely still be productive members of society with the right support. While 4 out of 10 Malaysians will deal with a mental illness, only 2 out of 10 get treated, and the other 2 don\u2019t realise they have it.\u00a0 In many social groups and households, mental illness is still a taboo. Particularly in the Baby Boomer generation, mental illness is a big taboo, yet they\u2019re the ones most in need of help. The backstory to \u201cBlessing In Disguise\u201d White grunge brick wall. Background, with space for text or image. \u201cBlessing In Disguise\u201d (2019) by Azrina Rahim I named this piece \u201cBlessing In Disguise.\u201d\u00a0 Back in 2019, I had hit a dark place: I was still not medicated, my job was getting more and more stressful, there was a trigger every single month. Financially, I couldn't balance my expenses, and to top it all off, I was broken up with. Through that dark time, I went through a phase of self love. I started losing weight, going to the gym, I started doing better at my job. Yet every single thing I was doing that was good for myself, it was done for the wrong reasons.\u00a0 I started doing better at my job not because I enjoyed it, but because I just got better at doing something I disliked.\u00a0 I went out socialising a lot more and it looked like I was making more friends, but it was all because I just didn\u2019t want to be alone.\u00a0 Everything I did was actually just masking what I didn\u2019t want to face. The truth was that no matter what I did, I was still deeply unhappy.\u00a0 When all these things came down crashing on me, even though I got all that happening was bad\u2014\u00a0 at the end of the day I came out on the other side. So now that I think about it, it was a blessing in disguise. Why I started Shifting the Paradigm\u00a0\u00a0 In comparison to a few years ago when I was first diagnosed, I\u2019m a lot more informed on mental illness and in tune with what others are going through. It spurred me on to embark on a campaign to raise awareness about mental health \u2014 Shifting the Paradigm. I only got professional help rather late in my journey which is why part of the Shifting The Paradigm campaign\u2019s message is to seek help early on. Yes, I\u2019m still very much in the midst of my journey. Dealing with my conditions are part of my everyday life.\u00a0 But the biggest issue that people with mental health conditions face is ignorance of society. If we don\u2019t speak about it, we won\u2019t have the opportunity to understand it.\u00a0 You can learn more about the Shifting The Paradigm campaign here. For more stories like this, read: Attempted Suicide: How Three Days in the Intensive Care Unit Changed My Life Forever and A Balloon Popped, And My Friend Had A PTSD Meltdown \u2014 If You Love Them, Learn the Triggers.