Oxbridge Academy student Michaela Smith has battled years of mental illness. Her depression and anxiety were so severe that she was unable to leave her house; she couldn’t sleep and she even tried to take her own life. But she has overcome it all.

Michaela is our next winner of the 2019 Oxbridge Academy Medal for Succeeding Against the Odds. She first started studying with Oxbridge Academy in 2014, a few months after finishing Matric.

“I love being outdoors. I love travelling and seeing new places, so I chose to study tourism. I knew that I wanted to be a tour guide, or work on a cruise ship or plane,” says Michaela.

Her first year of studies went well, and she received her N4 National Certificate in Tourism without any trouble. But in 2015, the depression she had suffered from throughout her teens began to get worse.

“Starting with N5, I had trouble adapting to life. I could barely could keep up and kept failing. A few months later in March 2016 I gave up and stopped studying. I lost 20 kilograms and weighed only 35 kilograms. I was suicidal and tried to take my life three times,” Michaela says.

In November of that year, her world came crashing down.

“I had severe anxiety. I couldn’t be alone because I would have panic attacks. I couldn’t drive and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t leave the house for an entire year and ended up in numerous doctor’s offices. The doctors told me I shouldn’t study because it would just make things worse for me. My life had just been taken away from me by this illness.”

Michaela was hospitalised for two weeks at a mental health centre.

“It was then that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1, as well as anxiety disorder. Throughout the course of 2018 I was on six different medications. But I began to learn how to live with my illness.”

Michaela decided to continue with her N5 Tourism certificate.

“I decided to give my studies one more try and I passed! I did what doctors said I couldn’t do – I embraced life again with my illness.”

Michaela is now busy with her N6 certificate, and well on her way to passing.

“I have received only A’s and B’s for my N6. Although due to my anxiety I cannot fly or be on a boat, now I’m studying to become a travel agent!”

Michaela, we admire you for never giving up, despite the difficult circumstances you faced. With your continued determination and passion, we are sure that you are on your way to success! Oxbridge Academy looks forward to seeing what you achieve in the future.

On Thursday, we share the story of a domestic worker who is aiming to reach much greater heights with the help of Oxbridge Academy.   

If you are interested in finding out more about looking after your mental health, please feel free to read ARE YOU TAKING CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?. If you or somebody that you care about, is struggling with mental health concerns, please reach out to someone so that you can be helped.