"I come from Mauchline and was born in Kilmarnock, one of the last babies before the maternity home was shut down. I lived in Mauchline all my life.

We’re quite a well-known family because my dad is the local postman, my mum worked in the library and my sister worked in the local community centre/games hall.

My dad started up a wee local leaflet that turned into booklet of up-to-date Mauchline news and my grandpa helped fund the Scout Hut building here so we are well-known in Mauchline.

I was a chef for 23 years but decided to change career so I went back to uni to be a dietician. I always wanted to work in mental health but it’s not an area you can get into in Scotland as a Band 5 so I went to England for experience.

Irvine Times:

I went to Newcastle for my first interview because I took a couple of years out to look after my sister because she had terminal cancer. I got the job and moved to Newcastle which was five years ago.

Being able to work in a place where you don’t know anyone is amazing because I used to work in Crosshouse as a MacMillan oncology assistant for dietetics so I knew everyone and everyone knew me so it was nice to be able to not know anyone and treat different people. I progressed quite quickly in Newcastle. Around two years in I made Band 6 so I progressed quickly through my career then two years ago I fell unwell after returning from holiday and my life turned upside down.

I had to take time off to go through loads and loads of investigations. I literally only found out what was wrong with me before I moved back home. Now it’s weird because I’ve got to get back into systems here but due to GPs being closed down, it’s not been easy. I’ve went from shielding in the house to being able to get out to being unable to see the GP so everything is still really on hold.

I didn’t think there was much difference between Scotland and England but England is totally different. Even the healthcare system is different like having to pay for medications, having to go onto the waiting list although the waiting list is a lot quicker in England so I was seen quickly by specialists whereas at home I’d still be waiting to see them.

The fact of having integrated systems as well – in Newcastle they have a specialist area of ME where you can see an OTE, a psychology and doctor under the same umbrella, whereas up here it’s all disbanded so you have to see everyone individually. There’s no such thing as an ME clinic in Scotland so it’s a bit harder but on the other hand I’m back home, I’ve got family and friends around me so it’s definitely making it easier because last year my mum came down to live with me for the year cause I was so unwell and couldn’t live myself so it meant a year out of her life. Being back home means she can see her friends and catch up with people she hasn’t for a while.

It’s a different way of life. I’m making adjustments and I think it took a while for me to realise when I was ill that I probably wouldn’t get back to work. I just live day by day and see what comes up. Obviously in the future I want to do stuff but with the whole pain side of things, the brain fog, it’s hard to concentrate so I need to find something hopefully in future when I’ve got it all under control which will help me and help other people.

There’s a new study coming out about ME and they’re looking for people to sign up so hopefully I get included in that study. Even if doesn’t help me, hopefully it helps people coming behind me because I realised a lot of people have fatigue and ME type symptoms with Covid so it’s all going to be linked. A lot people of people have this problem. Before, you had to get on with it whereas a lot of people are now investing money to come up with ideas to help people. Hopefully it doesn’t take us long to get diagnosed either because I know people who’ve not been diagnosed ‘til 30 years later.

Irvine Times:

I’m still so passionate about dietetics. If I read something online that’s not up-to-date, before I would’ve been more professional but now I give my side of things. My friends and family still ask me for my opinion. I’ve had a few people contacting me to do with stuff like that so that keeps my hand in because I’m still registered so I hope I get back to it. I’ve always done stuff for others rather than for myself. This whole situation has made me realise I don’t think of things when I do them, I just do them. I realise how much pleasure it gave me doing things for others.

I think it is nice being back in community as well because I have new neighbours and old neighbours who’ve known me for years. It’s nice being surrounded by them and they’ve been helpful doing odd jobs for me. Here is where I need to be. It was always my intention getting experience down there then coming back to work in mental health here. That’s not to say it won’t happen but even if I take a different route, it’s fine.

I’ve pushed through dark times and I’m still here."