A Wiltshire woman says she is “immensely proud” to be working again after a long struggle with a chronic and debilitating illness.

Saskia James, from Chippenham, wants to share her inspirational story ahead of national ME Awareness Week next week (May 9 -15).

The 28-year-old suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis, otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome, a long-term debilitating condition that can cause extreme exhaustion, sensory overload and headaches.

Saskia’s symptoms were so severe she had to give up work and move back in with her parents. She feared she might never recover.

However, thanks to the support of a new employer Good Energy, she now enjoys a brighter future and says the illness even changed her life in some positive ways.

Saskia said: “I started having seizures when I was 14 and had hundreds more, through all my exams and lots of special occasions, including birthdays, my graduation, in restaurants and church services.

“I never let it define me, slow me down or dictate what I could or couldn’t do, but in hindsight that was probably a mistake.

“It started to take longer and longer for me to recover from each seizure until, at the age of 25, I stopped recovering completely.”

Saskia was diagnosed with ME/CFS and had to give up a promising graduate scheme working in social policy with a national energy provider.

She returned to Chippenham to live with her parents, but her health continued to worsen – some days she could only lie in bed, blindfolded, every noise or movement a “small torture.”

Saskia’s recovery was a long, slow process. She started by helping her parents with cooking and cleaning and then began volunteering for the Barnardo’s charity just a few hours each week.

She still sought a career in the energy sector and saw a vacancy with national renewable energy supplier Good Energy, based in Chippenham.

She started in 2020 in customer service, working from home for just a few hours a day, but is now a facilities and communications assistant working from the company’s Monkton Park office

Saskia said: “I’m immensely proud to be working again, and hugely grateful to Good Energy for believing in me.

“They knew I would only be able to work part-time and would probably need more time off than others, but I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive company.

“They genuinely care about my wellbeing and were very patient as I steadily increased my hours, and they provide lots of flexibility in how I manage my day.”

Saskia is also a Good Energy ‘inclusion champion’ helping to promote equality, diversity and inclusion across the business, and wrote an intranet article to raise awareness of working with a chronic illness which included a useful guide to increase colleagues’ understanding of her condition.

Last year she received the company’s Inclusive Award in recognition of her efforts.

Miss James added: “Recovery has been slow, but my worst days now are a hundred times better than my best days then.

“My illness has changed me, but in some ways it’s been positive. I’m more grateful for the small, simple things, more empathetic with those who don’t find life easy, and more careful with my time and energy.

“There were times I thought I might never get better - and there’s still a long way to go - but I’m pleased to be working again and looking to the future.”