After being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) type 3 and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome (POTS) there were times when I was completely bed-bound. Sometimes I couldn’t even sit up and my partner would literally carry me to the toilet.

Not being able to look after yourself when you’re an independent person is the worst thing. Although there’s no real treatment for either condition, I’ve begun to get better through consuming the right diet, supplements and regular exercise.

I’ve always been active and I’ve always loved photography so when I was well enough, I’d get out of my room and take long but slow walks, taking pictures of anything that caught my sight on the way. After a couple of months, I decided I wanted to reconnect with people and give myself more of a routine.

I booked an appointment with my Occupational Therapist who pointed me in the direction of Volunteer Edinburgh. At that appointment, I was so excited to hear about the opportunity to get involved with the festivals. I’ve performed in the festivals and grown up going to them – being an Edinburgh City girl, it’s what you do!

I was told that I’d be a good fit because I know the festivals, so I sent in my application. The process was very easy.

Edinburgh Festival City Volunteer Emily Bruce (left)


Volunteering has been amazing so far. When I did my trial shift at the Jazz and Blues Festival, I had a smile on my face the entire time. Of course I was tired and fatigued, but I felt joy the whole time. I didn’t feel stressed about it.

Afterwards, and even though my body was exhausted, I sat awake for hours thinking about how it was so fun. I’ve met a lot of amazing people and I’ve been able to connect with a lot of interesting acquaintances.

Also, just being out and about in the Festival and moving is amazing. I had avoided Edinburgh for a while and now I don’t feel like I have to. Even when I was walking down with the people in the parade, I didn’t feel the slightest bit anxious – volunteering has taken a lot of that away.

I’ve also enjoyed learning new things. Having grown up in Edinburgh, I’ve gotten so used to walking past things and not caring about the history. But now, I’m taking notice and finding the history and architecture of everything I pass to be fascinating.

Learning is important for everyone no matter what age or background you’re from. Find something you’re passionate about, find something you enjoy and grip your claws into it. Your brain is a muscle and needs to be stimulated.

Edinburgh Festival City Volunteers get ready for action

Festival City Volunteers 2018 launch event - credit Peter Dibdin (31)

I love being able to give back. Throughout my journey, I wouldn’t have got the help I needed if someone hadn’t given something to me. Answering questions in the street and being a friendly face for visitors when they arrive brings me a lot of joy and helps me to give back to the city that I love.

If I was giving advice to anyone considering volunteering with FCV, I’d tell them, just do it. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

Giving back makes you feel amazing. For people in my situation, remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Find positivity in the worst situations because if you can be positive in a really bad time, you can get through it.

Surround yourself with happy people – whether that’s in the volunteering work you do or the friends you’ve got.

Further information

Click here for the Edinburgh Festival City website.