Me, myself and god: Jane's recovery from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)
Myalgic encephalomyelitis left Jane Donald a physical and emotional wreck, says Joy Orpen, but some alternative therapies not only cured her of all symptoms, they led her to a whole new life, including a dramatic change of career
Once upon a time, business graduate Jane Donald was so ill she spent four days on the floor, unable to get up. Yet today, she is full of vigour and is now an alternative healer, author and photographer.
Jane's recovery from myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) did not happen overnight; it required huge physical and emotional commitment, and a very open mind. Fortunately Jane, from Carlow, had all of the above in bucketloads.
Her ordeal began in 1999 when she severely injured her hamstring while waterskiing. Six months later, she collapsed. "I developed flu-like symptoms with a sick stomach," says Jane.
Her GP sent her to a gastroenterologist who sceptically diagnosed post-viral fatigue syndrome. She was referred to a doctor in Dublin. He put her on steroids long-term. This was a controversial move, as steroids are usually only given short-term. But Jane says they were a godsend, given her symptoms.
"Without them, I couldn't have got out of bed. ME for me was like a cross between flu, food poisoning and a severe hangover, all day, every day for 10 years," she explains. "It was made worse by any attempt to perform even basic things like standing, walking and feeding myself. My physical body was totally overwhelmed by toxic overload and a constantly switched-on immune system, resulting in emotional and mental exhaustion."
At one point, Jane was taking 60 various pills a day. Now she doesn't even take supplements, and she looks terrific.
The story of her journey back to health began when her identical twin, Lyn, suggested she try reiki.
"I had never heard of it and was sceptical," says Jane. Nonetheless, she found this alternative Japanese therapy -- sometimes described as healing through energy -- so helpful that she began to study the process. "I found the meditation involved helped with my sleep disturbances and calmed down those tired-but-wired feelings so common in ME sufferers," she says.
However, reiki could not solve all her problems. So she bravely struggled on. Five years into the illness, she collapsed on her bathroom floor and remained there for four days, unable to reach her phone.
"I was used to collapsing when I had pushed myself too hard. But it was usually in a chair or on a bed and then I would meditate and rest until I was able to get up again. So, no, I wasn't terrified," she says of her experience.
However, she did feel so desperate that she cried out in frustration, "Jesus Christ give me a break -- please." And, according to Jane, He did. She had an out-of-body experience, which was coupled with a euphoric sense that she was much more than just a physical entity. This was followed by a sense of total calm.
The episode forced her to look at her life, and she realised she was in the grip of an impossible dilemma. She says she had to ask herself, "Is it better to stop work in order to rest but have no money, or should one struggle on working and be able to afford treatments, but not get enough rest for them to be fully effective?"
Because Jane's employers at a gardening magazine were so supportive, she was able to choose to continue working, often from home, and to invest all her finances in getting better.
In spite of being told that ME was often incurable, Jane thought differently. So, she began to focus on the actual goal of being well and soon found that the people and the interventions she needed would show up without effort.
Over the years, Jane has done a number of courses and has had various holistic treatments. These treatments, she believes, have not only relieved most of her symptoms, they have also helped her connect with her "higher intelligence", removed excessive amounts of mercury from her body, cured three distinct viruses, and also assisted her in learning to heal others.
Jane now has her own hypothesis about the possible causes of ME. "In my case, it started with a back problem following the hamstring injury. The spine is the main route for messages from the brain to the rest of the body. When that 'highway' is blocked, it can cause a build-up of toxins in the lymphatic system and this leads to endocrine dysfunction resulting in that tired-but-wired feeling; it can also cause difficulties with digestion," she explains.
"When I first went to the doctor it was for digestive issues, but we didn't realise it was linked to the back problem.
"That's the way it is with modern medicine. Everyone is dealing with a specific problem, but there is no joined-up thinking," she says.
Jane used another alternative therapy called the Perrin Technique to resolve her back issues, and that, combined with all the other therapies, has resulted in a full recovery.
She now practises as a reiki and integrated energy therapy (IET) master, and as a total body modification (TBM) practitioner.
But these are all just labels. Jane is much more than that. She has discovered she is a healer by nature and to this end she has a thriving practice, in Dublin, Carlow and Naas.
Her clients come to her for all sorts of reasons, from ME to personal problems and from health difficulties to relationship difficulties.
"I treat a lot of therapists and I also give people insights into behaviours that keep cropping up for them, keeping them stuck," Jane says.
She is also busy promoting her delightful book, Sacred Messages from Sacred Ireland. It follows the discovery that she could 'channel' wisdom from this lovely land of ours.
So, Jane would drive to a particular place on a hunch and, sitting quietly, invite the tree, the mountain, the old building, or the river to have its voice heard. "Each message was received by feeling the energy and being in the vibration," she explains.
Later she took photographs, and jotted down messages from the specific element in nature. A lovely, inspiring, coffee-table book is the result of that process.
The very first message is, in fact, from the ultimate example of perfect nature: her son Samuel Jacob, who was born 18 months ago. It says, "Love one another, love yourself, love every bit of yourself, your body, thoughts, emotions. Let yourself be love, let love be you, now and always. This is the lesson. Thank you God."
'Sacred Messages from Sacred Ireland' by Jane Donald is available from www.kennys.ie and Easons, €25.