It was early May 2015 when my husband, kids, and I embarked on our annual trip to Florida to visit family. It all started as planned, but one day after the trip started, I noticed a peculiar bump inside my mouth. I felt fine but decided to go see a dentist just to play it safe. After all, I was looking forward to having a good time at the beach and I didn’t want anything to interfere with that.
I was prescribed a course of routine antibiotics and took my first dose that evening. I didn’t think about it because I had taken antibiotics many times in the past without any problems.
But, when I woke up the next morning, I felt worse than I had ever felt in my life. My skin looked gray, my lips were pale, my insides were on fire, my heart was pounding and a cold sweat poured from my pores. My husband rushed me to the ER where we were told this was a normal reaction and to keep taking the meds. However, what was happening to me was far from normal and things only got worse.
Before I go any further, let me express that I finally realized that there was a reason why all of this was happening to me..
From 2011 to 2015, I had built a successful career as an independent novelist (under another pen name). Earlier in 2015, I felt ready to start writing a clean Christian romance under a new pen name (Brooke St. James) and had published two novels to test the waters.
When I had this reaction to antibiotics, everything stopped. I came back from Florida in a stupor. As if the physical symptoms weren’t bad enough, my cognitive abilities were suddenly devastated. I couldn’t think straight, had trouble communicating, constantly felt confused, and lost track of time. For the next three months, I was bedridden and I went back and forth to the hospital.
The doctors had no answers. A family friend, also a surgeon, could only suggest Google as the best solution to solve this mystery.
In the end, that’s what my husband turned to as a last resort to help me heal. What we found was that hundreds of thousands of people had been similarly affected and it took them months to years to heal. Through trial and error, we slowly figured out what was going on and how best to help me heal.
By mid-August 2015, the pain, suffering, and brain fog was beginning to dissipate and I slowly started writing again.
However, during those months of anguish, I grew closer to God than I had ever been. I began to realize that he was refining me and preparing me for the next chapter of my life. When I came back to writing, it was exclusively as Brooke St. James. As part of my commitment to God and this new phase of my career, I unpublished all the books I had written under my previous pseudonym.
It was an act of faith. But I felt called to glorify God in the best way I know how; write feel-good love stories with happy endings.
I will admit that at first I was afraid that I had suffered so much neurological damage from this incident that I would be unable to write again.
Those first two books I wrote in the fall of 2015 helped me recover. It was almost like spring training for a professional baseball player.
I was able to find a rhythm and also use them as a vehicle to express what I had just experienced. And surprisingly enough, many of my readers have reached out over the years to say that these stories have helped them, a family member or friend through the same antibiotic reaction.
Although I was able to start writing again in August 2015, the recovery process ultimately took years.
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The reaction left me with long-term nerve damage, intermittent anxiety, and a host of other physical issues that seemed to linger forever. On top of that the symptoms may come back with more intensity in what I can only describe as a flare up.
To be perfectly honest, as I write this, I’m going through one of the worst breakouts I’ve had in quite some time. In those moments, when I wonder why this is happening to me and how long it will last, I finally draw closer to God. I return to several scriptural passages, including 2 Timothy 1:7′For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and common sense.’
I am grateful for the life I have been given and know that ultimately there is a divine purpose in these experiences.
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Brooke St. James was born to write a love story. A USA Today and Amazon Kindle All-Star bestselling author with 2 million copies sold, Brooke writes contemporary romance novels with Christian and inspirational themes and happy endings.