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Of Genetics and Lemons

Of Genetics and LemonsEyes brimming with tears, twisting my hair intensely, I blurted out “Daddy, was I a mistake?”

Slowly, he put the newspaper down on his lap (to stall for time, I’m sure). “No, darling. You were a, uh, delightful surprise.”

Hmmm. Even at the tender age of 6 my olfactory system was developed enough to smell a fish.

There is a 10-year age difference between my sister and me and 7 years between my brother and me. Because of that, I’m fairly confident the conversation the night of my conception did not go like this: “Ken! Send the kids to the neighbors, light the candles and hurry — I’m ovulating!”

God has a sense of humor. Out of all the ovaries in the world kickin’ it at that moment, he picked hers. Since she already had two perfectly healthy, perfectly normal kids, to have made a third would have been just plain dull. So He decided to toss a little fun into the mix. And fun I am.

I fought the good fight — roughly 22 hours’ worth — but inevitably the world, and the mom, won. I came out talking, spanked the doctor and promptly asked for a glass of chardonnay.

Our mother was a brilliant woman, a professional model, and did invaluable work advocating for handicapped children. She was also tormented by, among other issues, bipolar disorder (or manic depression, as it was commonly referred to back then).

It’s fair to say I copped a few of her genes during my transition from embryo to baby. Believe me, some of my character traits I’d rather have left in the womb, but like it or not, these lemons are mine, all mine.

While a depression does not define me, my bipolarity often does. I didn’t get a choice about having my disorder but I do own a (regifted) lemon squeezer. And as trite as it sounds, this lemons-into-lemonade thing, it helps me to take my power back and visualize just a few of my symptoms “small.”

Lemon: Agitated, interrupted sleep
Lemonade: I might pray, eat, write, eat, watch recorded episodes of The Ellen Show or eat. (OK, I’m working on the last one). Nearly all the time I will fall back to sleep, but not until 6 or 7 a.m. Sleep is so critical to me that I chose to work a job that started later.

Huge Lemon: Medication-induced weight gain
Lemonade: Purchased stock in a plus-size clothing manufacturer and, knowing I would set myself up for failure by overcommitting, I started with 3 walks a week and 2 glasses of water a day. (I’m not a big fan of the clear stuff). Any day – any time, that’s all I ask of myself.

Lemon: Shame
Lemonade: I must be authentic with those people that it is safe to do so. I’ve leapt first and worried about growing my wings later. I knew that the isolation of keeping my secret was too high a price to pay. I’ve lived much of my life in shame’s toxic shadow and I fight like a screaming banshee to shake it off. It is not easy to be open about bipolar disorder. It is not easy at all. But it gives the disease a much-needed face.

Lemon: Self-medicating
Lemonade: There’s no getting around this one. Nothing in great excess — and nothing in particular — but if I can calm myself down with some magic something, I’m gonna do it. So it’s 12 steps or I’m a dead woman walking.

Lemon: Perimenopause and bipolar??
Lemonade: I got nothin’ on this one.

Of Genetics and Lemons

Leslie Hull

Leslie Hull is a marketing director in New England, although she hopes someday to live where the donning of open-toed shoes is possible year-round. She has facilitated teen girls' groups and volunteered with numerous organizations that serve at-risk adolescents. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a couple of years ago and uses humor and writing to cope.

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APA Reference
Hull, L. (2018). Of Genetics and Lemons. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 5 Mar 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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