My Lemon Tree

Oct. 18, 2015

They said, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

But, nobody ever told me what to do when life gives you a lemon tree. One that keeps sprouting new lemons over and over again. Season after season.

Over the last few years, I've gotten pretty good at making lemonade, tweaking the recipe for just the right combination of tangy and sweet, hoping to squelch the bitterness completely.

I stirred together my first pitcher of lemonade in December 2012, when I began writing this blog.

Desperate for a way to unload the pain of mothering a son who rejected my mothering, I yearned to reach him but he had spiraled so deeply into his own mental illness, he wanted nothing to do with me.

I'd been discarded with the lemon rinds and the seeds.

I made pitcher after pitcher of lemonade throughout the next couple of years, sharing more about our story, responding to readers with similar stories, and realizing that what I was talking about might actually be helping people.

But one thing bothered me with all the batches of lemonade I'd mixed together. No matter how hard I stirred, it was still so thick, so murky. Finally, I managed to whip up a batch that we could all see through.  Into the compost heap, with the rinds and the seeds, I threw out my pseudonym, Still Hopeful Mom.

No more hiding in the cloudy bitterness of anonymity anymore. No more hypocrisy. I had been talking about ending the stigma of mental illness but I hadn't been brave enough to tell anyone my real name.

I don't hide anymore. You can see right through the glass pitcher at who I am, Annie Slease. That batch of lemonade was especially sweet. Not just because there would be no more hiding, but because the supportive responses from friends and family were astounding.

All the while, my older son has been making lemonade too, from his prison cell. He's taking medication for his bipolar illness, and he's educated himself on his condition. He now understands the impact that his denial can have on himself and those he cares about, and he has vowed to never let that happen again. His lemonade is especially sweet. He tutors inmates to prepare them for their GED tests. Every single one of his students has passed the exam the first time.

That lemon tree we've been given keeps sprouting lemons, and there are times I am scrambling to gather them all up and glean their sweetness before the rotting sets in. 

I continue writing about our struggles here, and on other blogs.

I've written a young adult contemporary novel, A Brother's Oath, based on real events that occurred in our home. It's about a younger brother who witnesses his older brother spiral into the darkness of mental illness, exposing real issues kids face today and the dangers of denial.

I've done some public speaking for NAMI, telling our story at local events and training seminars.

My sons and I have been featured in a documentary film about mental illness and its stigma called Semper Est Sperare (Always Hope).

And most recently, I've been invited to take part in training for, where I will become the first from my state certified to present their educational programs: Say Something and Start with Hello at schools.

So if you discover a lemon tree sprouting in your own yard, don't worry. You'll find your own recipe. It just may take a few batches to get it right.

1 comment:

  1. "I don't hide anymore. You can see right through the glass pitcher at who I am..." And who you are is an amazingly talented, strong, and compassionate women.