A pineapple and some cut up citrus fruits

Lemonade Friendships

Mental Health Awareness Month is about to roll on by, but before it does, let me take a moment to talk about mental health and wellness. Just this week, I had three conversations regarding mental health issues, specifically depression.

My ear is always open to these conversations, partly because one of my closest friends has bipolar disorder. It’s no secret that she has dealt with this for most of her life. It hasn’t been easy for her, and it hasn’t been easy for me as her friend. We come from two different walks of life with two distinct personalities, yet we have found a way to maintain our sweet and sour friendship for more than two decades.

What is BPD?

Bipolar disorder (BPD) is a mental illness affecting 5.5 million Americans or approximately 3% of the U.S. population. Bipolar disorder comprises about half of all diagnosed mental illnesses. Manic highs and depressive lows characterize the disorder, hence the term “bi†(two spectrums) and “polar†(opposite). The signs and symptoms of mania include increased energy, restlessness, extreme irritability, racing thoughts, fast-talking, poor judgment, aggressive behavior, and spending sprees. In contrast, the signs and symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance, chronic pain, and suicidal thoughts. The hidden link to these manifestations is in the brain’s chemical makeup. Medication is required to maintain chemical balance.

But what does it take to maintain a “lemonade” friendship? How do you remain “sweet” when things get sour? Here are nine key elements that have helped me throughout my friendship with Sharon, especially when mood swings occurred. Praise God, medication, counseling, and a stabilized environment has normalized those mood swings nowadays. Many of these elements can be applied to any mental illness.

  1. Learn about the disorder. Educate yourself as to the nature of the illness and become familiar with the onset of warning signs. Many local and national mental health resources, such as the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI), are available.
  2. Find your own source of support. Support for the supporter is often neglected. By that, I mean there needs to be an outlet for the non-BP friend. I have found that the best means of support is through verbal interaction. A sympathizing ear from a third party (e.g., friend, spouse, counselor, support group) goes a long way. However, be cautious of advice that suggests removing yourself from the source of distress. It is ultimately your decision to determine if the overall benefit is worth the heartache. For me, it was. Didn’t Jesus seek out the sick and the needy?
  3. Be realistic. Some people with BPD can hold a job, while others have to go on disability. Intellect and a college degree do not substitute for social aptitude. That was a hard pill for me to swallow. Routine is a good thing for someone with BPD. Changing a routine, especially if it happens too fast, can create anxiety.
  4. Don’t ignore other important relationships. Re-establish the priority of other relationships and roles with your bipolar friend.
  5. Remember, it’s not personal. Hurtful words, anger, and insults will occur but may not be recalled by your bipolar friend. Proverbs 19:11 says, “A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense.† 
  6. Don’t try to make sense of it. Trying to make sense of something irrational only leads to frustration. Reality can become distorted to someone with BPD, but it makes perfect sense to them at the time.
  7. You are not responsible for your bipolar friend’s recovery. They are. This includes the management of medication, their environment, and therapy. You may, however, encourage healthy action and serve as an accountability partner.
  8. Take care of yourself. Maintain balance in your own life.
  9. Include Jesus in the friendship. This is the most important element by far. Pray together and engage in spiritual conversation. Allow Jesus to be the glue that sustains you both through every situation.

Just as the body has a nose and a little toe, so we each are uniquely qualified to live in harmony with one another. Sharon and I are bonded as sisters in Christ. We have weathered many BPD storms but have seen the sun reappear. Our friendship has endured a lifetime of hardships but has survived to reap the joy of unconditional love.

Much-needed Help for the Mental Health Community

I am proud to say that Sharon has chosen to use her life experiences to help others with mental health issues. She and I began writing a devotional book several years ago to help break the stigma of mental illness. Our book is real and transparent. We share personal stories from Sharon’s perspective and then mine. Topics include depression, mania, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, hospitalizations, job losses, and more. The hope of Christ is the underlying message. We will be submitting our completed manuscript to the publisher next month.

Stay tuned for updates about our book Outta My Mind, Into His Heart. Join us in prayer that God will use our book to bring glory to His Name while offering spiritual hope to the mental health community.

Karen Allen


  1. J.D. Wininger on May 26, 2023 at 11:03 am

    Thank you Ms. Karen. The data you shared confirm, for me, that we all know and have interacted, or will interact, with someone suffering from some form of mental illness. I agree that Depression is perhaps the highest percentage among them, and it’s something that even Christians can suffer with. How we interact with people suffering for any form of mental illness or any other infirmity for that matter, says a great deal about our relationship with Christ. Congratulations again on your publishing success and I look forward to reading all y’all’s new book. Praying it through the publishing journey.

    • Karen Allen on May 27, 2023 at 3:27 pm

      Yep, you never know what someone is going through. I am amazed at the high percentage of folks that deal with adverse circumstances regarding their mental health every day of their life. It is indeed a reflection of our Christian character as to how we respond. Thanks for your comment and for your prayers as we press onward in our book publication challenges.

  2. Eddie Burchfield on May 26, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    What an awesome informative post. So much to learn from this and grow. Love you both. I am proud of you both.

    • Karen Allen on May 27, 2023 at 3:21 pm

      You have been witness to our lemonade friendship. Thank you for your words.

  3. Selina Todd on May 26, 2023 at 11:49 pm

    Your article on Lemondde Friendships is very good as well as refreshing. It reminds all of us to accept each other as we are and be kind which costs nothing. While we might not be diagnosed with BPD, we all have something which could send us over the edge in a moment’s notice unless we trust and seek God’s help. A reminder to treat others as you would like to be treated. Continue to be inspired and keep these wonderful articles coming.

    • Karen Allen on May 27, 2023 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you for your words of encouragement, Selina. You are right. We do indeed all have something that could send us over the edge unless we trust and seek God’s help. Like my mama always said, “Treat others as you would want them to treat you.”

  4. Tracy Crump on May 28, 2023 at 4:30 pm

    I’m so glad you made the point that intelligence and education have nothing to do with mental illness. My sister has been schizophrenic since the age of ten. She won two school spelling bees, yet her illness makes it hard for her to reason out the simplest things sometimes. I’m thrilled you and Sharon will be publishing your book soon!

    • Karen Allen on May 28, 2023 at 5:12 pm

      First, thank you for reading my blog and for commenting. I am hopeful this blog and our devotional book provides much insight and inspiration to those who not only need the hope of Christ but also who do not understand what mentally ill individuals and their advocates go through. I’m sure you encountered many uncomfortable situations with your sister, but you know better how to deal with them. Sharon and I will be submitting our manuscript soon and appreciate your support.

  5. Sandi Herron on June 8, 2023 at 11:51 am

    What an informative and insightful article. Thank you for helping us learn and understand mental illness and its impact on the person experiencing it and those around them. Looking forward to the book!

    • Karen Allen on June 9, 2023 at 10:24 pm

      And thank you for reading and commenting! With so many impacted by mental illness, we need to be better informed. We are excited to share our story.

  6. Elaine Mizzell on June 9, 2023 at 10:25 am

    This is so wonderful to share so openly about mental illness and how to be a friend to someone who is experiencing it. You are truly a wonderful friend to Sharon. God bless both of you in your book journey!

    • Karen Allen on June 9, 2023 at 10:33 pm

      Your comments warm my heart. Truly. We are excited to have the opportunity to share our friendship story. Thank goodness the sweet is much more prominent than the sour these days!

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Ewe R Blessed Ministries / Karen O. Allen

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