Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression and Faith

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Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression and Faith

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Monica A. Coleman’s great-grandfather asked his two young sons to lift him up and pull out the chair when he hanged himself, and that noose stayed in the family shed for years. The rope was the violent instrument, but it was mental anguish that killed him. Now, in gripping fashion, Coleman examines the ways that the legacies of slavery, war, sharecropping, poverty, and alcoholism mask a family history of mental illness. Those same forces accompanied her into the black religious traditions and Christian ministry. All the while, she wrestled with her own bipolar disorder.
 

 
Bipolar Faith is both a spiritual autobiography and a memoir of mental illness. In this powerful book, Monica Coleman shares her life-long dance with trauma, depression, and the threat of death. Citing serendipitous encounters with black intellectuals like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Angela Davis, and Renita Weems, Coleman offers a rare account of how the modulated highs of bipolar II can lead to professional success, while hiding a depression that even her doctors rarely believed. Only as she was able to face her illness was she able to live faithfully with bipolar.

Reviews
“A stunning, unforgettable read, Bipolar Faith grabs you with the first exquisitely composed paragraphs and won’t let you go until the final page is turned. Even then, its impact lingers. To say this is a book about mental health severely limits its scope, which includes arresting reflections on race, womanhood, death, love, sex, community, and joy. A master storyteller, Coleman seamlessly knits together the personal and universal, the particular and the communal. Hers is one of the clearest and most compelling voices in Christian literature today. Let those with ears hear.” ~Rachel Held Evans, Author of Searching for Sunday and A Year of Biblical Womanhood

“Monica Coleman is a courageous and brilliant theologian whose wisdom and rigor helps sustain many of us. This unique and pioneering book opens a new spiritual zone for our serious attention!” ~Cornel West, Author of Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism and Race Matter

“I’m very excited about Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman’s new book, Bipolar Faith. The church—and broader society—must do a much better job engaging issues of mental health, and Dr. Coleman’s powerful story sets us on the right path. This will be a helpful resources for pastors and congregants across the country.” ~Joshua DuBois, Author of The President’s Devotional: The Readings that Inspired President Obama

“In Bipolar Faith, Dr. Coleman offers a brilliantly written narrative which provides a bird’s-eye view of her early years marked by family strife, tragedy and loss juxtaposed with the joys of childhood summers spent immersed in a segregated black community in Washington, DC. She ushers us gently into her world in which, over time, through Ivy League baccalaureate study and pursuit of ministerial professionalism and spiritual scholarship, she comes to terms with a family history of mental health challenges and substance use disorder, her own traumatic experiences and a diagnosis of mental illness which finally explains her episodic changes in mood, outlook and activity level. The reader will admire Dr. Coleman’s strong faith through it all, her existential questioning and the fact that she has emerged whole from introspective exploration, loving herself as is.” ~Annelle Primm, Senior Psychiatrist Advisor for Urban Behavioral Associates and former Deputy Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association

“In her memoir, Bipolar Faith, Reverend Dr. Monica Coleman courageously shares the story of her own personal and private life struggles with God, death, loneliness, love, rape and a family history of mental illness. Once a taboo topic, Dr. Coleman’s revelation of the need for a middle place to balance the public demands of life and the private pain and isolation of depression helps the church begin the conversation about relevant ministries to meet the needs of our congregants who often find themselves in the dark place of mental illness. Our spiritual journey takes us through light and darkness. This book may help an individual or a congregation to honestly pull back the cover of secrecy to develop resources for hurting people and families. Bipolar Faith shines a light in those seemingly empty periods of darkness.” ~Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, 117th Elected Bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Church; and Author of Not Without A Struggle, Journey to the Well, Strength in the Struggle and Swapping Housewives
 
About the Author
Monica A. Coleman teaches theology and African American religions at Claremont School of Theology, where she also codirects the Center for Process Studies. Her writings cover womanist theology, sexual abuse, and the African American experience. She is an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church a sought-after speaker and preacher.

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