Bipolar Faith

A Black Woman's Journey with Depression and Faith

Bipolar Faith

A Black Woman's Journey with Depression and Faith

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Overcome with mental anguish, Monica A. Coleman's great-grandfather had his two young sons pull the chair out from beneath him when he hanged himself. That noose remained tied to a rafter in the shed, where it hung above the heads of his eight children who played there for years to come.

As it had for generations before her, a heaviness hung over Monica throughout her young life. As an adult, this rising star in the academy saw career successes often fueled by the modulated highs of undiagnosed Bipolar II Disorder, as she hid deep depression that even her doctors skimmed past in disbelief. Serendipitous encounters with Black intellectuals like Henry Louis Gates Jr., Angela Davis, and Renita Weems were countered by long nights of stark loneliness. Only as Coleman began to face her illness was she able to live honestly and faithfully in the world. And in the process, she discovered a new and liberating vision of God.

Written in crackling prose, Monica's spiritual autobiography examines her long dance with trauma, depression, and the threat of death in light of the legacies of slavery, war, sharecropping, poverty, and alcoholism that masked her family history of mental illness for generations.


"One of those riveting, wondrous memoirs that reads like a novel, with its richness of character and location, its evocation of a family and an era, its themes of love, danger, faith, damage, and resurrection."

--Anne Lamott, New York Times best-selling author of Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies

"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 the 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 Inspired and Searching for Sunday

"Monica Coleman is a courageous and brilliant theologian whose wisdom and rigor help sustain many of us. This unique and pioneering book opens a new spiritual zone for our serious attention!"

--Cornel West, Race Matters; Democracy Matters; and Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud

"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

"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 resource for pastors and congregants across the country."

--Joshua DuBois, author of The President's Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama

"In America, in Black America, we do not like to talk about pain, about trauma, about grief, about sadness, about depression. We work hard, we live, we survive, we pass the scars of emotional wars from one generation to another like a birthright, life a family heirloom. Monica Coleman's story is our story, her family is your family, and mine too. Bipolar Faith is one Black woman's journey through depression and faith, yes. But it is also the saga of an individual, a family, and a community that needs to confront itself, once and for all, so there is actual healing and redemption in a way that truly liberates. Brilliant and fearless with her writing and with her voice, Monica Coleman's freedom train is one we all need to board."

--Kevin Powell, author of The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey into Manhood

"Monica Coleman writes with the artistry of a poetic storyteller, the intimacy of someone who has studied depression from the inside, and the courageous transparency of someone who knows the cost of silence. Weaving cultural truths with the reality of hope and despair, Coleman's latest book is a testimony that unmasks psychological struggles, family discord, and the quest for wholeness. As a scholar and minister, Coleman has crafted a book that creates a safe space for people of faith to reflect on their journey toward truth, balance, and self-acceptance."

--Thema Bryant-Davis, past president of the Society for the Psychology of Women and co-editor of Womanist and Mujerista Psychologies: Voices of Fire, Acts of Courage

"Bipolar Faith is an insightful work on an important and neglected topic. The writing is terrific; it pulls you along like a runaway train and is full of poetic lines that speak to the ineffable human experience of suffering and hope."

--Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History

"Bipolar Faith is a beautifully written, brutally honest memoir of survival. With grit and courage, Dr. Monica Coleman shares her story of mental illness and abuse and her journey to wholeness. Guided by faith, Coleman never sidesteps the pain and hurt as she confronts her private demons head on, ending in triumph, recovery, and healing."

--Linda Villarosa, author of Body & Soul: The Black Women's Guide to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being


"This empowering story of depression and healing is inspiring. Coleman's courage shines through in this fine memoir."

--Publishers Weekly

"Monica A. Coleman gets real about her own 'dance' with bipolar disorder and shows others there is a way out."

--Essence, "6 Books to Help You (Really) Practice Self-Care"

"Not since Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has an autobiography chronicled an African American woman's journey from trauma to joyousness as boldly and vividly as Monica A. Coleman's Bipolar Faith."

--Los Angeles Review of Books

"This book is a vital contribution to the often-negligible conversation on mental health and the church, a story told with the authenticity of someone who has lived and survived the darkness of depression and trauma. This beautiful and heartbreaking memoir shows us all how very much this is true. There is life after grief."

--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506480756
  • eBook ISBN 9781506487106
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 350
  • Publication Date February 8, 2022