Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
Bipolar Faith is both spiritual autobiography and a memoir of mental illness. In this powerful book, Monica A. Coleman shares her life-long dance with trauma, depression, and the threat of death. 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. And in the process, she discovered a new and liberating vision of God.

350 pages, Hardcover

Published July 1, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Monica A. Coleman

6 books59 followers
Dr. Monica A. Coleman is Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware. She spent over ten years in graduate theological education at Claremont School of Theology, the Center for Process Studies and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Coleman has earned degrees from Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. She has received funding from leading foundations in the United States, including the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation), among others.

Answering her call to ministry at 19 years of age, Coleman is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and an initiate in traditional Yoruba religion.

Dr. Coleman brings her experiences in evangelical Christianity, black church traditions, global ecumenical work, and indigenous spirituality to her discussions of theology and religion.

Dr. Coleman is the author or editor of six books, and several articles and book chapters that focus on the role of faith in addressing critical social and philosophical issues. Her memoir "Bipolar Faith" shares her life-long dance with trauma and depression, and how she discovers a new and liberating vision of God.

Her book "Making a Way Out of No Way" is required reading at leading theological schools around the country, and listed on the popular #BlackWomenSyllabus and #LemonadeSyllabus recommended reading projects.

Dr. Coleman is the co-host (along with writer Tananarive Due) of the popular webinar series "Octavia Tried to Tell Us: Parable for Today’s Pandemic," addressing today’s most pressing issues with insights from Afrofuturist literature, process theology and community values

Dr. Coleman’s strength comes from the depth of her knowledge base and from her experiences as a community organizer, survivor of sexual violence and as an individual who lives with a mental health challenges.

Coleman speaks widely on mental wellness, navigating change, religious diversity, and religious responses to intimate partner violence. Coleman is based in Wilmington, Delaware, and lives in an intergenerational household where she is an avid vegan cook and cyclist.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
140 (45%)
4 stars
114 (36%)
3 stars
41 (13%)
2 stars
14 (4%)
1 star
2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Mollie Meyer.
42 reviews1 follower
February 8, 2018
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I feel seen and I feel better equipped to see.
Profile Image for Corrie.
119 reviews2 followers
March 1, 2020
This was an incredibly well written and enjoyable book. Coleman is a fantastic theologian who I have loved for years. This book was a great look into her personal life and moments that helped shape her theology and beliefs. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is living with mental illness, especially those with bipolar disorder and wants to connect their faith to the illness.
Profile Image for Luke Hillier.
319 reviews20 followers
February 3, 2018
This was a 3.5 for me, but I'll happily round up as I'm so grateful for the book and what it offers to the world of religious memoirs (and found it voraciously readable!). I will say that, especially in the first hundred pages, I found myself surprised by the straightforward storytelling. While this could certainly be seen as an asset by some who appreciate a more accessible narrative, I guess I was somewhat underwhelmed by what seemed to be a lack of flourish in the writing style or density in the theological explorations. I also just found it to be a bit of a slow start; Coleman opted for comprehensiveness over conciseness here and while I personally think it would have benefited from some focusing in and slimming down, I can also see how writing such a personal work could feel demanding of such generous inclusion of details and information.

The narrative of the book takes a drastic turn after Coleman relocates to Nashville to attend divinity school at Vanderbilt and experiences the climactic trauma of the memoir. I found the writing around her time in Nashville to be the most moving, artful, theological, and engaging; in spite of how difficult it was to share in her brutally honest and vulnerable reflections, there was also a tremendous deal of power in her words throughout the section. Although I did not undergo the same trauma as Coleman, I had an experience a few years ago that resulted in my being diagnosed with PTSD and found myself resonating so intimately with her reflections on faith, mourning, death, rebirth, and transformation. I found the discussion around the death of her former self and the funeral she put together for her to be especially meaningful and inspiring in light of my own life.

I was familiar with Coleman because of her work as a process theologian (as well as The Dinah Project), and that was in fact my primary draw towards reading the book. So, I must confess to being somewhat disappointed at how peripheral it felt; while it does receive some of the spotlight, it's mostly just a brief glimmer, and rather than being explored much it's mostly just framed as the draw that catalyzes her move to Claremont. I think it would have been incredibly compelling to hear her reflect more directly on her experiences in light of or within a process framework, especially as it remains a pretty academic, dense philosophical approach that's in need of writers capable of making it more digestible and graspable.

With all that said, I really did find this to be a really moving, incredibly readable, and ultimately compelling book. Coleman is endearing, inspiring, courageous, and unflinchingly vulnerable in what she decides to share and I truly felt privileged as a reader to get to engage with such otherwise intimate experiences of her life. It's especially powerful to see how her trauma catalyzed such a dogged commitment to caring for, empowering, and bringing light to others in a way that feels so redemptive.
Profile Image for Winnie.
407 reviews
November 9, 2019
I read this book because of a review by a young friend. It is a beautifully written memoir. I read it very quickly as it was hard to put down. However, I plan to go back through and re-read parts that I want to look at more thoughtfully. I applaud Coleman’s willingness to share her deepest, darkest thoughts regarding faith, depression, and life experiences. It’s not pretty. However, it is extremely beneficial, and I highly recommend – especially to anyone who has dealt with depression and even more so for someone who is a lifelong Christian and has dealt with depression. The Christian community has tended to shy away from authentic discussions about the issues that Coleman openly shares. The author is black and a minister and while I am neither, I felt she was writing just for me.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,002 reviews
October 27, 2019
This was the book for our October Conversations on Race Sunday School class. While this book was of course heavy given the subject matter, overall I found it a surprisingly beautiful and spiritually uplifting read. Coleman’s bravery in honestly and openly talking about her mental health struggles is breathtaking. I believe all of us can see parts of ourselves in her journey; especially if we are high achievers who feel we must always “get the A.” Coleman demonstrates that it’s ok to admit when we need help and to seek help that authentically and radically sees us as people (not just a statistic) and meets our individual needs.

What I found so beautiful spiritually in this book was her discovery of (and introduction to) process theology. My own past experiences indicate that many people tend to say and believe “everything happens for a reason.” Thus implying that suffering must be either a punishment for something we’ve done wrong or something to be endured because it makes us stronger and will “teach us a lesson” we need to know. Process theology does not ascribe to these ideas, rather

“Process thought talks about a God who is radically present . . . As God knows us, God feels with us. God rejoices in our happiness and weeps in our sorrows. Process theology also says that God takes our freedom seriously. God gives us real freedom to operate in the works in the way that we choose. God doesn’t coerce. God calls. God calls all of us to beauty and peace. But people use their freedom in all kinds of ways—and sometimes we say no to what God hopes for us.”

I also loved that she incorporated aspects of her ancestors’ Yoruba religion and dance into her own Christian beliefs. This resonates so strongly with me; the idea that I can include religious and spiritual beliefs that don’t stem from a narrow view is what is “Christian” into my practice and faith is so much more inclusive and affirming than the church I grew up in.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough; I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in my review. I would encourage readers not to assume this will be a “depressing” read. While it definitely documents Coleman’s heartbreaking experiences, overall I found the book in its entirety to be uplifting and hopeful.
Profile Image for SomdahSaysSo.
41 reviews7 followers
June 5, 2018
I don’t think this book is to teach you anything about mental health but to tell the personal story of a black woman who works in ministry but struggles with her faith and mental health. She talks in depth about her childhood, relationships, mental health struggles & break downs, being a pastor with mental health issues, rape, misdiagnoses, etc, I would give this book a 2.8. This would have been a great book to me but it felt so long winded at times just get to the point. If you read the jacket or description on Amazon they mention that the family stills has the rope her great-grandfather hung himself with. Yeah that’s only a small blip in the story and they don’t really address until like the last 80 pages of the book. The author is long winded but the pacing of the book kept me reading when I wanted to put it down and find something else to read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cydne B.
284 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2017
Very informative yet cliche at times.
Profile Image for Lashawn .
174 reviews
Read
September 22, 2020
It wasn't what I thought, but I kept reading and found this to be a wonderful book about God, faith, and mental illness.
Profile Image for Tad.
1,030 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2019
There’s so many parts of this book that really resonated with me and shook me to my core. Her doubts; her loss of faith; her need to reconfigure how she thought about God; her struggles with thoughts of suicide; her depressive episodes. Yeah, there were so many times while I was reading this that I caught myself saying to myself that I have had many of those exact same thoughts.
Coleman also writes about being a black woman and I appreciated that aspect of this book so much. She writes about being a black woman in both the church, the academic world, the medical world and in society. I am glad she was willing to talk about that subject. It was one that I, as a white man, needed to hear.
This is a great read particularly if you are wanting to learn more about mental illness and the ways in which it can manifest in a person’s life. Her questions and doubts about God are profound and deep. She is a very good writer and I am glad that this book exists. It is one I’ll be recommending to a lot of people!
Profile Image for Linda Jackson.
Author 0 books71 followers
September 16, 2016
I enjoyed following the author on her journey to uncovering the truth behind her constant sadness even when times were good. I went into the book with one expectation and got something a little different. Overall, the author did a good job of showing how prayer and faith, alone, are sometimes just not enough to overcome the darkness of depression.

I'm grateful to the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this well-written memoir.
Profile Image for Marva Tutt.
52 reviews3 followers
July 25, 2016
Excellent

This is an excellent account for any person who has ever suffered from depression, abuse, or any other process that causes prolonged periods of sadness. Her accounts of going through bipolar depression are so real and relatable. I couldn't put this book down!
Profile Image for E..
Author 1 book20 followers
August 18, 2017
I didn't really learn anything reading the book, though it is helpful as a pastor to read someone's firsthand account of struggling with mental illness and faith.
Profile Image for Singalongalong.
87 reviews
August 22, 2019
Difficult to rate this book (3.5? 4?) - I honor her experiences and her immense courage to write it. There were alot she put into words that reaffirmed/further illuminated exepriences of those dealing with similar amalgamation of mental/intergenerational/intersectional/spiritual struggles, for which Im really grateful - felt like her words were trying to give me permission to describe/own my experiences the way she's tried as well, especially in conversation with faith.

While I honor her experiences, I also found myself not liking her and increasingly frustrated by her towards second half of her narrative -- though not clear whether thats more my personal frustration with the length/delay of recovery in people I love, or my subtle but gutstrong judgment of her cyclical/unfruitful thought patterns and choices I also see reflected in myself/people i love, including her questionable entry into/navigation of ministry, and the unmooring triggers all such questions pose my life. It was also exhausting reading chapter after chapter of her wailing, her life storms, something going wrong one way or not, constantly, relentlessly (though Ive seen that this too is reflective of a life lived) --- in some9 episodes Id deeply empathize, thank, and be inspired by her, in other episodes Id feel exasperated and be done with her, wanting to tell her to get over/beyond herself, the way we can irritatingly demand of those coping with long-term grief or illnesses, including in oneself.

Perhaps the thing that irritated me most though was how God felt like a byword in her memoire, though titled front and center, and ministry a qualifying badge more an identity buffer than its own cause and conviction. Memoires are selective in what it shares, so no doubt there is more to her walk, but I guess Im still hoping to see grief dealt with full on through the lens of holistic biblical gospel, and not a mystical millenial spiritualism that takes the Christian God as the front-facing mascot but more often a blanket comfort under which lie a hodgepodge of beautiful but thinly rooted therapyspiritualisms. I felt with her deeply though, her speaking into the gaps in the modern church, christian leadership, and most christians' miserable failure in dealing with mental illnesses, abuse, rape, and trauma in a more gracious, informed, humanistic, and christlike way, in ways that affirm peoplr's dignity.

I see and grieve with her for where life took her, through things both in and beyond her/her family/her community's control, and celebrate the beauty and dignity she finds, creates, and prunes within inspite of all the shit. I dont share all her views or choices, and grieve just the same for it, but ultimately, as a memoire on depression, bipolar ii, rape, intergenerational trauma, and all the nightmares that can accompany that nvthless do not define a person, I applaud and thank her contributions to my world.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dawn.
32 reviews11 followers
January 31, 2022
I came across Monica A. Coleman exploring process theology and was thrilled to find a black woman among So. Many. White. Men. Bipolar Faith is her story of growth and evolution through significant trauma as well as learning about herself and her ancestors with her diagnosis of bipolar II disorder.

Part of me wants to talk about what an inspiring and remarkable woman Coleman is, not because of what she has survived, but because of her capacity to feel and enter her body and then share her story without resistance to making the reader uncomfortable. Simply take my word for it and get to know her through this book.

Bipolar Faith is an autobiography of Coleman's early years from childhood through graduate school. While it is organized in a linear way, she takes the reader back and forth and through conversations with her family and their history as she learns about the thread of mental illness and resilience that connects her to her family and her ancestors.

CW: brief reference to sexual assault

.
.
.
.
Coleman's story is also a story about rape. But this is not a recovery story. Through her Christian faith and the faith and traditions handed down from her African ancestors, Coleman learns how to live a life that contains rape, but is not lead by it.
.
.
.
In my own journey with depression, I found so much resonance and wisdom in this book. It is not a self-help book. Coleman is not telling you how to integrate your trauma and mental illness. She is telling her truth. In her truth, I recognized common experiences, and uncovered resilience I didn't know I had. I believe anyone with depression will have a similar experience. Here, you will find an ally.

Just released in paperback, this will be a book I keep on my shelf to loan to others.
Profile Image for Heidi.
785 reviews5 followers
February 22, 2021
3.5 stars
I deeply respect the author for sharing her story, for connecting the dots of mental illness back through her family history, for giving us a detailed and intimate portrait of the experience of trauma and deep depression, and how it impacts belief in God.
Given that her Bipolar II diagnosis isn't even referenced until very late in the book, I think the title should have been different. The subtitle would have been more accurate had it read: A Black Woman's Faith Journey through Trauma and Depression. The amount of trauma she experienced throughout childhood and early adulthood was staggering. I'm not sure that she even comprehends how abnormal her upbringing and family stories were. Much of the book was spent on describing the aftermath and processing of her rape: again, trauma. I guess some of these things made the book a little confusing and disjointed for me. I also thought, before reading this book, that she was a Christian; instead, her faith is definitely syncretistic. Again, that ended up being confusing for me, and unexpected.
That said, she communicates very well her experience of depression and of the trauma and aftermath of sexual assault. And I admire her courage to share her experience. Surely, many readers will be helped from her descriptions and experiences. I also really enjoyed the tapestry of community that she created for herself in the places she lived, and her desire to minister to the needy. Those portraits of true community are hopeful and encouraging to me; they are what the Body of Christ is called to be!
Kudos to Monica Coleman for sharing her story.
548 reviews
April 7, 2022
This was a compelling and heart moving story but while this book is promoted as "A Black Woman's Journey with Depression and Faith" those felt more like background stories interwoven into the main narrative.

The author experiences a particular type of trauma and that particular trauma takes over more than a third of the book. (For context 8/22 chapters or 120/344 pages focus on the trauma and the aftermath directly and other chapters touch on it more generally.)

I am judging the books marketing because that trauma is such a big part of the story that the depression and faith feel like secondary characters.

I picked this book because I am interested in the intersections of mental health and faith and while those were in the story I feel like the intersections of mental health and faith was not the focus of the story which left me feeling a bit unsatisfied after reading it.

In addition that particular trauma should be mentioned because the story could be very triggering for people especially since it is as much of a focus if not more so than depression or faith which are mentioned on the cover.
Profile Image for John Powell.
53 reviews
February 7, 2017
Wow. Where to begin? This is Monica's intensely personal and riveting story. I feel like I was being allowed on holy ground as she let me into her life, her faith, her painful tragedies, and her deep struggles.

My take-aways were a much deeper appreciation for the long and difficult recovery process of both depression and sexual violence.

As part of her story, we get to see how her various relationships with friends, family, lovers, teachers and pastors either helped or hindered her. It challenged me to live a life of compassion and to be safe place for people to share their deepest struggles. It saddened me that the church was not always that safe place.

The book is a gift in so many ways. Aside from a few trigger warnings, I can recommend it wholeheartedly to all.

Thank you, Monica, for sharing your story.
Profile Image for thalia.
142 reviews
July 29, 2018
This is an incredible journey. Beautifully told memoir of life in its fullest, widest, deepest ways of experiencing it. I was worried it would be preachy, corny, too Jesus-y etc, but it was quiet the opposite. It is not a treatise on any of the topics it covers, it is really an invitation into the life, emotions, relationships, thoughts, and memories of Monica A. Coleman. Definitely relatable as someone w/ Bipolar, and I very much recommend it for people looking to others in the written word for comfort and solidarity.
Profile Image for Ashton.
281 reviews5 followers
September 17, 2022
I loved Coleman’s vulnerability and her theological explorations as a black woman and how her faith tied into her need to appear a certain way. I love how she talked about how capable she could be but with few seeing her internal wrestling and only if she let them. for it being called bipolar faith it was only discussed around that in the last section though I think she was hinting along the way.
3 reviews
June 11, 2018
Vital, necessary read

People of color simply do not discuss mental health enough! It’s just as important as what the eyes can see. Monica outdid herself with this gem. Brutally honest, heartbreaking
, healing and so much more. I am encouraged to continue the good fight and so much more 😊
December 30, 2019
I devoured all 300 pages of Bipolar Faith. It is rare to read an honest and raw book about Christian Women struggling with Bipolar 2. I sobbed through half of it because I could see myself in parts of Monica’s story. Monica’s story will comfort those that struggle but also teach those that want to understand. Bipolar Faith is one of my top 5 reads for 2019.
Profile Image for Cody.
111 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2021
Absolutely excellent companion to other books I have been reading lately on trauma, mental health as well as just intentionally reading more black authors.

I needed this memoir to go along with everything else. I see a lot of my journey in Coleman's. It was healing and soothing to hear someone tell.their story.

I have no idea if someone who doesn't struggle with mental health will enjoy this.
Profile Image for Margaret A.
16 reviews1 follower
July 1, 2022
As a minister and person of faith I simply cannot overstate how helpful and powerful this book is as a extraordinarily honest spiritual autobiography as well as personal entrypoint intro connecting the realities of mental health, faith, sexual violence, and oppression. I have so much gratitude to Dr. Coleman for sharing of her life.
1 review
June 1, 2017
Excellent story.

Powerful story about painful journey through depression and trauma to healing and recovery. Highly recommend to anyone interested n faith, mental health, and recovery.
Profile Image for Holly Dowell.
124 reviews8 followers
November 8, 2018
This book was incredibly powerful. It’s well-written and so honest. The memoir walks through Dr. Coleman’s life from youth to doctoral work, chronicling her struggles with faith, mental health, trauma, and identity. I will recommend this book to many people, especially those who work in ministry.
Profile Image for Jon Carl.
12 reviews1 follower
November 17, 2018
An excellent, intersectional exploration of what it means to find acceptance and thrive with a different brain chemistry, from a place in society some might consider marginalized--but need not be an inextricable trap.
Profile Image for Julia Riley.
174 reviews3 followers
March 2, 2020
Beautiful, raw, sad, hard, and relatable. Content warning for sexual assault and suicidal ideation. That being said, 10/10 would recommend for any pastor, mental health professional, or anyone who struggles with mental illness and faith.
Profile Image for Rob Carmack.
Author 1 book5 followers
June 28, 2017
So brutally honest and beautifully written. I cannot imagine the courage that must have been required to write and publish this book. Thank you, Monica Coleman!
Profile Image for Brenda Seefeldt.
Author 2 books12 followers
November 9, 2017
As a pastor who has church family members struggling with bipolar II, this helps you understand the realness of this. Yet God is always faithful...this story has that too.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.