Bipolar Faith by Monica Coleman is the first I Press On community read. I must admit that I didn’t have any expectations about the book before I began reading it. I simply chose to read the book because from what I know, Monica Coleman seems to be genuine in her efforts to promote mental wellness (meaning that she doesn’t seem to be about making money and advancing her career the way some are) and because the book touches on topics quite dear to me, the black church and mental health.

You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that it’s not difficult to exceed zero expectations. However, even if I had expectations about the quality of the writing and depth of content, the book would have still exceeded those expectations. Bipolar Faith went from being a book I wanted to support to a literary work I can discuss as a scholar, a preacher and a mental health advocate.

Bipolar Faith is so well written. Early in the book, Coleman mentions being both Washington and DC and immediately I could see how she would weave the theme of dual consciousness through the work. She fearlessly explores the dichotomy of being two complete separate halves of a whole, as evident in the title Bipolar Faith.…yes you can “have” and “be” both. The tone of the work is reminiscent of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou but I find myself hearing the influence of Alice Walker in Coleman’s writing. To be clear…It’s not just another trite “girl you should write a book about your life” book. It’s a well thought out and skillfully crafted story.

Members of the Black church community will appreciate Coleman sharing the history of her church experiences. Coleman grew up in the church. This adds value to her discussion of faith. She didn’t just “meet” Jesus. She’s had a life time of experiences with Black church infrastructure and Black church goers. Coleman allows readers to walk with her on her faith journey as she discovers how to come to terms with being a woman of faith and surviving mental illness. …and yes, this is possible.

In terms of tackling mental health within the African-American community, Coleman offers an important lesson. This lesson is one of the most important jewels I collected from this treasure-trove of information. And that is that family secrets damage multiple generations. So, have open and honest family conversations (even about the most difficult of topics). Keeping secrets and repressing emotions about those secrets is damaging. It’s interesting that many African-Americans dont know if there is a history of mental illness within their family because certain behavior is taboo to discuss. We have to talk about the tough times of the past in order to give future generations a fighting start. It’s only fair that the next generation knows what mental issues they might potentially face.

Bipolar Faith is not a flat boring read about mental illness. It is a full robust story of life and hope. I encourage you to read it. Let’s support all the voices that bring awareness to mental illness. And, as always, let’s press on together!

Original published here