Photo couresy of: NICHOLE PETERSON / NP IMAGES

Photo couresy of: NICHOLE PETERSON / NP IMAGES

The Story

Melissa Bangs is a storyteller at heart.  For her, a true story with all of its highs and lows, its light and dark, its clarity and murkiness is the route to understanding, forgiveness and compassion.  

Her hope is that by sharing her lived experience, boldly, with a dose of humor and self-love, others will be inspired to shed their shame, find forgiveness & tell their own true stories.  

As we deeply hear one another and offer our truest voices... we transform.

In September 2012, at 40 years old, Melissa Bangs gave birth to her beautiful daughter Adelaide.  A month later, dramatically hormone depleted and sleep deprived, Melissa is admitted to the Providence Psychiatric Facilities in a complete manic state.  After nearly a month, she is sent home with a bipolar diagnosis and on lithium.  What comes next is an extraordinary journey back to wholeness, back to love.

Bangs shares, "There was a moment, in the psych ward, that I considered telling no one - ever.  How would I possibly describe the profound shame, the unbearable loss?  How could I tell anyone what really happened when I had no idea what was real?”

This moment passed.  When Bangs arrived home, little by little, she connected with many other mamas.  One by one, she found a way to share her story and, in return, heard extraordinary and painful post partum tales from dear friends and strangers.  Far too many of these stories included elements of shame and silence.  “Too many of these women had never told anyone, not even their husbands.  They had never sought help.  They simply endured.”  

One dear friend told her that she had, for many months, pictured herself over and over hanging from the kitchen rafters.  Bangs was the first person she was telling.  Embracing that friend, with tears rolling down both of their cheeks, she decided to share her story from the mountain tops, again and again, in an effort to shatter the silence, lift the shame and help women find the help they needed.

Over the past year and a half, she has shared her extraordinary tale in many shapes and forms with a vast array of audiences.  Again and again, people emerge from the woodwork to thank her and ask her to keep telling her story.  And so she does.

Wildly, of the people most deeply moved, about a third are mamas that have experienced a difficult post partum period.  Many are people that have experienced anything from depression, anxiety and extreme hormonal changes to their own journey with mental illness or misdiagnosis.  The rest are simply human beings that have also experienced incredible disappointment or loss and moments of feeling completely untethered in their lives - as if the bottom has dropped out.   

On her journey back to wholeness, one of the things Bangs did was read her entire 100 plus page hospital record. Somewhere, around page 87, there is a nurse’s note that looks as if it were scribbled late at night after a long shift.  It reads, “Patient says she will do comedy on this experience.”  Upon reading this, Bangs laughed out loud. 

She remembered deciding in her hospital room to, at some point, take all the pain and transform it into a funny and healing tale.  She remembered telling the nurses, her social worker, her psychiatrist.  She told them all they’d have front row seats.  As she laughed, now over  a month out of the hospital, she imagined this might have been one of the many details that appeared manic and out-of-touch with reality.

The psych team couldn’t have possibly known that Bangs has been a storyteller her entire life and did comedy for a stint, as a student, at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade in New York City.  They couldn’ t have known that transforming a few details and layers of the most painful experience of her life into a room full of laughter would prove healing for dozens of people, if not more.

Bangs is clear that Playing Monopoly with God & Other True Stories is not comedy.  It’s wildly funny.  It’s deeply sad.  It’s chaotic and mysterious.  It’s life.

Join Melissa for an evening of true stories full of bewilderment, chaos and hilarity.  Bangs has a knack for telling true stories that cut to the bone of our shared, vulnerable human condition. Her true gift, however, comes in the moments in which she’s able to strip away the shame or agony of an experience and transform the room into an uproar of laughter.

Photo courtesy of: MICHAEL GALLACHER / MISSOULIAN

Photo courtesy of: MICHAEL GALLACHER / MISSOULIAN

Melissa painting in her Missoula studio

Melissa painting in her Missoula studio

Melissa Bangs

Melissa Bangs is fifth generation Montanan on her dad’s side and draws her roots all the way back to Roger Williams and Providence, Rhode Island on her mom’s side.  

In her many years away from Montana, Melissa worked as a labor organizer, a development director of an international human rights organization and a nonprofit consultant with an emphasis on strategic planning, fundraising, board development and facilitation.  

Her journey away from Montana took her to Santa Cruz, Mexico, Chile, San Francisco, El Salvador and New York City.  

In 2004, Melissa brought her nonprofit consulting business home and worked with well over 100 nonprofit organizations throughout Montana before the birth of her daughter, Adelaide, in 2012.

Currently, Melissa is home with Adelaide half-time, savoring every moment of these early years AND she is drawing upon her storytelling roots and comedic experience in New York City to tell this story in this way across the country over the next several years.

Additionally, she is collaborating with Dr. Christine White to expand and diversify the medical model for post partum women in Missoula and far beyond.