*With a notable work on the small screen (“Ally McBeal”) and big screen (“Love Jones,” “Devil in a Blue Dress”), the ‘90s belonged to Lisa Nicole Carson.
But something happened during that time that resulted in the sexy actress disappearing from our public radar. As it turned out that “something” turned out to be bipolar disorder, a condition Carson initially denied. Years after her diagnosis and ‘90’s heyday, Carson has reemerged on the scene and is opening up to Essence magazine about her type of bipolar disorder as well as its affect on her career and how she lives with it today.
The following are excerpts from Carson’s recent interview with Essence:
How she learned she was living with bipolar disorder
I was the belle of the ball in the late nineties, with roles on Ally McBeal and ER and in Love Jones. I’ve always been full of energy and would often be twirling around on sets. But my high-spirited moments looked like something else to one of the producers on ER. He had a family history of bipolar disorder and thought I might be exhibiting some of the symptoms. I didn’t know what he was talking about or how it could apply to me, so I just continued with my life. A year later I was in New York City catching up with loved ones when I unexpectedly had a fit in my hotel—yelling, throwing things, crying and raising enough hell that the staff called an ambulance. I ended up being hospitalized for a few weeks, and a psychiatrist gave a diagnosis: bipolar disorder. I was stunned and clueless, and so was my family. I didn’t want to believe I had any mental health issues and went into denial. I was supposed to take medicine, and I didn’t. I’m animated and exuberant, and this made it difficult to determine what was my normal and what was actually odd behavior.
How it affected her career
During my stay in the hospital, I was given medicine to stabilize my moods, and I spoke with a therapist. Upon being discharged, I returned to Los Angeles and went back to work on Ally McBeal feeling more in control. Everybody on the show was wonderful to me, but my contract wasn’t renewed for the final season. Nobody gave me an explanation, but I assumed it had to do with what had happened. I was devastated.
Once my episode became public, I was torn apart in the press, which really hurt.
What she did after “Ally McBeal”
But even if you have “It,” you can falter. Ally McBeal was my last Hollywood gig. After that I moved back to my hometown of New York City and stayed there for more than a decade. During that time I worked with many doctors to get as much control of my life as I could and experimented with various treatments including mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications. I’ve learned to look for the symptoms in myself: getting too euphoric or overstimulated. My bipolar disorder is usually exhibited on the high-energy and manic end. Some people who have the illness are more on the depressive side.
The best thing about taking a step back was spending time with my mother. She passed in 2011. What brought me through has been medicine, prayer, music and my dog, Josephine. I see a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly and now just take anti-anxiety medication. I’ve returned to L.A. to give my career another try. I’m going on auditions and handling rejection better than I did in the past. We recently had an Ally McBeal reunion for the TV Land Awards. It was wonderful getting dressed up and seeing everyone.
I’m tackling the myth that African-American women have to be pillars of strength. We have the right to fall. We have the right not to always have our sh– together. We just have to take our mental health as seriously as we do the physical. Do not be afraid to go to a therapist or a doctor to make sure everything is fine. I am excited for my new chapter. I now am stronger and ready for what’s next, while taking care of my emotional health.
For more of Carson’s interview with Essence, click here.