Lisa Nicole Carson
People Magazine

Lisa Nicole Carson was more than Ally McBeal’s best friend on the popular Fox television show of the same name. Not only was she one of the few black actresses on prime-time TV at the time, but she was also someone a lot of black women could relate to. Whether it was her natural hair or her curvaceous figure, she was someone in whom other black women could see themselves.

Through Carson’s roles in ER, Jason’s Lyric, Love Jones and Eve’s Bayou, her fan base became huge. But unbeknownst to Carson’s fans, the actress was dealing with serious mental-health issues during her stint on Ally McBeal. And now she’s discussing how she’s living and coping with bipolar disorder and readying herself for a comeback.

In an interview with People magazine, Carson opens up about her diagnosis. “From the time I stepped away from show business [in 2001] until now, I’ve been on a long, very complicated and challenging journey,” said Carson. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it out.”

The 46-year-old says she had her first breakdown in 1997, and that after that, there were too many to count.

“When you lose your mind, it’s as traumatic as it sounds. It’s not anything you can imagine happening to you,” Carson stated.

One of Carson’s breakdowns made headlines in 2000, and it was then that her career was put in jeopardy. Carson spent several weeks in a psychiatric ward before returning to Ally McBeal, and she was ready to get back to work.

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“I busted my butt and worked hard for a year. And then, in 2001, I got the call: ‘We’re not renewing your contract.’ I cried for a week,” Carson recalled.

And now, 14 years later, Carson says that after trying several medications and dosages, she’s finally found the right combination for herself.

“I’ve been stable and haven’t had a breakdown in 10 years,” she said.

Carson wants to return to acting, and she also wants to help others who are dealing with mental illness.

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“It’s a risk for me to be open,” Carson stated. “I never wanted to breathe a word about what happened to me. But I’ve had a change of heart. It’s rare for someone who has something as severe as I’ve had to come out the other side, but I’d like to let people know that you can. You can get to the other side.

“I don’t really have an option to be silent about my illness, although I wanted to be for many years,” Carson revealed. “But since I had a public breakdown, it’s something I felt I had to address.”