Lisa Nicole Carson in People magazine

Lisa Nicole Carson in People magazine

*Actress Lisa Nicole Carson, best known for her role as the roommate of Calista Flockhart’s character in Fox’s “Ally McBeal,” has opened up about her longtime battle with bipolar disorder, and how it nearly shattered her life and career.

“From the time I stepped away from show business [in 2001] until now, I’ve been on a long very complicated and challenging journey,” Carson explains in this week’s People magazine. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it out.”

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

Carson is now living in Hollywood, with hopes of getting back into acting.

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

Cast of Ally McBeal

Cast of Ally McBeal

Just before her career took off on “Ally McBeal” in the 90s, Carson had her first psychotic breakdown in 1997. For the next seven years, she says, there were “too many breakdowns to count.”

After she was first diagnosed as bipolar, she says, “It didn’t make any sense to me, at all. I had never heard of it. I was in denial and would not take my medicine.”

In the years that followed, she experienced more mania than depression. “Sometimes it can be beautiful,” she says. “And sometimes it can be horrifying.”

In 2000, she had a breakdown at a Manhattan hotel that made headlines and left her terrified and confused. “I remember glass breaking, yelling, screaming and terror,” she says. “Sheer terror.”

She spent several weeks in a psychiatric ward before returning to work at Ally McBeal.

“The cast was very concerned,” she recalls. “They put together a video for me, wishing me well.”

Petrified, she says, “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.”

Watch video from her People interview below, and read Carson’s entire article in this week’s issue of People magazine, on newsstands today.