Ask Dr. Renee: On Chrisette Michele’s Brother And The Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

April 8, 2015  |  

On this season of R&B Divas LA, Chrisette Michele started her own record label, Rich Hipster, and her first artist is her brother, Lem Payne. Aside from his musical talents, it was also revealed on the show that Payne has been living with bipolar disorder for many years.

I recently spoke to Linette Payne (Chrisette and Lem’s mom) about this. She said that Lem is very smart and gifted, but he has a lot of different feelings to process at one time. This conflict made things difficult for Lem, starting when he was a young boy. Linette shared that she had to fight with frustrated school teachers and other authority figures in Lem’s life in order to help them understand that her son wasn’t a bad apple, but that he had an illness.

For some reason, in the black community, mental illness is rarely discussed so many suffer in silence. Oftentimes, when someone mentions they have a mental illness they are told to pray about it. I am a Christian and I firmly believe in prayer, but God helps those who help themselves. If you recognize that something does not feel right, please seek professional help, not just a pastor or a priest. People with bipolar disorder are usually very intelligent people, they’re just dealing with a chemical imbalance that causes them to display the different behaviors associated with the disease. Therefore, they need to receive more than just prayer.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and in the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal mood swings that everyone goes through. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even attempts at suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated so that people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. This is why it’s so important that you seek professional help if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms

A mood episode is what they call the intense emotional states people with bipolar disorder experience. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression, and this is called a mixed state. There are many more symptoms, including the following:

Manic Episode Symptoms

  • Disconnected and very fast (racing) thoughts
  • Grandiose beliefs
  • Inappropriate elation or euphoria
  • Inappropriate irritability
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Increased sexual desire
  • Increased talking speed or volume
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Poor judgment
  • A decreased need for sleep due to high energy

Depressive Episode Symptoms

  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Insomnia, early morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
  • Persistently sad, anxious or “empty” moods
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts

If you have been experiencing these symptoms for a long period of time, or know someone who has been, then professional help should be sought out. Diagnosing any mental illness is not as easy as a blood test, but if you feel that something is wrong and the doctor does not agree, please get another opinion until you are satisfied.


There are medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics that can help with this disorder. Along with medication, psychotherapy is very effective. There are also some alternative treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy, sleep medications, and herbal supplements. Research is constantly being done to figure out new treatments as well as causes of bipolar disorder.

I want to say thank you to the Payne family for bringing this conversation to the forefront. It is unfortunate how many people are affected by mental illness but never receive treatment because they’re concerned about bringing shame to their family or themselves. Last year we lost several high profile young women to suicide, which tells me they were experiencing some sort of depression that may or may not have been diagnosed and was definitely not treated. We need to do whatever we can to keep this from continuing on.

Linette said that she and her son, Lem, have been living with bipolar disorder for 28 years and it’s time to speak out. Let’s keep this discussion going until it’s not shameful in our community to talk about mental illness and seek help for it. If you are dealing with mental illness or know someone who is, please feel free to reach out to me, Ask Dr. Renee, and let me know if you have any questions, need advice or have concerns about bipolar disorder.


Dr. Renee Matthews has appeared on television shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and WGN’s “People to People”  where she discussed different health topics. She started her media career with her own radio show on ReachMD, a programming source for health professionals. In addition Dr. Renee has been a featured medical correspondent on Sirius XM’s “Sway in the Morning.” 

Twitter: @AskDrRenee



Trending on MadameNoire

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN