Saturday night comedian and pop culture commentator Stevie Ryan lost a long and hard fought battle with depression. Stevie has been very open and public about her quest for depression treatment, peppering in tweets about 3-hour-long talk therapy sessions and Instagram posts about transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatments (above) along with her scathing humor about pop culture and reality stars like the Teen Mom cast and the Kardashians.
Three months ago Stevie Ryan launched a mental health podcast called Mentally Ch(ill) with fellow comedian Kristen Carney. The episodes, which are embedded below, involve frank and humorous about all aspects of living with depression and seeking treatment.
In podcast posted on May 23, 2017, Ryan talks about embarking a month-long set of every day TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) treatments. As pictured above, the treatments involve her sitting there with a giant magnet on her brain. According to the Mayo Clinic website, TMS is often used when most other depression treatments have been ineffective.
The magnet is supposed to deliver a pulse that stimulates nerve cells in parts of the brain that regulate mood. “I just have to sit there for a half-hour while this magnet just pounds on my head,” Ryan explained on the podcast. “It will move your eyebrows a little.”
She went on to say that they fitted her for her personal device by testing to see which part of the brain they could stimulate that would make your fingers and hands start twitching. They told her they could also do that to her legs. She’d only had one real treatment before she already started to see a difference in her mood in the morning. Usually, Ryan said she cried every single morning when she woke up, but the day after her first TMS session, she didn’t feel the need to cry. “I don’t know what it is, I’m just so sad inside,” she said about why she regularly cried.
In her last podcast episode, which was uploaded two days before her death, Ryan was severely grieving the death of her beloved grandfather. The episode was recorded just a few hours after her grandfather died. “I’ve just kind of watched him wither away in the past two weeks and it’s really, really sad to watch someone who you’ve grown up your entire life and who you see as the manliest man ever just slowly deteriorate. And, it’s actually the hardest thing that I’ve ever dealt with in my entire life,” Ryan said through tears. “It just sucks and I will miss him forever. This is just a part of life, but I am just worried that this is gonna send me into a deeper depression. Or maybe it will take me out of my depression a little bit to see that life is short and that we just don’t have as much time as we think we do with people that we love or care about.”
Co-host Kristen Carney said that they had just recorded a very candid episode about suicide, which they couldn’t put out because of audio quality issues. She expressed an interest in rerecording the episode, but wondered if the death of Ryan’s grandfather had changed her views about suicide.
Ryan expressed confusion over how well her mother was handling the death of the grandfather compared to her. Carney recommended that she ask her doctors at her next TMS treatment to possibly get her on some sort of depression medication to stave off a further spiral. Stevie expressed concern about asking for medication because she says on the last visit they wanted to prescribe her Lithium, which she wanted to stay away from because of the side effects like hair loss and weight gain. Ryan had previously been on Prozac.
Carney also suggested that since Ryan was going through the grieving process, she should avoid isolating herself. Ryan replied that for the first time in a while, she did not feel like isolating herself.
Stevie’s story is a heartbreaking example of some of the painful realities of dealing with mental health disorders like severe depression, especially during very fragile times in our lives. “People are not usually open to talking about their feelings or talking openly like like this,” Ryan said in the podcasts first episode. The honesty and gallows humor in the podcast is much like comedian Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Illness Happy Hour, which has been running since 2011.
Another common theme in these two podcasts is the wisdom that professional success and fame is not the answer to happiness or depression relief. Gilmartin earned a good living on the TBS show Dinner and Movie, while Ryan found a lot of success with YouTube which led to her own VH1 sketch comedy show. “When I was doing well in life, I was so lonely and depressed,” she said of her time on television.