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The Mercury News
By Martha Ross | firstname.lastname@example.org | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
Stevie Ryan became a YouTube sensation with her video series “Little Loca,” which she parlayed into a more mainstream media opportunity: her weekly pop culture sketch show “Stevie TV” on VH1, which ran for two seasons in March 2012 and 2013.
Less known about the actress — whose IMDB biography described her as “innate go-getter” who saw YouTube’s potential more than a decade ago — is that she privately struggled for much of the past decade with sometimes debilitating depression. She might not be able to get out of bed or leave her house or she would be overcome with uncontrollable fits of weeping.
Ryan died from suicide by hanging Saturday, the Los Angeles County Coroner ruled. She was 33. Many articles suggest that the precipitating event was the recent death of her beloved grandfather.
“I worry this will send me into a deeper depression,” she said on the latest episode of “Mentally Ch(ill),” a podcast she co-hosted with comedian and radio and podcast personality Kristen Carney. The episode dropped Thursday.
Ryan also took to social media the day before her death, writing on Twitter about her grandfather, “My dream man who I will only see in my dreams. I’ll meet you in Percebo, soon. I love you my Papa.”
But in that podcast episode, Ryan also revealed she had stopped taking a mood stabilizer that was no longer working for her. She also was trying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective, according to the Mayo Clinic. TMS is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.
Ryan and Carney started Mentally Ch(ill) about three months ago. It’s the latest in a podcast sub-genre that features hosts and guests opening up about their struggles with mental illness, or “sob stories,” as Ryan and Carney jokingly called them.
Ryan and Carney said the goal of their show was to reduce stigma and to offer information and resources to sister sufferers.
“People are not usually open to talking about their feelings or talking openly like like this,” Ryan said in the inaugural episode “Hello Cruel World” 13 weeks ago.
In that episode, Ryan and Carney chatted in a friendly, funny but frank way about their individual histories of depression. Ryan, who grew up in the desert town of Victorville, northeast of Los Angeles, said her diagnosis came about 10 years ago, though she believes that anxiety had been present for much of her life.
She described suffering highs that were “so high” and lows that were “so low,” though she said she had never been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by severe mood swings. She also explained that her success with YouTube and VH1 didn’t bring her happiness. In fact, it was quite the opposite, she said.
“When I was doing well in life, I was so lonely and depressed,” she said.
Like others with major depression, she said she was constantly in search of the right medication and therapy to alleviate her symptoms — but that didn’t have serious and discouraging side effects. She had recently been on one mood stabilizer that helped her mental state, but it had given her a head-to-toe rash so she had been switched to another that turned out to not work that well.
In the episode that dropped a few days before her death, Ryan said she had just learned that her grandfather had died several hours earlier. She said he was the first person really close to her who had died. She described him as an important figure in her life — basically representing the “ideal man.”
“I spent every single summer with my grandparents,” she said. They had a beach house in Mexico, and her grandfather was a “manly man” who taught her how to ride motorcycles, dune buggies and horses, as well as to appreciate the beauty of nature.
“I’m not a religious person,” she said. “But I feel like he showed me God and heaven on earth and the beauty of nature. I have him to thank for all of that.”
This episode dealt with grief. Ryan said it was important for her to carry through with the recording as a way to distract herself from her loss as well as to not let herself become isolated. She sounded lucid, was still able to crack self-depracating jokes and expressed determination to take care of herself.
However she said she was also on her period, and explained she deals with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS. Moreover, she joked about being worried about her financial future.
Perhaps most significantly, she said she was “totally off her anti-depressants.”
She said her doctor had wanted to start her on Lithium, a common mood stabilizer, but she had heard that Lithium was a “very heavy drug” that also causes weight gain and hair loss. She half-jokingly said she didn’t see how gaining weight or losing her hair would improve her mood.
She was putting her hopes in the TMS therapy, but wasn’t sure how well that would go. Her grandfather’s death left her feeling “(expletive) devastated and torn up inside,” she said.
“I don’t know if I can ever be happy,” she said in an earlier episode. “I’ve been sad for so long. Maybe this is where my bar is set.”