Summary of

Opinion | Advice I Never Wanted to Give


Takeaways

0.3 min

Adam Cayton-Holland is a comedian and the author of the forthcoming book “Tragedy Plus Time,” from which this essay is adapted. He talks about his sister’s suicide.

My main takeaway:

I regret every time I rolled my eyes because my sister was having another bad day. I’m ashamed of myself for it. No matter how much we know it’s not our fault, it doesn’t matter. In our hearts, we feel guilty.

Remember this.


Snippets

But when people write to me concerned that someone they love is suicidal, my advice is unflinching: There may be nothing you can really do, but whatever you’re doing to help, do more of it. Ask more questions. Drive your loved one to more doctors. Spend more nights watching him or her sob.

I regret every time I rolled my eyes because my sister was having another bad day. I’m ashamed of myself for it. No matter how much we know it’s not our fault, it doesn’t matter. In our hearts, we feel guilty.

I look back at Lydia’s life and I’m sickened we couldn’t see it coming. A preternaturally intelligent girl who is sensitive and socially awkward, obsessed with dark literature and music and television, overdoses on sleeping pills, and we thought she’d turn it around?

But, of course, science isn’t there yet. So all we’re left with is the clumsy knowledge that Lydia suffered from something. Something we were powerless to stop. It was mental illness — a real disease. That’s what got Lydia in the end. Not our ineptitude or lack of perception, the disease.

It’s been six years since Lydia died, and I’ve started talking about her on stage some, when it feels right. I don’t really have a joke about it. It’s more like a public service announcement that I make into the microphone, urging people to seek help, urging people to not feel ashamed of feeling powerless when it comes to their brains. You can see the audience tense up. I pepper in a few jokes here and there, to try to cut the tension. Which kind of works.

Adam Cayton-Holland is a comedian and the author of the forthcoming book “Tragedy Plus Time,” from which this essay is adapted.