He survived suicide. Here's what he wants other survivors to know.

Trigger warning: plain talk about suicide.

Jamie DeWolf has seen a lot in his life.

The 38-year-old artist and performer, who happens to be the great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, was raised attending "apocalypse rapture camps" and was often sent to a school psychiatrist for his macabre writings.


Photo provided by Jamie DeWolf.

DeWolf later made a career as a circus ringmaster, filmmaker, and, most recently, a celebrated spoken-word performer.

"Poetry and spoken word became an outlet for everything that was naked and confessional," he told Upworthy. "There's something raw about simply telling your story without pretense, without props, just you and a microphone. There's no hiding up there, it's just you and your ghosts."

Jamie recently appeared at the Snap Judgment storytelling event, where he put one of his biggest ghosts front and center: suicide.

As the survivor of a suicide attempt, DeWolf knows more about the subject than most.

When asked what the biggest misconception about suicide is, Jamie's answer was stark and revealing: "That people actually want to die."

"Suicide attempts are often a way of taking a form of control when you feel like you have no power left," he said. "It's a self-destruct button when everything is collapsing around you. It can feel like the last choice you have left."

Jamie DeWolf performs at Snap Judgment. Image and GIFs via Snap Judgment Films/YouTube.

The story Jamie told at Snap Judgment is about a friend of his who sent him a suicide note via text message.

"She was one of the most fierce and funny people I'd ever met, so it was shocking when it happened," said DeWolf. "It seemed to come out of nowhere."

Jamie's friend was found face-down in her own vomit after washing down 28 Vicodin with a bottle of Jack Daniel's. The most shocking thing, though, was that after being taken to the hospital for a stomach pump nearly two days later, Jamie's friend survived.

"They're not sure how she survived. It was a miracle she didn't pray for," he says in the poem. After waking up in the hospital, she called Jamie, the only person she knew would understand.

Jamie knows firsthand how difficult the journey from attempted suicide back to everyday life can be.

"You can feel humiliated that the world knows you gave up," he says. "You can feel weak, like you have no skin left and everything is too bright, too raw to deal with."

People who survive suicide attempts can find themselves in state of shock, feeling numb knowing what they almost did, Jamie says, and the fear that people will call them "a coward, a quitter, [or] crazy" is a real one.

If people aren't empathetic, Jamie says to cut them out of your life and move on. "You want people around that are grateful you're still here. "

In 2013, 1.3 million people attempted suicide — and those who survived had to re-adjust to a life they didn't think they'd be living.

While each story is different, Jamie believes the lessons he learned from his survival can be passed on.

"Go back to your childhood joys if you have to. Read a comic book. Go on roller coasters. Watch your favorite movie again. Eat some goddamn ice cream. But most importantly, learn to laugh about it if you have to," he advises.

Surviving a suicide attempt can be a strange and unsettling second chance — if you know someone who's gone through it, sometimes just being there for them is enough.

"We're all broken in our own way," Jamie says. "But we all got duct tape for each other."

Being there can be as simple as being a safe space where they aren't made to feel ashamed or blamed for their actions.

"You don't even have to ask them why; the answers will come eventually," Jamie says. "Don't blame them. Be gentle to them, and tell them how excited you are to have them back. Ask them what adventures they want to do next in our short time on the planet. Living is the best form of revenge. Punch today in the face."

Watch Jamie's full performance here:


More

There are reasonable arguments to be had on all sides of America's debates about guns.

Then there are NRA lobbyists.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer spoke to state economists last week to explain why a proposed assault weapons ban would devastate gun manufacturers in the state. The proposed amendment, which is being led by the aunt of a student killed in the Parkland school shooting, would ban the future sale of assault rifles in Florida and mandate that current owners either register their guns with the state or give them up.

The back and forth between those proposing and opposing the amendment appears to be a pretty typical gun legislation debate. Only this time, the NRA lobbyist pulled out one of the most bizarre arguments I've seen yet.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Graphic helps identify what triggers you emotionally in relationships

Knowing your triggers helps you manage your emotions.

via Blessing Manifesting / Instagram

Learning your emotional triggers on your own is one thing but figuring out your triggers in a relationship adds another layer of intensity. Maybe you're afraid of being abandoned or want to feel the need to push the other person away but you don't know why.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. It's why artist and mental health advocate Dominee Wyrick created a graphic to help you identify what triggers you in relationships.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being
via PixaBay

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has brought a lot of attention to the idea of implementing a universal basic income on America. His "freedom dividend" would pay every American $1,000 a month to spend as they choose.

In addition to helping Americans deal with a future in which the labor market will be upended by automation, this basic income could allow Americans to rethink what we see as work and nurture what Yang calls a "human-centered" economy.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
Capital One

Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


Capital One

Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

Future Edge
True
Capital One