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:


Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

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"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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