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The Olympian Who Believes He's Always On TV

It's not uncommon for people with mental disorders like paranoia, schizophrenia and mania to feel like they're being watched at all times, but believing cameras are constantly recording your life so it can be televised is a rare disorder indeed.

Psychologists call it the Truman Show delusion for obvious reasons, but when the delusional person was Olympic sailor Kevin Hall, who has actually been on TV quite a few times over the years, psychologists have their work cut out for them:

Kevin’s case posed a new dimension for the doctors: What were they to do when the patient actually had been on television, written about extensively, and competed at an international sporting event that many treat like the most important thing in the world? In fact, Kevin was the first case the doctors had ever encountered of a quasi-public figure with “Truman Show” delusion. Dr. Gold was not Kevin’s official psychiatrist, but he and Kevin developed a friendship, mutually fascinated and informed by each other’s experiences from opposing sides of the proverbial couch.

When emailing back and forth, Kevin and Dr. Joel Gold got on the topic of their educational backgrounds. It turned out that not only was Dr. Gold a fellow Brown University alum, but he had graduated in Kevin’s year, and in revisiting the cartography of their dorm room assignments, the two realized that they had lived close to each other for years.

Kevin had to tell himself this couldn’t be the work of the Director, but rather just an uncanny coincidence.

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Kevin Hall was a champion sailor until the fateful day when his ship the Artemis crashed during a race, resulting in the death of his teammate Andrew "Bart" Simpson.

And even though he'd been living with the disorder for years this traumatic event brought his Truman Show delusion to the surface, making him wonder whether that career-ending crash had actually happened at all:

As Kevin Hall stood onboard the Artemis, a 72-foot catamaran, trying to help his teammates dredge Andrew Simpson’s body out of the water, he wasn’t entirely sure if the scene unfolding before him was really happening or not.

Months of preparation and millions of dollars had gone into the design of the Artemis, a vessel that had stunned other sailors with its foils and gadgets and that had seemed almost to fly over the water. Kevin suddenly felt lost. What had happened? Who, if anyone, was to blame? And why had Simpson, of all the sailors on the boat, been the one to die?

Kevin thought about all this and more as the emergency workers took Simpson’s body away and everyone went home. In the days that followed, part of him wanted to talk to his teammates about what had happened, but part of him dared not. Because, if he was honest, he still wasn’t entirely sure that the crash and Simpson’s death had really happened. It seemed too horrifying to be real. And for a few moments, there had been that flash.

The Director. Cameras. Actors. Scripts.

Kevin wondered: Had it all just been part of The Show?

Read The Olympian Who Believes He's Always On TV at Longreads


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