Student spent 4 years under the delusion that he was on a reality show from which he couldn’t escape.
SANTA ANA, CALIF.
Nick Lotz was at a music festival in Michigan when it all went sideways on him.
Sure, there had been a bit of weirdness leading up to that day. Like the time he blacked out at a party and woke up in a hospital. While some other college kid might’ve sworn off booze, Lotz thought he might be part of some small town hazing ritual, or maybe a cult.
But it wasn’t until Dave Matthews took the stage at the Rothbury Music Festival that his brain officially went haywire.
It should be noted that Lotz doesn’t even like Dave Matthews. But that night, as Dave jammed, this idea came to Lotz in an epiphany: Oh my God. I’m on the “Dave Matthews Band Reality TV Show.”
A nightmare had started.
Every time Dave came back on stage to do another encore, Lotz thought the singer was, through guitar licks and stage lights, trying to give him another chance to crack the code, another chance to get off the show. Lotz couldn’t crack the code.
Dave Matthews ‘has a reality TV show?’
It should be said that Lotz had taken LSD that night, in the summer of 2008. And Ecstasy. And Adderall. Not a good combo for anyone, and in particular, apparently, Lotz.
Back home, he nervously told friends that he was the star of the “Dave Matthews Band Reality TV Show,” and that he wanted off the show.
“Dave Matthews Band has a reality TV show?” they would invariably ask.
That must be the show’s catch phrase, he thought. Something people were supposed to say when the cameras were on.
It would be years later — in 2011 — that Lotz saw a story about brothers Joel and Ian Gold, doctors who are writing a book about a small but growing number of people suffering from what they have coined the Truman Show Delusion.
In the 1998 film “The Truman Show,” Jim Carrey plays a man whose entire life, from the cradle, has been filmed with hidden cameras for the entertainment of TV viewers. Everyone is in on it, except him. Eventually he escapes the show.
Lotz couldn’t believe it. They were playing his song.
How could he get off the show?
But the song in 2008 was still one being played by Dave Matthews.
Lotz’s parents sent him to rehab. “I thought [rehab] was all part of the show,” Lotz says. “Like, ‘Lotz goes to rehab!’ ”
One day a nurse in the facility told the patients: “You know we’re all watching you, right?”
Of course they were. Wink. Wink.
One day the voices told him to run a marathon. He drove all over town to map out a 26.2 mile route, then went back and hid water bottles in bushes. He ran the route alone. No one cheered, except of course for the fans watching on TV.
It was exhausting. He wanted off the show, but how?
His mom knew something wasn’t right with her son, a band kid in high school with high grades. But he would just blow her off like teens sometimes do. You’re off script, mom. She never imagined he was being literal.
A year and a half after Lotz got the memo that he was on TV, he moved to Hermosa Beach, Calif., to live with his dad. He was emotionally drained. He began writing to celebrities for help.
Quentin Tarantino. Lorne Michaels. Rob Lowe.
“I tried to get my mind back,” he says.
Only one celeb responded: Emma Watson. It was a form letter thanking him for being a fan.
Lotz’s mom went online and found Dr. Stephen Marder, head of the psychosis unit at UCLA Medical Center. Marder diagnosed Lotz with Persecutory Delusional Disorder. An antipsychotic was prescribed.
Every night, his dad watched Lotz swallow the pill, making sure he didn’t hide it under his tongue. After a few months, the voices began to fade. And as they grew quieter they became nicer, less demanding. “The plot is winding down,” Lotz thought.
Every morning he would wake up and wait, apprehensively. “I knew they were going away, would this be the day?”
And one day it was: Nov. 10, 2010. “It was just silence. And it was beautiful.”
The following spring, Lotz contacted Joel Gold, a psychiatrist at New York University Bellevue Hospital. Gold believes the Truman Show Delusion is not a new mental illness, but the latest twist.
Delusions have been around a long time; people fill in the details depending on their culture and era. If this had happened in the 1960s, Lotz might have thought the Russians were controlling his brain with satellites. In the ’70s, his delusion might have included the CIA and dental fillings.
Today, Lotz is affable and open to sharing his story. He is studying Chinese at Cal State Long Beach where he DJs a campus radio program. And he’s writing a book about what happened to him.