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Real voices: Life with psychosis, an art project

Marcus Gordon


This is a guest article by Marcus Gordon.

I was fortunate to be involved in an art project with Artangel and the artist Marcus Coates on what it’s like to experience psychosis, with the end result being the creation of the website so organisations can request access to the films to be used as educational material based on first-hand experiences.

First, some background. My story starts while I was at sixth form college (90s), when I started doing illegal drugs. Unbeknownst at the time, I had borderline personality disorder, and I had a very laissez-faire life. In short, I was reckless with my drug use. I did so many magic mushrooms in such a short space of time that it took me more than two weeks to recover from the digestive problems that binge eating those shrooms caused. This recovery time was what gave me my first taste of my psychosis, but sadly, it wasn’t going to be my last.

My psychosis was born out of drug use, and drugs weren’t done with me yet, and it could have all been avoided. But one fateful night, I had a complete psychotic break, which created my social anxiety disorder and my agoraphobia. From this point on, my drug-induced psychosis was linked to my anxiety disorders. The sensations and hallucinations I was experiencing at the time of this three-day drug binge were cemented together forever with my anxiety disorders.

While looking at a few mental health charity websites looking for volunteer roles and other ways I could give back and help people avoid the life experiences I had, I came across a recruitment for a psychosis art project with Artangel and the artist Marcus Coates. The project was to create films that would depict what it was like to experience psychosis. So I got in touch and told them how my psychosis affects me and if that would be suitable for their project.


Over the course of about a year we discussed how to make this video and began filing it over a weekend during the covid, meeting all the legal guidelines. Taking my lived experience with psychosis into a film wasn’t an easy task, and it still affects me emotionally when I watch the film. Since completing the film, they showcased it as part of an exhibit with several other people’s films based on their lived experiences.

What was interesting was how different all of our films were as we all had different psychosis experiences, so together they create quite a diverse picture of what it’s like to live with psychosis. Since the exhibition, I’ve been involved with two interviews and a panel discussion about the project, which happened on World Mental Health Day.

The films, collectively known as The Directors, have had a much larger impact than just being an art project. They are now being made available to organisations to help education healthcare and mental healthcare professionals all over the world. It’s been really great being part of this project and I hope I can be a part of more projects like it. But most of all, I’ll keep supporting The Directors for as long as I am able to.

You can learn more about graded exposure by clicking here.

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In the UK, you can call Samaritans on 116 123 – calls are free any time, from any phone. ⁠Lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also email or visit Or you can text SHOUT to 85258.⁠

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