The Chemicals Between Us


It’s not you, it’s me. No, really, it’s always me.

I have a mental illness and today, for a brief moment, it almost killed me.

The sun was high, hard, and hot. The good fortune my wife was eager to share with my teenaged daughter and I wasn’t appealing to me. She found a new used car that the family could afford, and she wanted me to be happy. I couldn’t even fake a smile. My crazy was kicking my happy’s ass.

I don’t have the first frigging clue what kind of tree I would be, but Edvard Munch’s Scream is the painting I’d claim relation.

The distorted view, the sky, my appearance, and how I think the world sees me is so crushing because anxiety overwhelms me. My social anxiety disorder and the panic attacks that accompany it are almost crippling. I’m paranoid that the people who say they love me, really don’t. I’ll write something, go to put it my google document for my friends to read and edit, then break down and shake with fear that they’ll hate my art, and not respect me.

Life moves fast for me. If you let me be me, I can complete a two-hundred dollar grocery store trip in less time than Domino’s can deliver  a pizza.. The main reason I like punk, power-pop, and hard rock songs so much is they rarely last longer than three minutes. The problem with being in such a hurry, and being in such a flurry, is I suck at the details of life. Have you read my writing? The ideas are there. There’s structure and style. But I can’t edit. It’s too time consuming. Hit publish and let the talent speak, my anxiety-ridden mind thinks. At least I’m honest. I’ll take crazy truth over anything.

I watched my wife experience satisfaction at being over our financial hardships of the past six months. She finally had enough money available to get a second family car that was safe to drive. My teenager was smiling and talking about being excited to drive the car, too. But I was sullen, disconnected, and anxious to be anywhere but with them. The pills weren’t working because they were new. The chemicals running through me weren’t balanced, yet. My mind was racing, my hands sweated, I couldn’t stop thinking about the writing I wasn’t getting done. I walked toward the road and thought, just for a second or two, would these beautiful women be better off without me. I found something inside of me. It was a peaceful place.  I turned, smiled at my wife and sixteen-year-old daughter and declared, “this is your new car, baby. We’ll come back tomorrow when they’re open and work out the details”. Their dirty blond manes danced around their warm, expressive faces. I leaned against a car on the lot, and muttered to myself “kiss my ass anxiety, I beat you this time.” Of course, there’s tomorrow to tackle, and that damn google document with Helene Troy’s chapters.

****blogger’s note****

This guitar riff is what my mind is like on days like today. These lyrics are pretty much what I’ve been experiencing with my family the past few days. Thank God, they love me so much. Today’s song is from Bush. Here’s The Chemicals Between Us.


100 thoughts on “The Chemicals Between Us

  1. I am cheering inside for you! What a victory. I loved how you changed the mood of the writing as you described your actual mood change. Those women of yours sound like the best medicine!

  2. Someone told me once that anxiety was there to remind us that we were growing, and change was imminent. It didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t even happen in a year… but over time I started to remember that it was not necessarily a bad thing. Funny but when that happened, it slowed down. The loud noises (because everything was amplified for me during those moments of perpetuated anxiety) became quieter, the world slowed down enough that I could look at things with a bit more perspective. I wrote the changes into my life. I still write the changes into my life. There are days, but they are few and far between now, because I embrace what I used to run from…. and I remember that I always have the choice… it is my choice… and today I like living.

  3. debseeman

    I applaud your candor and your willingness to put it out there. I know it had to be a chore to hit publish. I wish the man in my life had the honesty talk about it like you just did right here. The reality is after 32 years I don’t think he ever will. I’ve adapted albeit reluctantly and often with loads of frustration. Lance, never quit writing. You have a gift and thank God you’ve found it as an outlet. We all benefit.

  4. I think you and I were separated at birth! Now I must go back to staring at my to-do list, paralyzed, Social Distortion rocking through my ear buds, waiting for my nightly anxiety cocktail to do its job and let me get some sleep.

  5. I’m not someone in fear of acceptance should ever be an artist. You should have been an auto mechanic, except then we wouldn’t get all your wonderful writing, so nah… never mind!

  6. You know I can relate, and all I can say is that to be honest, you shouldn’t depend on those pills for your sanity. Easier said than done, but sometimes you’re stronger than you think–and that you give yourself credit for. It’s uncomfortable, but remember what it is you want to do, want to be and what those women deserve to have 😉 You are a remarkable man and will continue to kick ass. You can beat this crap.

    • Abby, big-mouth Amypants here. (That’s what my friends call me sometimes!) I think you’re right that it’s not JUST meds, but don’t count them out. I wasn’t diagnosed bipolar (manic depressive is my preference in terms) with PTSD etc. until I was 50. It was through talk therapy that we identified my need for meds, and it’s that balance of BOTH that keeps me going. Still have down times, but I always know I can come back.

      Love your comments to Lance. Yes, we straight girls wish there were more like him. Amy

  7. Lance, I’ve known quite a few artists, and I’ve never met a good one who was “all there.” Doubt, anxiety, fear–these are the things the creative person experiences when they are onto something that makes them original and interesting.

  8. thesuniverse

    I HATE that anxiety and its ridiculous ability to latch on so thoroughly. It is completely exhausting. Good for you for kicking its ass that day. It’s not easy, ever, to do that. I would count it as the biggest win ever.

  9. If you ever need an editor…I’m here! But seriously, brother wordweaver…we are all here with and for you! Life is a challenge and if not for them would our writing even be worth reading? Because I’m trailing behind in posts, I’ve got the feeling you indeed flew over the hurdle…and know we/I am thankful you did. Here’s to you, perfectly imperfect with a potent and powerful pen. Love!

  10. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd

    Very well written, Lance. I felt so happy for you when your mood turned around!

    P.S. I like short songs, too.

  11. That sounds like a really tough place to be. I’m glad you beat your anxiety that day though. At the end of this post, it really felt like a weight had been lifted.

  12. Oh yeah. I understand it when the pills aren’t working. If we don’t get m pills right soon, I’m going to go crazy. Wait. I am crazy. I’m going to fall off the deep end. You’re an awesome writer, and I for one absolutely respect what you’re doing. I love that you got past the tension to share your family’s enthusiasm, and that you know how to move moment to moment. (Still working on that one. Moments tend to become miniature lifetimes for me still.) You have an awesome wife and incredible kids. (Similarly, my astonishing husband and adorable barnacles stick with me on those bad days.) Hang tough.

  13. I know the feelings you describe, both in myself and others. But it’s so hard to hear about someone else’s pain like that. I understand, I think, what you feel, or at least empathize it, because I feel it myself about myself. But it is hard to understand how you feel it about you. You are such a nice man, caring father, great storyteller, fun friend. How can you not see that? I wish we all had better self-mirrors.

    Even this post is a well-written story! Writing comes naturally to you. I’m glad you were able to make the girls happy, even though it was harder for you than they know.

    Thanks for your honesty! Anxiety is a sketchy sadist.

  14. This is honestly the most powerful thing I’ve ever seen you write – and as you know – I think you write some damned powerful stuff.

    Sadly, I can’t offer you advise either, but I can offer solidarity. And I’m proud as hell of you for kicking anxiety’s ass this time. When it happens, don’t worry about the morrow, just relish in the moment.


  15. Lance, so damned honest it hurts, but you have cornered anxiety at The Fight Club and given it a bloody nose. GOOD FOR YOU. Even if this is from the past, I can relate. Until I got on meds for my PTSD and manic depression, I told myself exACTly the same words, verbatim: “The world would be better off without me.” Pulled myself in for the sake of my family, but damned if this mix of crap in my brain doesn’t bring about both beauty and the beast. Here’s one I think you can relate to… Love to you, brother, and peace. Amy

    • thank you so much, Amy. Its good to know I have people like you who get this mindset.

      I’ll be over later to comment bomb your place.

  16. God, you describe this so well. I’ve been here. Been in that place when for every conceivable reason I should be happy but because of chemical inbalances and social disorders, I’m everything but happy.

    PS. I’m not an editor either. Here’s to just writing our hearts out…because that’s what I love the most.

  17. Wow. Sometimes I am in the I’m pissed off because every sign points to “you should be happy.” I don’t know I’d that is the same place, but I know that when I should be happy often I am not…not completely anyway.

  18. I definitely won’t give you any advice, but I can tell you that I know how debilitating anxiety can be and good for you that you conquered it this time.
    My son deals with anxiety a lot and I try to help him where I can, because at 10 years old he really doesn’t feel like he can conquer it at all. We just take one day at a time and every day anxiety doesn’t win is a good day.

    • please give him a hug from me. I didn’t realize i had this until i was a teenager, about my daughter’s age, 16.

      thank you for your comment, it means a lot.

  19. Anxiety, depression… they are tough roads. I hope you have more good days than bad. Your art is good – better than good – believe people when they tell you so. This is an honest and real post. Nicely done.

    • thank you michelle. I don’t take compliments well, but I’m reading/listening to what you’re saying. I try to be honest with everything I write, even the fiction. Thank you so much for being here.

  20. Ooh, you hit me with this one for sure. I have struggled mightily with depression and anxiety over the past year or so. It has kicked my ass more than a few times. Wishing more good days than bad ones for you from here on out!

  21. It’s nice to peek behind the veil and see the human behind the artist, so thank you for revealing yourself so honestly to us. I know how difficult the valleys of mental illness can be. I hope you find a some comfort that works for you. And I hope (selfishly) that that comfort is more writing! Wish you so well.

  22. I can completely relate to this and understand how difficult it is to put on your “happy face” for those you value. I commend you for being able to do that when I have failed and said the completely wrong thing (no filter at times).

  23. Lance, This is real and honest and needed. I don’t mean to be flippant at all when I say that I think mood disorders kind of come with the creative territory. I have struggled on and off with depression through the years (and isolating myself – yes, I have been entirely absent for awhile, which is what I do when I get overwhelmed), but I don’t like to talk about it. I think we all struggle to share our secrets, but when we do we find we’re not alone. Thank you for sharing. It makes you stronger in my book. You are awesome 🙂

    • Lori, I didnt talk about it for 36 years. It nearly killed me. Now, talking/writing about it keeps me somewhat balanced.

      Thank you for coming here

  24. David Wiley

    I thought I was the only one who was too impatient to edit before posting something. One of these days that’ll lead to something completely embarrasing. I’m sure it has already generated some fragmented posts. I can completely relate, although I like both the three minute songs and SOME of the longer ones. It has to be really awesome if it drags on beyond five.

  25. seekingelevation27

    Anxiety is awful. I’ve had all of the disorders except, funny enough, social anxiety. I just wanted to say that I think it’s great that you’re aware enough of yourself to be able to see your *stuff* so honestly. Not everyone has that ability, and it’s key to fighting your way through it. I also wanted to say that just two days ago I had the same conversation with someone regarding editing and publishing–that there’s definitely something psychological that keeps me clicking “publish” instead of hanging on to it, editing it, and trying to do something with it. I’m working on that bit. Thanks for sharing this. xx

    • thank you Lisa, that means a great deal, coming from you.

      Recognizing when the illness is taking over is a thing I’ve only begun to be able to do recently.

  26. “During an intense 12 minutes, the 1895 artwork – a modern symbol of human anxiety – was sold at Sotheby’s in New York City on Wednesday for a record $119,922,500.”

    I thought of you when I saw this story about Munch’s “The Scream” I’m screaming for you. And I love, love this post. Your family is blessing because of your presence in their lives. Each week I read, I wish I would have had a dad so caring and genuinely interested in my well-being. In saying that, I am not meaning to make you feel “bad” for having anxiety disorder. It’s meant as reassurance for if it comes back so strongly again. Hang in. Really, really, hang in.

    • I saw that story this week. Also, thanks for the encouragement. I know my family puts up with alot from me. I hope the love exchanged is good enough for them.

  27. I don’t know what makes anxiety come, I don’t know what makes it go.

    I do know that I’ve had many, many periods in my life where I thought it’d never go away.

    But I’ve been good for a few years now.

    And it’s wonderful, and makes me feel confident that I can do things like other people now.

    I wish the same for you.

    Who knows about the triggers, or even if there are triggers: I just pray mine doesn’t come out of the blue again BECAUSE MY LIFE WAS JUST ABOUT IMPOSSIBLE to live when it was going on.

    I feel you, friend.

  28. Oh yeah. Yes yes yes. Thanks for sharing this with us. I think it’s important for people who don’t struggle with this to get a view, and you describe it so well – at least, it rings true with my experiences. Always here for you.

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