LEASHING THE BLACK DOG

Note: Life is hectic. I barely have time to scrape together a decent post for my blog, so it’s rare for me to enter writing competitions. However, upon seeing this month’s writing prompts for Furious Fiction, a story immediately came to mind and I wanted to write it. I share this story with you.


Thunder rumbles. Grey clouds blocks out the sun’s golden rays, darkening the sky and bringing forth a coldness that seeps to the bone. The wind picks up, blowing through tree branches, howling its warning. My eyes scan upwards, noting the turn of the tide. The hair on my neck stands up, prickles in fear. A cold sweat dampens my brow and my stomach churns with apprehension. It’s here. I can sense its foreboding presence.

Scanning the horizon, my eyes land on the ferocious beast as it stalks forward, taking calculated steps, eyes pinned on its prey. As it closes the gap, I can see his snarl, revealing razor-sharp teeth. The Black Dog emits a low and menacing growl. I know he wants to lunge and sink his teeth into me, to subdue and control me.

My heart races, my palms sweat, fear threatens to flood my mind. “Stop!” I force myself to take deep breaths. I won’t let my anxiety overcome and send me into a foetal position. I have trained for the next attack. Standing still in front of the door, I guard my post. A lone sentinel. The only protector to my precious soul, tucked safely behind that door.

Did I miss the warning signs? Did I become complacent? What triggered his advance? I rack my brain for the answers, but it matters little as the beast breaches all of my defences. One by one, the Black Dog smashes through, its leathery skin immune to the surrounding destruction.

I have a choice. To run and be resigned as its victim once more or grab the leash and regain control of this wayward Black Dog. As my eyes narrow on the reason I am constantly on guard, I decide this Dog’s reign of terror has run its course. I am stronger. I am healthier. I am wiser.

Keeping a tight grip on the leash, I approach the beast with a plan in mind. With each step forward, I feel myself growing braver as the Black Dog starts to cower. I stand tall, face him with unwavering eyes, and with the full force of my strength, I snap the leash on his collar. He struggles against my hold and I strain to contain the weight of his pull. Eventually, the beast releases a weak growl before he collapses on the ground, defeated. I lead him to the cage. I am exhausted but happy.

I lean against my door, thankful to have been successful in my guarding. Glossy tears fall freely down my cheeks. I bask in the immense relief. Albeit temporary.

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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THE DREADED SCHOOL RUN

When my daughter started primary school, I had a master plan. Despite suffering from crippling social anxiety, I was going to shove my insecurities deep down where the sun doesn’t shine, pull up my big girl pants, and be sociable. I was going to make an effort to introduce myself to other mums because I understood that I was the gateway to my daughter’s social life, and I wanted her to have positive experiences. I didn’t want people to see me as the awkward and antisocial person that seldom spoke and therefore, unfairly judge my daughter.

So in the first year of school, I tried getting to know people. I soon realised that there were many cliques and not all were welcoming, not everyone was friendly and some would outright ignore me. It surprised me to see strangers becoming fast friends within such a short space of time. People were enjoying family holidays together, picking up each other’s children and organising play dates.

All the while, I was struggling to get an invite to the end of term park gatherings and classroom parent dinners. Most of the time, I was invited as an afterthought or at least, that was my perception. I couldn’t even secure play dates successfully, bar one mum who took me under her wing.

I would watch with envy and disappointment as groups of mums would leave for coffee dates after the school runs. Why didn’t they invite me? These situations would evoke powerful emotional childhood memories of insecurities and inadequacies, making me feel like that outcast once more. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of those early days hidden in the car until the very last minute.

Fortunately, I did make a few good friends that year, and I’ve clung on to them since (You know who you are – thank you!). School runs can be intimidating, especially for someone who suffers from social anxiety. On days where I don’t find a friendly face, I feel anxious waiting around. Small talk is a mammoth task for me, especially with people I’m not comfortable with or know well.

My husband doesn’t understand my irrational fears with the dreaded school runs. How could he though? He doesn’t have social anxiety. He wasn’t an outcast as a child in school. He is confident in his own skin and has his tight-knit group of childhood friends. He has no problem with small talk or meeting new people, even though he is an introvert by nature.

I, however, allow this debilitating mental illness to dictate almost every social interaction that I have. It has become a stranglehold that keeps me from meeting new people, forming friendships and sometimes even keeping friendships. I’m plagued by insecurities and anxiety over forming connections but at the same time, I doubt why anyone would want to be my friend. I’m not interesting, I don’t have hobbies, I’m not well-travelled, and I’m not worldly or cultured.

My husband made an observation that gave me pause. “Why is it that you think so little of yourself? Why wouldn’t people want to be your friend? Why don’t you ask to join them for coffee?”

Upon reflection, I surmised that I am simply scared. I’m scared to put myself out there, to allow myself to be vulnerable and be judged. What if I’m found to be wanting? What if people don’t like me? What if I let myself hope for friendship and be sorely disappointed? What if I’m rejected for being me?

Recently, I met a wonderful and kind school mum, by chance, at one of my daughter’s friend’s birthday party. It was only upon getting to know her that I realised that I am not alone in my feelings, that perhaps there are many of us that have our own doubts and insecurities. She made me understand that having meaningful social connections and friendships are important, and that it is worth pursuing, particularly for people who suffer from social anxiety.

This year, I haven’t hidden in my car or pretended to be on the phone as much and I’ve continued to work on my small talk and forming connections with other people. I would like to think that my social anxiety has lessened in intensity and that my communication skills have improved.

But as we creep towards a new school year, where undoubtedly there will be new faces to meet and new connections to make, I know my anxiety levels will rise and there will be an overwhelming urge to hide in the car.

Does it get easier? Can someone overcome social anxiety? I really hope so because I don’t like the idea of hiding in the car for the next decade.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/