Hi, I am Lieke. My dachshund is called Tilda. And this is our story.
April 2014. With a BMI of just over 15 it was time for me to check into a treatment center. I was losing the battle against my eating disorder. I had gotten extremely tired of life. I simply could not take care of myself any more. My parents and I tried everything we could but my eating disorder proved itself to be much stronger than the three of us were together.
May 2013. Tilda, a standard black-and-tan dachshund, was born. She was a beautiful, healthy and lively pup. I got to meet her for the first time shortly after her birth. I remember having to fight back my tears every time I got to hold this precious little bundle of love. So much innocence, so much joy, so much to live for. She and I were going to be best friends. I could feel it.
June – November 2013. Tilda joined our family of four (five including my cat Koosje) in August. I immediately took on the mother-role. I taught her every trick she knows to this day. We became very close and I loved her dearly. On the surface, everything seemed well. But over the course of 5 months I started to count every calorie I burned during our walks. And not just that. I started to log every single thing I ate and did. I became completely obsessed with staying under 1.200 calories per day. It started with weighing myself once a month, to weighing myself nearly every day. By the time it was November, there was nothing left of who I used to be. I had turned into an anxious, self-loathing, closed and hopeless little girl. My dreams and goals had shattered. I felt misunderstood and o so lonely. But I never stopped posting on Tilda’s personal Instagram I had made during this time. I posted every day. I dressed my little girl up in the craziest outfits, came up with the silliest captions and made the best virtual friends anyone could ask for. Tilda became a bigger part of my life by the day, just by existing.
December 2013 – March 2014. In December I started seeing a therapist to treat my eating disorder. Unfortunately for me at that time, December is the holiday month. My therapist was unable to schedule an appointment with me before the new year. So when I finally got to see her again after nearly 4 weeks, my mental and physical health had declined rapidly. I was losing 1-2 kg per week and was unable to participate in normal activities such as meeting up with friends. I felt severely depressed and the eating disorder had quite literally sucked all the life out of me. I do not remember much of the months up until April. I do remember that I was clinging to the little fun things I had left in my life: the Valentine’s School Dance, my birthday and Tilda and her Instagram account. But it was not enough. My life was going downhill. I was 100% sure that I was a fat piece of sh*t. I hated the way I looked and behaved (insecure, anxious, angry). I started mutilating myself by scratching and sometimes even cutting my thighs and stomach and I felt very strongly that the world (and especially my parents) would be better off without me.
May 2014. I stayed in the treatment center until my little brother’s birthday, May 27th. That was the end of my six-week stay. Physically I had improved. But mentally, the treatment center had done me more harm than good. I will not go into detail about this but certain things that happened there still haunt me to this day. It was a very traumatic experience. During my stay, there was not a moment that I was not trying my very best to get better. I wanted to leave this horrible mental illness behind me. I wanted to be normal again. But I cannot explain how hard it is to find motivation from within to live when you feel so lonely and depressed. It was Tilda who pushed me to keep going. She was my motivation to come home. It was Tilda who reminded me what feelings were. The one or two times my parents brought her with them to the treatment center were the happiest visits of all, even though I cried the most when Tilda was there too. She made me so incredibly happy. Because to her I was just Lieke. I was not mentally ill to her. I was just a part of her life, like she was part of mine. That is why it hurt me so much that the docters forbid me to play or walk with her when I was home during the weekends because doing little things like these could already undermine my physical health. It broke my heart. This illness had taken away from me what I cared for the most: my dog.
Today, 2017. I am still here. Tilda is still here. The eating disorder is still here. The depression is still here. The anxiety is still here. But I am a stronger person. I have faith in the future. I finally have faith in myself. I still feel lonely sometimes but I know now that I am not alone. Tilda is still the only one who can really comfort me when I have nightmares or panic attacks but that is OK, if that is what works for me now. She is my little service dog. I could not be more grateful to have her in my life.
This story was written by Lieke Venema (2-15-1999), founder of Dachshunds United.