Being Twins.

For one minute on the 31st December 1990, my brother Richard and I were separated by the barrier that is the womb. He arrived into the world just before me, almost double my weight. We were three weeks premature, and I always liked that our birth year was 1990 rather than 1991 because it made me feel older than the 1991 kids, even if days separated our birthdays. Siblings three and four, of an eventual total of five, and our life as twins began.

It’s difficult to explain how being a twin feels. I can’t properly imagine what it would be like not to be a twin, just as non-twins can’t really grasp the idea of being one. We have always been the kind of twins who are very close; over the years we’ve met twins who don’t get on and can’t stand each other, and I think we’ve always felt very lucky to have the opposite. Every set has a different experience, so it’s maybe so much not “twinness” but our twinness that has resulted in our bond and closeness. We pretty much never argue.

I grew up having a ready made best friend. We shared mostly everything (often a curse more than a blessing), including a room. Even now, we still share a room, partially because we’re back living with Mum & Dad and there’s not space and partially because we don’t mind. (Although nowadays we have nowhere near enough space to handle all the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years, and my snoring/his breathing/his staying up half the night with the light on to read books when I need to be up early for work mean that the set-up really doesn’t work as well as it used to.) We shared a friends group at school, had similar intelligence levels, both attended speech therapy (thought to be because of our habit of ‘twin language’, but I don’t really know), had the same hobbies.

As we grew older, the friends groups changed slightly, the hobbies became ‘same but different’, and intelligence levels sort of grew apart from each other. Richard was always the brainbox, straight As, go-to for academic help, and I settled into average grades. I did resent him for it somewhere in my head theoretically, but not personally or really; I just accepted that was the way it was, and hey, it came in handy when I needed help to study for exams! As an aside: other twins out there, is it an established experience that rumors of “twincest” will go round school? I read that the twins in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl had the same experience, and I was very amused at the idea that we weren’t the only ones it happened to!

In 2005 when we were 14, the family became ill with a bug over Christmas, which Richard didn’t really recover from. Months of feeling under the weather became muscle and joint pain, excessive exhaustion and tiredness. It led to struggles for diagnoses, and more and more symptoms being thrown onto the pile. It led to ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) flooring him for 1-2 years which meant 8 hour days, lots of time off school, me dressing, feeding, and helping him. Eventually (17 January 2013), lupus was finally diagnosed. It’s been tough, but the journey has strengthened our bond in ways I never thought were possible.

We had to move away from home to attend university in 2008, and we decided to try living apart. It didn’t work out very well! I phoned him almost every night crying that I missed him, and more often than not one would sleep over at the other’s. When his flatmates became unbearable (a whole ‘nother story) he moved in with me permanently. I think we were trying to prove to people we didn’t need each other, didn’t rely on each other, that we could be independent, but it took us a while to realize that always living together doesn’t mean we’re not independent people.

Now, our friends groups are pretty much separate. We love the same things yet don’t: we love learning, but tend to embrace different areas of expertise (he studied anatomy, I did classics) although there is a lot of overlap which makes it fun; we love reading, but also different interests in genres; we love the same music (we actually have the same library of songs and take turns playing music; if he likes something new he’ll put it in, and so will I, and if the other doesn’t like it, better get used to it, haha). I think I like where we’re at with the ‘same but different’ stage now.

We don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. We can be as dependent or independent of each other as we like. We spend most of our time together, and any potential partners of mine have to understand he comes first. I don’t think I’ll ever meet someone I could be closer to, and I don’t mind in the least; I don’t want someone to overtake him in my estimation, and I despise the idea that platonic/sibling love can’t be transcendent over romantic love. Yes, our life plans have to lead us to the same place geographically so as not to separate us, but we’re not sacrificing anything. And who knows? Maybe in the future we will go off in different directions. But if we never want to, we won’t ever do it.

Okay, so this has ended up a cheesy post. But I wouldn’t change being a twin. I would be curious to see how I would turn out as a single child; what would I become without his influences? I have to wonder that. But I’d never switch him for the world.

Sascha x

Links of interest:

Richard’s blog about being disabled and having lupus: http://lifeofalupie.wordpress.com/

His fundraising page for a motorized wheelchair: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-a-lupus-warrior-fund-motorized-wheelchair/250477

Lucid Nightmares.

I’m sure pretty much everyone sometimes has thoughts that stop them sleeping. For me, sometimes it’s as if it’s deliberately on those nights where I’ve not got a lot of time in bed so I need to make every second count; I concentrate too hard on trying to sleep, and conversely end up even more awake by focusing on things. But sometimes it occurs randomly. We can’t anticipate it, and it’s one of the most frustrating things, especially when you’re actually so exhausted but your brain refuses to switch off.

Sometimes it’s merely random thoughts that keep me up, but often they are sad and sinister thoughts. I gravitate towards thinking of death a lot in these situations; I remember in my childhood I’d always end up thinking about the film Braveheart for some reason, when I wasn’t irrationally and very weirdly scaring the crap out of myself by simply ‘seeing’ in my head the end credits of The Simpsons – there was always something awful and evil about that yellow on black, though I don’t know what I was about, really! – and it would invariably lead to me thinking about losing family members, even those more distant ones, and I’d become very distressed, and sometimes cry about it.

Nowadays all my death-like thoughts tend to focus on my brother. Since he was diagnosed with SLE, or lupus, I’ve been on my guard a bit more. Lupus can be fatal, but it’s not as common nowadays. I still can’t help worrying incessantly about it. I think it’s more stark for me because we’re twins, and we’ve not yet spent a whole day apart. Neither of us feels complete about something until we’ve told the other person. And although his disease isn’t exactly a definite killer, the thought’s always lingering somewhere in the background.

All this has been even stronger by his upcoming surgery, in only two weeks’ time. I am nervous about it, and I find myself at night going over all the possibilities of him not surviving. I don’t know how elaborate other people tend to make their night-time terror thoughts, but my mind goes into overdrive. I imagine, down to a weird level of detail, life without my brother. I imagine hearing the news, having to tell friends, announcing it on all his websites. I imagine the rest of the family wondering how to get me out of the stupor that causes me to lie in bed all day. I imagine family disagreements about the funeral arrangements. I imagine being at the supermarket and not being able to place bottles up and down instead of across the conveyer to stop them rolling about without breaking down at the fact that he’s not there to insist that I do it. I imagine having to eventually look at the plans for the rest of the novel he would leave unfinished and not be able to finish it for him, even though I’d love to. I imagine how bittersweet it would be to finally have enough space in our room for all my stuff! As I said, I don’t actually know if others go into this level of detail or not or simply feel all the emotions of their loved one not being there, but I definitely do.

He thinks I’m silly when I suddenly leap over for a hug in the middle of the night. So do I, really. But I guess it’s a good thing that I’m trying to visualize a future without him, which would well happen with or without the lupus hanging over our heads, but it’s so unbearable to think about and renders me unable to get to sleep. It seems to be my worst nightmare, because it’s the most frequent thing that plagues me when I’m trying to sleep. And yet there’s a very real chance it will come true.

I’m not sure the point I’m making about all this – I just thought I would ramble, since last night I had less than five hours to get a good sleep and, lo and behold, horrible, intrusive thoughts about that stopped me! I think of a friend of mine who lost her twin, and I know that if she can get through, so can I, if, or perhaps, when it happens. Lupus is a degenerative disease – it gets worse and worse as time goes on. His history of self-harm and suicide attempts add another sense of foreboding. But, I don’t know – I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, I suppose, and the burden of trying to survive the grief would be gone!

What can I do to stop myself thinking these awful thoughts? It’s not fun to suddenly have a freakout and a long hard cry at the thought of your brother dying when five minutes beforehand you were simply trying to sleep before a busy day tomorrow. It doesn’t happen ridiculously often, but I hate it! The thought that one day he might not be there for even a hug is simply too unbearable to think about.