‘I felt liberated when my twin brother died.’

In many ways being a twin can be a lot like being in an abusive, unhealthy relationship.

Imagine you have this person in your life that looks exactly like you, wears their hair similar to yours, has the same circle of friends, and everything down to their voice, their gait, their mannerism’s all almost identical to your own.

And what’s even more frightening is your own thoughts, aspirations, that little voice inside your head telling you right from wrong, good and bad, even your fears, insecurities – this person has them too.

It should feel like an invasion of privacy but you become so used to this person in your life that you can’t imagine a day without them. You base your morals and sense of worth and accomplishment off them. Living without them is unthinkable. All this is extremely unhealthy when you’re an adolescent trying to figure out who you are. It seriously complicates that process of becoming your own person.

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Michael with his twin brother David and their mother. (Image provided)

While this is all extremely pessimistic, make no mistake – losing this person is even more unhealthy. You lose so much of what you are and are left disorientated. This is how I felt when my brother committed suicide in 2009 when we were 16 years old.

But I have found positives in the death of my brother. It gave me something I had never had before and always craved – a sense of individualism. It forced others but also me to see myself as my own man. Unexpected surges of relief would hit me for the next few months after his death and I was not sure why. I felt guilty to no end. The shame of that feeling was unspeakable and I could not even admit its existence to myself, let alone to anyone else.

For all the conflicted feelings my brother’s death brought though, I came to conclusion that both grief and death give people a lot more than we give them credit for. Alongside the sadness and confusion, so many strings were cut when my brother died that I now feel unrestrained to do as I please without fear of copying or being copied, without that crushing feeling that I am no more than two of a kind; without that feeling that my actions and thoughts, my whole being, are entirely restricted and pre-destined to what my genetics determine them to be. I no longer have that ‘control group’ and it feels amazing.

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Grief is not a competitive sport; I make no amends for how I feel. I do not wish to be the most bereaved person in the room or to justify to the world why my insides aren’t dark and depressed 100% of the time.  I am strong and hard inside, but can also talk openly about my emotions. I am empathetic and emotionally secure. And the thought of losing people close to me is not feared. When grief eats me up and makes me choke on my own thoughts, when tears are slowly dropping from my eyes, as depression is looming over me, I think about him. I am washed away with an overwhelming sense of warmth and gratitude. That’s when it feels like my brother is so close to me again.

Michael is a guest on this week’s episode of Insight, 8.30pm Tuesday on SBS, which explores what twins can tell us about ourselves, and humanity at large. You can watch a snippet of the episode below:

Video via Insight: SBS

If you or a loved one is looking for mental health support/assistance, we urge you to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the website.

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