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What It's Like Being the Twin With a Chronic Illness

It’s always interesting for me to see my college friends’ reactions when I bring up having an identical twin sister. We both wanted to have experiences independent of each other, so we decided to go to school 900 miles apart. We have had immensely different experiences, which has come with both ups and downs. We talk almost every day and we laugh at how silly we can be, but that’s what makes us, us. However, we are finding it harder to relate to one another for many reasons. She is studying chemistry and I’m studying social work. She goes to school on the East Coast and I go to school in the Midwest. She doesn’t have a chronic or mental illness, and I have both.

At first, it was very hard for me to cope with being diagnosed with POTS and then MCAS. I started referring to myself as the “problem” child and comparing my college experience with Anna’s. I always tell people we aren’t competitive with one another, and here I was comparing myself to her and feeling bad for myself.

I’m a people pleaser and always put others first, and as part of my personality, I enjoy making others happy and being there for them. During this time I realized that when Anna and I were having heart-to-heart conversations, she was a lot more vulnerable than me. This thought made me reflect on why I wasn’t able to open up, even to my twin sister and best friend.

I discovered that extreme vulnerability scared me. To some extent, I still struggle with being vulnerable, but I love being able to share my story so others know that they are not alone. I also enjoy listening to other people’s stories and finding ways to best support them.

My personal experience with chronic illness and anxiety in college ultimately solidified my decision to pursue health social work. I know firsthand how hard it is to find mental health resources for individuals living with chronic illnesses as well as how difficult it is to navigate the healthcare system. I want to provide support and advocate for others as well as let everyone know it is OK to be vulnerable.

Getty image by Uliana Petrosian.