When I think of my childhood, I can’t help but see dualities galore; hence, the title of this blog. I am a fraternal twin. My twin and I are like night and day in some ways. I am right handed; she is left handed. I have fine hair; she has thick hair. She was also the more dominant twin. I preferred to follow the leader.
When my younger sister by a year and a half was born, she joined our fray and we became the triplets, but I still remained the sister who felt like she had no identity and preferred then to be invisible. I was always heavier because my emotional eating started even then. You see, when school began and I was separated from my twin and younger sister, I felt like something inside me was lost. When my sisters proved to be above average intelligence in school, I still couldn’t pick up a book to read. I couldn’t understand why I was different. In third grade, a teacher I loathed back then realized I had a learning disability and I needed special classes to catch up with my peers. (Now, I owe her a debt of gratitude.)
Great! I’m not only a freak because I’m a twin and fat. Let’s add stupid and special on top of that. Of course, my sisters used my insecurities as ammunition when they wanted me to cry, and I would do the same to them with theirs.
One bad thing about the three of us girls was that two of us would gang up on the third all of the time. It was like a tag team match that would alternate over and over again. The fighting could get really bad at times.
In fifth grade, the verbal harassment on my weight from other kids started. The daily nickname “Buffalo” was not a name that inspired a girl to feel good about herself. So, depression set in and I isolated myself from my peers. Fortunately, my ability to read greatly improved during that time. I surprised the teachers with my ability to outdo even the honor readers in comprehension at the end of the year test for fifth grade, which moved me up the ranks ever since.
I didn’t leave my insecurities about being different until well into high school. To prove I wasn’t stupid anymore, I read books like a fiend and competed with my sisters for top grades, even though our younger sister received straight A’s regularly. However, another duality between my twin and I appeared. She was better at science and mathematics, while I was better at writing and interpreting literature. We would help each other, so we both excelled in all areas.
To prove I no longer needed to feel isolated for being a twin, I had gained a strong circle of friends in junior high and began to not care what those outside of the group thought, but for years I still was not having any luck with meeting guys because I was still heavier than most girls my age. So at the beginning of my junior year of high school, my sisters and I went to a weight loss specialist and were put on Fen-Phen, an appetite suppressant.
Fen-Phen was definitely a miracle all right. I lost forty pounds in six weeks and my sisters lost thirty-five. We were eating less than our recommended 1,000 calorie diet and I was going regularly to twenty-one and under night clubs with my circle of friends on the weekends. Looking back, I would say my behavior teeter tottered on mania during that time. When Fen-Phen was starting to get bad publicity and women were having heart problems, we stopped taking it. Soon after stopping, I was in the hospital with an acute gall stone attack. Depression started to take its course after my surgery that removed my gall bladder.
My twin sister also had gall bladder problems during that time that appeared in the beginning as just stomach flu. My younger sister also started having stomach and back pain, but the tests came back negative for her. The doctors diagnosed her with clinical depression at fifteen. My twin had surgery a month after mine, but my younger sister wallowed in pain for months refusing to eat. She was slowly starving herself to death.
Finally, my father refused to believe her pain was just “all in her head” and forced the doctors to send a scope down to her gall bladder because he was sure she had the same thing we had. He was right. Her gall bladder was full of sharp crystals and it was severely inflamed. However, my younger sister really was depressed too and started ten years of trying anti-depressant after anti-depressant. Finally, she earned the title “treatment resistant” when most anti-depressants were used on her and she did not respond to a new study using magnets.
Two years after my younger sister’s diagnosis, I ended up in the hospital with my first psychotic episode and my new diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder, but my younger sister still was just depressed. Yeah right!
This year she was finally diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder. Don’t get me started on her story. I can go for hours, but it is not my story to tell either. I respect my younger sister’s privacy.
Weight continues to be a major problem even today. My past experience with dieting does not endear me to try what is out there now, even for just calorie counting. I know my medication causes me to gain weight, but I’m use to being fat. Years ago, my old therapist told me that dieting wouldn’t work for me because I wasn’t scared enough. I’m still waiting to be scared.