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Transgender Nonbinary Twin Recovering from Anorexia & Depression

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My twin identifies as transgender nonbinary, and is biologically female. They are recovering from anorexia (very underweight) and body dysmorphic disorder, as well as depression and hints of bipolar disorder but are acting selfish, cruel, irrational, entitled. This has been happening for about two years, and my parents have been very transphobic and controlling of my twin, constantly fretting over them to eat more and act more “girlish”, as they wish to “return” their physical image and behaviors to their original biological sex. I am their twin, their closest friend and confidant, and we know so much about each other than we can literally finish each other’s sentences and basically read each other’s minds. I can tell when they are upset even if their face expression changes a tiny bit. This is the problem — our closeness.

Recently, my twin has been acting increasingly selfish, harsh, cruel, irrational, and even more increasingly entitled to act in these ways. I cannot imagine how heart wrenchingly frustrating it would be to stuff my identity deep inside me as my twin is forced to in a transphobic household. This subject, I have nothing to touch upon. However, whenever my mother asks them to eat, or asks if my twin would like to eat, their face becomes very dark and angry and they do not talk to my mother for hours. If my mother eats less or eats a “healthy” meal, my twin gets angry — I know it is because they believe it is “unfair that my mother gets to eat less but they do not get to”. This is part of the problem of their anorexia. My mother is almost 45, and is watching her food due to health problems such as cholesterol and blood pressure. My twin knows this, yet refuses to listen. So they complain to me. I am the one who hears ALL these complaints. Multiple times, on the same topics — food, fatness, my mother and her eating habits. Many of them are growing increasingly selfish — and become upset over even the smallest things, such as if my mother were to refuse to eat an ice cream when my family was all eating them. My twin gives me the silent treatment if I do not respond properly to their grievances. My twin expects us all to go by their emotional ups and downs. And my twin often acts so entitled to their selfishness that I hate them — I am literally waiting until I go to college because I am so close to breaking down under their constant meanness and malice.

My entire family is walking on eggshells at this point, and as much as I have attempted to be understanding, kind, gentle, and assuring, I have had so many secret breakdowns in the shower this past couple months because of this. And then I have to clean myself up in the shower, act happy, and listen to their complaints and endure their meanness once more. It is so heartbreaking for me. My twin even complains about other people, overanalyzing their actions and finding reasons to hate them. Even my closest friend of 6 years has been growing distant from me due to my twin. Furthermore, my twin often guilt-trips me into following their will. We both study in the library during break times, and when I say I will go to the vending machine to buy a water or go to the bathroom alone, they act hurt and say things along the lines of, “Well, I have to go. You’re going and I don’t want to be alone.” and it is this sort of passive-aggressive guilt-trip that they employ on me. One time I was home sick with a fever, and they went to school while I stayed home. When they came back, they said in a very passive-aggressive, slightly bitter tone, “Class was so scary to sit in because you weren’t there.” Just recently, I went on a college overnight stay to decide which college I would want to go to. Instead of wishing me a good trip, they complained over and over of “If you go, I’ll be stuck at home with mother and father, and I’ll be so triggered and depressed and lonely.” When I came back, all I got were similar complaints of “I was so lonely when you were gone. Eating with mom sucked because she kept asking me to eat more. It was so triggering. I was so depressed the entire time you were gone.” And it was said in a way that was not childish complaints, but rather underhanded complaints that were meant to make me feel bad. The smallest things are the worst. If I respond to their complaints in a way that is only slightly to their disliking, they will give me the silent treatment. I will notice, obviously, and become relatively upset. And then, an hour later, they will come up to me and act as if nothing happened. And if I act mean or harsh at this time, they act as if I am suddenly attacking them/being mean to them for no reason. Even though they were clearly giving me the silent treatment earlier. And if I do reflect their sudden cheeriness out of a wish to avoid conflict, I will be upset inwardly the rest of the day.

This is becoming too much to handle. I know I should be understanding and assuring and kind and gentle, and that I should openly listen to their problems, but their increasing volatility and malice and their entitlement to act this way is making it very difficult for me. When I had anxiety and minor depression, I did not treat my parents or sibling this way, even though my father dismissed my mental illnesses as “false diseases”. Perhaps it is selfish and slightly ignorant of me to think this way, but why is my twin so selfish and cruel? Please help me out. After 2 years of dealing with this increasing problem, I have had too many breakdowns and am starting to resent my twin — which I really would not like to do. Thank you. (age 18, from US)

Transgender Nonbinary Twin Recovering from Anorexia & Depression

Answered by on -

A.

I’m so sorry that you both are going through this. It must be very difficult. I know that twins share a special bond that most of us don’t come close to understanding, so I appreciate your position. However, sharing a bond — and even DNA — does not make you responsible for someone else. It appears that you have tried to be understanding and compassionate, but your twin is starting to take advantage of this and it is beginning to hurt.

It seems that your twin is truly struggling with multiple mental health issues, so their pain is real, but it is not your job to fix it. Being transgendered is difficult enough and your twin also suffers from several other serious problems. Your twin needs professional help. If they are already seeing a therapist I might suggest that you ask to go to a few sessions so that you can share your experience of what is happening. Furthermore, even if you do this, it might be helpful for you to also see someone on your own, especially considering that you may be going off to college. Dealing with a separation of this nature could be hard on you both. You may also need some help in setting healthy boundaries and knowing when to speak up and when to let things go. You shouldn’t have to be crying in the shower! Please reach out for help and remember that loving someone does not make you responsible for them.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

Transgender Nonbinary Twin Recovering from Anorexia & Depression

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). Transgender Nonbinary Twin Recovering from Anorexia & Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/07/09/transgender-nonbinary-twin-recovering-from-anorexia-depression/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 9 Jul 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.