Two of a kind

Identical twins Gabrielle and Piper Duffy share a unique bond, but it comes with challenges. Photos: Supplied. 

“I used to hate when people would say someone was their other half, but when I moved to Sydney it felt like I was missing a piece.” 

Most people learn to brush their teeth or tie their hair from parents. For simple tasks like this, my sister and I were each other’s teachers. 

As a child, if I had an accident in my sleep my sister was the one who stripped my sheets and put me into a fresh pair of pyjamas, before I went to Mum and Dad. 

From the womb, a bedroom, and even friendships, twins often grow up sharing everything. 

This closeness creates a “built-in best friend” but once distance is put between the pair, loneliness can take over. 

“It’s like being homesick, but for a person,” my identical twin sister Gabrielle says. 

Gabrielle Duffy says she bottles up her emotions as a coping mechanism. Photos: Supplied.

Growing up, Gabrielle and I were what someone would describe as inseparable. The longest we had ever spent apart was 24 hours. 

Not long before we turned 20, Gabrielle boarded a plane to move to Sydney.

Once she left, I felt as though my mind had been taken over by an imposter. I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks multiple times a week. 

The pain I felt when she got on the plane was all-consuming; something I wish I had prepared for. 

Identical twins can often feel misunderstood when surrounded by non-twins. Photos: Supplied.

For many twins, living far away from each other is out of the question. 

Identical twin sisters Taylor and Elise Gollan both said they didn’t like to think about ever being apart. 

“We’ve agreed neither one of us is allowed to move out of WA,” Taylor says. 

“A block away from each other, next-door neighbours, that would be ideal.” 

But psychologists warn if twins don’t practice being separated during childhood it can make adulthood harder. 

Barbara Klein is an author and psychologist. 

Being an identical twin herself, she uses her own experiences of separation anxiety and loneliness to guide other pairs who feel lost. 

“In my twin groups a lot of them say loneliness is the worst thing,” she says. 

“Because they feel so misunderstood it stops them from speaking out.” 

Earlier this year, Ending Loneliness Together released a landmark report that revealed almost one in three Australians feel lonely, with 22 per cent being aged 18-24.

The study found almost 60 per cent of Australians don’t talk to others about how they feel. 

Dr David Lawrence says loneliness has detrimental impacts if untreated. Photo: Piper Duffy.

Curtin University’s School of Mental Health professor, David Lawrence, says there’s still a stigma attached to loneliness which has created an “epidemic”. 

“People only know their own thoughts and actions,” he says. 

“This causes people to think no one else is feeling like they are.

“Once people have conversations, they realise they aren’t actually alone.”

Dr Lawrence says the first step is talking to people.

So, I tried that.

Video: Piper Duffy