Steve Milazzo and his identical twin, Nick, led seemingly normal lives. They were each other’s shadows throughout childhood and adolescence. They were inseparable, until their lives were turned upside down for these two twins. This is the story of Steve and Nick Milazzo.
Unfortunately, alone is exactly how I felt when my identical twin brother Nick was diagnosed with schizophrenia in June 2009.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was a fresh college grad, ambitiously attending night classes to earn my MBA while working full-time in hopes of saving enough money to buy an engagement ring. Looking back, I think I kept myself busy partly to forget about my brother’s horrible disease and its emotional impact on me and my family.
I didn’t talk about Nick or his disease. I’ve been through more introductions at lunches, dinners and meetings than I can count. I found myself omitting the fact that I even had an identical twin brother when it was time to “tell us a little about yourself.” When people heard that I had an identical twin, the next question was, “What does your brother do?”
Nick’s and my story goes back to our premature births and time together in the neonatal intensive care unit. We grew up pretty much inseparable. I noticed that his behavior started changing in high school, but how can you tell what’s beyond typical teenage angst? We roomed together in our freshman year of college, and that’s when I knew something was seriously wrong. These were the first signs of schizophrenia. He wouldn’t shower for days, stayed in bed, missed classes. He moved back home and went to Oakton, but things just got worse. By 2008 he was having psychotic episodes. In the summer of 2009 he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. After a few failed medications, his psychiatrist found one that worked.
I noticed that his behavior started changing in high school, but how can you tell what’s beyond typical teenage angst?
Today Nick lives at home with my parents. He is low functioning, but thanks to the owner of ABT, he has a job making boxes for the store.
So, why did I leave Nick out of my story? I was unconsciously participating in the stigma against mental illness, trying desperately to appear “normal.” In my journey to come to terms with Nick’s mental illness, I found NAMI CCNS.
NAMI is an organization made up of people who are affected firsthand by mental illness. We are business professionals, police officers, healthcare workers, construction workers, business owners, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and parents with the common goal of raising awareness and helping to stop the stigma of mental illness.
Please give to NAMI CCNS as generously as you can. Countless families like mine will be grateful.
P.S. Think about my brother Nick and the 43-million+ people like him in the U.S. and consider making a lasting gift to the NAMI CCNS Tree of Life.
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