Gay Australian former bobsledder and rugby player Simon Dunn is thanking his followers for their heartwarming response to a very personal revelation, one that almost anyone who uses social media can relate to: the pressure to present a happy face, even when life is hard.
“Many of you related to the pressures of social media and also comparing ourselves to people whom seem to have perfect lives. I hope my candidness has shown you that this is often not the case but instead a story and image people put forward!”
In another social media post last week, Dunn discussed his “real self” and his personal struggles with anxiety, despite his social media persona as a confident, hunky athlete.
The Instagram post shows a shirtless image of himself, drinking a beer on a rugby pitch. He begins, “The online persona I show you is all photoshoots, parties and magazine covers. This hasn’t always been entirely the truth.”
Dunn says that earlier this year, he found himself financially broke and living in a spare room in his mother’s Australian country home, anxious about the “monumental task” of rebuilding his life:
I honestly didn’t think I could do it. I stopped looking after myself, drinking most weekends away, stopped training, all things which compounded the low point I was in. It honestly felt all the years of hard work had only led me back to where I began. For the first time in my life I’d felt anxiety, which was something new, scary and very overwhelming at times....
This image is me at the height of that time, I questioned if I should post it because it doesn’t portray the person I show the world. There’s no abs, I was unhappy and lost. It portrays the real me, someone who, like everyone else, has obstacles they need to overcome.
Only weeks earlier, I was living in London with my partner, running my own business, attending every party I was invited to, appearing in countless photoshoots and magazines.”
Amidst his turmoil, Dunn felt like he’d failed and let many people down. He writes, “Many tears were cried over many nights, and some days I didn’t want to even get out of bed.”
Dunn says he now feels a “little victory” for posting his picture “only a few months later, passionate for life again and looking forward to the next adventure.” He adds, “Life is a series of ups and downs, just remember - there’s always light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark it may seem!”
He came out publicly in a 2014 interview with SameSame, a gay Australian publication, while training in Calgary and hopes to compete in the bobdsled during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. He subsequently retired in 2016 after failing to make the Olympic team.
Upon announcing his retirement, Dunn told a gay publication:
“I wouldn’t say I’m gutted just disappointed. It would’ve been a huge honour to represent Australia and the LGBT community at the highest level in my sport. But towards the end my heart just wasn’t in bobsleigh, my love for it had gone. I was at the point I was only doing it to be a role model for young gay athletes. I wanted to be the role model I didn’t have growing up. It was at the detriment of my own happiness.”
In a 2016 personal essay for ESPN, Dunn said that homophobia from teammates while playing soccer at a young age kept him from participating in sports for seven years afterwards.
He eventually began playing with the gay-inclusive Australian rugby team, the Sydney Convicts, before becoming interested in bobsledding while working at the Canadian Sports Institute gym.