I find myself unexpectedly awake in the small hours of the morning and I can’t sleep because I have a variety of thoughts rolling around my head.
I managed to get out of the house for a walk around the park yesterday and it felt good.
I’m useless at staying indoors and watching TV nowadays and I find it really hard to just take it easy.
Every moment I spend seated honestly feels like a moment of the life I have left is being wasted – and I’m struck by how much I’ve changed in this regard.
Although my inner ear issue is still apparent (I went for a coffee afterwards and nearly fell over when I stood up from the table in Costa) I awoke yesterday feeling both physically better and mentally determined.
For all of the things I feel I’ve overcome recently there are still quite a few topics that remain in the back of my mind – and I’m aware that some of them are going to be quite difficult to face up to.
One of them is skin and what’s left after weight loss.
It’s a topic that concerns almost everyone I speak to and almost everyone that contacts me to ask for support or guidance.
It occupies my own thoughts too and they’re often conflicted – because I don’t want an operation but I also don’t want to be perceived as a freak or oddity.
I’m never quite sure whether I put off dealing with how I feel about people seeing my body because I don’t feel it’s anyone’s business but my own or because I’m worried about how they will react – and how this in turn will affect me.
In truth I guess it’s a mixture of both.
I also live a very public life in social media (in a way that I would never have foreseen three years ago) and it has a big influence on my thinking.
The old fart side of me, born into a world without mobile phones, the internet and social media sees sharing information and images of how people look when not fully clothed (I’m not talking about porn – but rather underwear or muscle/gym selfies) as a vanity project that can only lead to peer censure and personal anguish.
You’re almost certain to get some negative responses – so why do it to yourself? Is the need to be loved so huge that it’s now also required from an audience who can never know the real you?
The other side of me (the one that emerged out of the offline 80’s and embraced social media with gusto) thinks slightly differently however.
He’s seen how people have reacted to his blog and his Instagram account.
He’s spoken first hand to men and women about how his struggles seem to have provided genuine inspiration and comfort to them – especially when they are coming from a similarly dark place in their lives to the one that he did.
He’s come to accept that facing up to the truth of who he is in public has enabled his words and actions to potentially help many others.
He sees the value in this – and a need to ‘give back’ and to do good in the world (even in a modest way) is a powerful motivator.
But my new, modern approach to the world and honesty with it can be a big (self imposed) burden.
Where does my wish to help other people outweigh my need to keep parts of my life private?
Where is the line drawn between altruism and maintaining my self esteem?
I don’t know.
I’m not sure I’m willing or able to cross such a line.
Maybe other men who’ve already done it and ‘outed’ their bodies in public on social media have already completed the work on my behalf.
Maybe there’s absolutely no merit left in doing so.
But – what I don’t know how it made them feel when they did it.
Did they feel a sense of catharsis when they uploaded a picture of their imperfect naked torsos and clicked ‘post’? Did doing so mean that the worst was over and they were ‘out there’ – free from the burden of hiding or did they upload it and instantly regret it?
I guess it’s an individual choice and an impossible question to answer when applied to what must be an incredibly diverse range of desires to be accepted, complex needs to be loved, and motivations to help others.
Regardless of this I made a big step yesterday.
I bought something I’d pretty much agreed with myself that I wouldn’t.
Figure hugging swimwear.
The very thought of it fills me with dread – but maybe it’s something I need to confront – because at some point I’m going to have to face up to how people might see me when I’m not fully clothed.
It certainly won’t be like the model in the picture on Amazon – who does little for my self image.
If nothing else he makes me want to buy a top as well and go ‘full burqini’ on the problem at hand.
I envy women in this case.
Modesty would be acceptable for them in the same way as wearing something revealing would – but for men I feel theres a different burden.
We go topless.
In our society it’s just what’s expected of us.
It’s what we do.
Often this topic rears it’s head in relation to breast feeding and women’s rights (#freethenipple – I agree) but far less for men who really aren’t comfortable with being uncovered.
The whole topic makes me want to climb into huge a neoprene zip up bag, cut out some eye and snorkel holes and fashion it into a cover all swim suit before ever throwing myself into a municipal pool.
I desperately want to hide from the eyes of the world.
But you know what?
Why shouldn’t I wear a Lycra swimsuit?
Why shouldn’t I be proud of who I am after all I’ve achieved?
I want a full life in every sense of the word – and I feel that to achieve this goal I have to push forward aggressively with the complete normalisation of my self image and dealing with the reality of what’s left behind.
Blogging has become my new normal – but the question remains -can I share how I look in Lycra with my audience?
I don’t think so.
I suspect that the world doesn’t need images of me in swimwear on its mobile phone browsers.
Currently a picture of the logo on my shorts and their tag is as far as I’m willing to go.
I can say though that yesterday when I tried these on and stepped gingerly in front of the mirror my feelings were not ones of horror or revulsion.
I actually thought ‘OK. That’s not so bad. I can work with this.‘
And that’s a start.
It’s the first step toward greater things.
I have yet to wear them in public though.
Simply pulling them on in the first place and knowing that nothing would be perfect was hard enough – and I need to do that a few times more to come to terms with it all.
I’ll keep you posted Internet.