I've been conscious of my mental health for a while. When I was in school - trying to figure out my sexuality and gender identity - I experienced a lot of depression and anxiety. It was very difficult to cope with. I felt isolated - very different, very alone. It was really debilitating at times, but because of it I've put a lot of effort into noticing what helps me feel stronger and happier.
Spending time with my dog Obi was such a support to me. Often we would go for a long walk along the beach, which was a wonderful way for me to relax. We recently lost Obi - he was 11 years old - the most stupid dog ever and such a sweetheart. It's a massive loss. I'm lucky to have Pippin - a 4 month old puppy. All she wants to do is snuggle!
I sing a lot to help let my emotions out. I get into the car and put on music. I have a range of songs about different emotions - really upbeat songs for when I'm feeling happy, and sad songs that I can pour my heart out to.
And I love dancing. I don’t drink, so I’d rarely go to a club, but there's nothing I like better than cheesey old fashioned wedding music playing on a dance floor. At the TransparenCI Xmas ball last year, I was on the dance floor all night! It's something I could never do before I transitioned. It was at my debs - the night when I was being me for the first time - that I started to dance. Turns out it was fun to express myself quite flamboyantly!
Quiet helps me as well. I love scuba diving - when you're 6m underwater, you're in a completely different world. You hear things differently, see things in a different light. It's very peaceful. I'm also a scout leader, so I hike a lot, which feels good - and it connects me with the scouting community.
I've been involved with wider LGBT community since I was 16. It is a real refuge for me. I remember when I was 16, feeling this sense of belonging. Finding like-minded people made me realise I wasn't on my own. And my differences were completely celebrated. I can’t recommend that enough – whether it's online or in person, find people who get what you’re going through and help you navigate so you’re not going through it on your own. For me, that involvement grew into activism and work - I get an immense sense of fulfillment from my work within the trans community. There's so much talent and strength and resilience within the trans community - it's very inspiring.
Getting professional help was great for me - I've seen a few people over the years who have really helped. With one counsellor, I didn't have to explain my gender identity. That was an amazing start, not having to explain!
When I'm thinking depressed or anxious thoughts, I get in touch with a friend to share what's going on. They remind me that I'm not on my own. It's fantastic to touch base with someone who can disagree with the thoughts that are in your head.
"My brain is being annoying," I say.
"Well, your brain is wrong!"
Sam Blanckensee is a non-binary trans masculine person from Wicklow. They are TENI's National Development Officer and a Harry Potter fanatic!