We spoke to Matt Sheldrick, a young trans man, about his experiences of being transgender and the impact this has had on his mental health.
Matt started questioning his gender from the age of six. He has been open about his trans status since the age of 16 and is “out” to everyone. He started struggling with depression from the age of 13/14, at which time he began to self-harm. Here are his experiences in his own words.
Struggling as a young trans man
My anxiety, related to confidence, communicating and fitting in, has always been a struggle and has caused difficulty with making friends and communicating beyond one-on-one situations.
It became unmanageable when I started university. I moved quite far from home and instantly began to feel very isolated. I struggled to deal with day-to-day life independently, with no support.
I think my past feelings around gender identity will always contribute to my anxiety due to the various knocks on confidence and self-esteem that I experienced. As a teen my gender issues were the main reason why I was depressed because I was blocking out my feelings and didn’t feel I could be myself.
I think my past feelings around gender identity will always contribute to my anxiety due to the various knocks on confidence and self-esteem that I experienced.
Professional support for gender transition has been a rollercoaster with long waiting times and inconsistent services. However, I’ve been very lucky with a supportive GP throughout, supportive family and overall very positive experiences with private healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, others can have a much more difficult journey, and can find it a lot harder to find support and acceptance around them.
Before turning 18 I had an awesome CAHMS counsellor and wonderful support at school. However, accessing support during university was very difficult and something that caused my mental health to deteriorate.
I found as soon as I was classed as an “adult”, mental health support became extremely hard to access. I was put on a long waiting list and I am still trying to get support so I can move on in my life. It’s very frustrating as I want to work, socialise and contribute. This seems to be an issue throughout the UK and for a fair few people I know.
I was put on a long waiting list and I am still trying to get support so I can move on in my life. It’s very frustrating as I want to work, socialise and contribute.
My biggest sources of support
I find writing and creativity a massive help for my anxiety and depression. It is an avenue to express my feelings and help me communicate on a day-to-day basis with people I struggle to voice my thoughts and opinions to.
My biggest and most consistent support throughout my journey so far has been my family, who have always been open and accepted me as me.
My mum is an amazing woman and has provided such consistent support throughout; I am not sure I would have got this far if I hadn’t had her by my side. Creativity and nature are my comforts; two things that drive me on with passion as I try and surround myself with them daily.
I find writing and creativity a massive help for my anxiety and depression.
The changes I'd like to see
I would like to see a lot more education in schools around gender, mental health and the importance of looking after mind and body - and how to do that. I also think it’s important for people experiencing these issues to be more open about them. More people in the media are becoming open about their experiences relating to gender and mental health, which is incredibly important so that people have these role models. It makes you realise that it’s okay to feel like this and things will get better.
I would also like to see a lot more funding for mental health services, as insufficient funding is having a massive impact on my generation’s ability to reach their potential and contribute to society in a positive way.
I would like to see a lot more education in schools around gender, mental health and the importance of looking after mind and body
My advice to others
It’s very important to find someone you can talk to, who will make you feel comfortable and supported. The Internet has huge benefits if you find it difficult to connect with others in person. There are many opportunities to find people who may be experiencing similar issues. It’s usually very comforting knowing you’re not the only one experiencing something, knowing that you are not alone.
Focus on your passions and your strengths - this will make you recognise your own worth, which should help a lot when you’re in a bad place.
Creativity can help to turn worries and stresses into something positive rather than something that’s just going round and round in your head. So, if you’re a creative person, embrace that aspect of yourself!
When I’ve felt on the edge and suicidal, what’s held me back is the fear of missing out on the amazing experiences, opportunities and people the world presents to us. We all have so much potential and it’s important to remember that. My determination to reach my highest potential always keeps me going.