I currently receive Universal Credit, as my mental health challenges have made it difficult to do paid work. In beginning to explore the New Enterprise Allowance, as part of my plan to gradually withdraw from Universal Credit and become self-employed, the first step is to attend an introductory seminar. After meeting with my work coach a week earlier, I received a date to attend on the 5th December.
Preparing For The Seminar
I hadn’t expected to receive a date so quickly, so I was incredibly nervous. My social anxiety means that I struggle a lot with new places and new people, but I know I have to push myself outside my comfort zone! My desire to get myself off Universal Credit and move towards earning my own money drove me forward! I had made sure to have a rough draft of my business plan ready, and some questions, so they could serve as prompts should my anxiety cause
Coping With Anxiety
I managed to find the location of the seminar, but then there was some confusion with getting inside because the intercom wasn’t working. My fight or flight response shot up, and I had the inevitable battle with my avoidant brain, telling me, “Well, you might as well go home…” Be quiet brain. I am doing this!
I finally managed to get inside, but then the person at reception didn’t know where the seminar was. The receptionist directed me to the top floor, so I climbed the stairs because in a high anxiety state I dare not use the lift. I reached the top lever, out of breath, but the chap told me it was on the ground floor! Arriving back at the ground floor I asked again for clarification. My anxiety had made me rather snappy now, and I was struggling not to get annoyed. Resisting my fight or flight response, I rooted my feet to the ground, took some deep breaths and waited while someone finally found the workshop details.
The Imposter Syndrome
Finally, I sat down in the correct room, which was on the ground floor, right by the receptionist’s desk. I again took some deep breaths. I needed to shake off the frustration and anger so that it didn’t cloud this experience. A trickle of people began to arrive and then my anxiety spiked again. The voice of the imposter syndrome started whispering into my ear, “What are you doing here? You can seriously think you can do this, do you?”. I focused on my breathing and just let the thoughts go. More deep breaths.
Once the workshop was underway, I relaxed a little. The chap who ran it, Adrian, was very direct and clear. However, the contents of the workshop weren’t really what I had been expecting. I thought it would be about the logistics of the NEA, which although it did cover a little, i.e. what the expectations of us were, how it would work, etc. it was far more focused on the logistics of running a business. It was similar to the workshop I took in the summer with Eastbourne commerce. I didn’t mind this at all, I learned new things and most importantly, it didn’t put me off!
At the end of the workshop, we were advised to think about what we had learned and whether we still wanted to go ahead with our own small business. If we did, then we were to contact our job coach and ask for an official referral.
The answer from me was a resounding yes!
My Readiness To Withdraw From Universal Credit
The seminar, for me, was not just a way to see if I can make my business idea work. It was also to see if I would manage it with my mental health. This next year will be stressful. There will be lots of meetings in new places, with lots of people I don’t know. My anxiety will likely make me very uncomfortable a great deal of the time. But, I can do this. Precisely because of the flexibility self-employment will give me. For example, after the high anxiety of the seminar, I crashed for a day. But that was OK, I just worked in bed, in my pyjamas and the next day I felt balanced again.
I really do think I can do this, so now I have to let my Universal Credit advisor coach know that I am ready. Then, she can then make everything official and move me from universal credit, onto the New Enterprise Allowance. I am scared but mostly excited!
Finlay Games is the founder of The Recovery Writer and the host of Finntheinfinncible. He is a freelance writer and speaker for hire, who advocates, informs and inspires on topics of mental health, recovery, gender transition, and sexuality.