Disability & Earning with Uber


I just completed my second week as an Uber driver and boy have I learned a lot: I now know I still possess reserves of strength and perseverance that I thought might have long ago dried up. I genuinely enjoy talking with a wide variety of people on a vast array of topics and providing a service to my fellow human, no matter how great or small. My brain fog isn’t an issue until I’ve hit the limits of my mental and physical energy limits for the day. The more I do it, the better my hourly wage becomes as I learn. It leaves me feeling accomplished and satisfied in a way that I haven’t in some time. At the end of my three day shift, I want to cry and worry that I’m doing the wrong thing, but after a few days rest, I feel confident I’m ready to get out there and do it all over again. In this article, I’ll discuss this along with all the pros and cons of being an Uber driver with an autoimmune/connective tissue disorder like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

As I explained in my article on working part-time while on SSDI, since I’m self-employed I can only work 80 hours a month and net no more than $840 a month until I’m prepared to make enough money to truly support myself. At this stage, I’m definitely not in a position to do that physically, so these rules suit my situation just fine. Right now, I’m managing driving for 13-14 hours a week before I crash hard. I started out trying to work an every other day schedule, but quickly realized that was earnings suicide and didn’t seem to do much for my energy reserves, as a single day simply isn’t enough to build myself back to full strength.

To make the best bank, I really needed to be working a Friday through Sunday Schedule, when the most rides are being requested and the most fare multipliers are applied due to ride volume. So I implemented this schedule in week two, working Friday, Saturday and Sunday straight through. I was extremely nervous about my ability to pull it off, but I managed. How did I do this? Careful planning, revision as necessary and a lot of willpower.

I chose to do Uber because it gives me ultimate flexibility over my schedule. If I get in trouble out on the road, I simply need to finish my ride, shut off my app and make my way home. If I can’t do day two or day three, I’m disappointing no one but myself. So far, I’ve cut a day short, but more often than not I’ve surprised myself by going a little bit longer than anticipated. This is the beauty of Uber. It’s almost like it was designed for people with autoimmune disorders, because these disorders rule us and willpower can only get us so far. Often, powering through gets us extended time in bed.

Of course if you’re not a disciplined person, this may not be for you. You have to be regimented enough to make a plan and stick to it, and honest with yourself about how you feel and whether or not it actually warrants skipping work or cutting out early. If you need the whip of a taskmaster to complete work hours, then you should probably apply to traditional jobs that requires punching a time clock.

In the reverse, if you’re addicted to the mullah and find it impossible to pull yourself away from all the dollars and cents adding up on the screen, even to the detriment of your health and safety, again this probably isn’t for you and you may do better punching a time clock as well, because surely you will destroy your health in a few short weeks in pursuit of all the money that’s out there. You have to be both disciplined and sensible, putting your health first and your earnings second.

I myself am an over-achiever type-A personality, so I have to be a bit careful, but my illness curbs most of this in me. I simply begin to hurt too much and experience too much brain fog to go more than 6 hours in a day or more than 3 days a week. I’m okay with this, as I know if I push too hard, there will be no work the next week due to my exercise (activity) intolerance. Besides, when the brain fog starts to kick in, it simply doesn’t feel safe for me to continue.

After my three day work week last week, I came home Sunday night, took an Epsom salt bath and promptly fell into bed for two days of pain management and energy recovery. I won’t feel quite human again until Wednesday or Thursday, though I feel somewhat better today (Tuesday) than I did yesterday. My hope is that as I continue to work, I will continue to grow stronger and this time will lessen, but at this point, it’s only a theory. Time will tell.

I’ve learned already that scheduling things the first two days after work isn’t feasible due to that recovery time. I also already know I will have to be careful with how much I do in my off time so as to not jeopardize my work time. It will be interesting managing all that I have to do and it’s certainly a work in progress that I will have to keep you updated on.

Doing Uber is by no means difficult. It still manages to be incredibly tiring for me, but you rarely exit your vehicle or do anything strenuous or challenging. You might occasionally assist with luggage or open your trunk, but this is really a good thing, as it gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs and muscles and get the blood flowing. I recommend stopping every couple of hours to walk for a minute. This also gives you a chance to spruce up your vehicle and make sure it’s free of debris and fingerprints.

If you have a connective tissue disorder, adjust your seat and headrest on occasion and always, always stay hydrated, especially if you have dysautonomia, such as POTS or NMH (I recommend Oral Rehydration Salts). Be sure you’re getting a good night’s rest and managing your pain throughout the day and night, too. If you haven’t worked in a while, it’s going to take a lot more medication than you’re used to, so be sure you’re prepared and well stocked, getting with your doctor to make necessary adjustments to any prescriptions you take within your first week of working.

For me, morning 2 and 3 can be rough. I wake up in a lot of pain and it can take me quite some time to get moving. Be patient with yourself and don’t rush right out of bed. Take your necessary pain relievers, rubs, Epsom salt or ice baths and let them take effect before you get moving. If you can only work a 4 hour day, make those hours count by working around special events or the busiest part of the day (evenings), in the busiest section of your town, so you can maximize your earnings. Need ideas on pain relief? Look here.

Be sure to take all necessary medications that are safe to take while driving with you in a pill case. Hide them in the glove compartment or your driver’s side door and be sure to keep them safe and out of reach of passengers. Set alarms on your smart phone to be sure you take them. Also take everything you need to stay hydrated and wear plenty of compression if you have dysautonomia. I find adding spanx in addition to compression socks is a major help. I wear either shorts or a full waist cincher depending on the heat and what I can bear to have cinched (I have gastroparesis).

If you’re having a bad tummy day, try to delay going on the road until your bowel issues are under control. I’ve had to delay a couple of hours because of this. You don’t want to get caught out on the road with no way to stop. Get to know the good gas stations that lock their bathrooms and keep clean rooms and restaurants you can easily sneak into and out of as well as hotel lobby bathrooms.

Also be sure to get a good night’s rest and keep up with good nutrition. Eat before you go out and if you plan on being out for a while, save yourself money and gastric distress by packing your own meal or snack. Don’t make it anything stinky and leave it in the trunk, though. I’ve started making large crockpot meals on my days off so that when I get home at night, I just have to reheat leftovers for dinner. This way, I’m not tempted to pick up or order out  when I’m in too much pain to deal with cooking.

I want to cover a few things I love about being an Uber driver that surprised me.

  1. I’m shocked by how nice most people are. Sure you catch someone in the occasional grumpy mood that just wants to be left alone and that’s exactly what you should do, but for the most part, people are more than happy to have a good conversation on their way to work or the airport or wherever you’re taking them and it’s a very pleasant and engaging experience.
  2. You get to meet a lot of other disabled people as well as caretakers. I’ve also had great conversations from people visiting Cincinnati from all around the world and as I have an avid interest in learning about other cultures and such, I really enjoy asking them questions.
  3. I have a lot of pride in my hometown and love to talk about some of the finer points of my city with the tourists I drive. For a woman who has spent much of the last 9 years homebound, it’s incredible to have conversations with lovely people every day that doesn’t revolve around my illnesses.
  4. I feel a great deal of pride in working what some might consider a menial job. I don’t technically have to work. I’m on SSDI and I’m not up for review until 2020. I have no doubt that I would pass a review without any problem as my illness is truly at a disabling level, but like most disabled people, I want to work. I’m proud of myself for taking on a job that’s not in my field and some would probably consider beneath my education level, while working in my field would be highly taxing and impossible for me to achieve at this stage. I don’t feel like I’m doing something beneath me at all. I would have in my youth, though and I realize the shortsightedness of that long held belief. I’m just glad to be working and contributing more to my family income. I don’t feel ashamed about being on disability anymore either, but I do feel a certain sense of pride in this that I’ve lacked for some time.

The truth is I enjoy the work, exploring the city I’ve always loved but feel like I hardly know anymore because I have been housebound for so long. Getting to know interesting people for a few minutes at a time. Taking the time to groom myself and my car to ensure better tips and ratings. Feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of every work day. Feeling a sense of pride every time I see the direct deposit of my pay into my bank account. It all makes those nights that I come dragging my sorry, limping butt in the house with tears rimming my eyes worth it. Hopefully as time goes on it will become easier. For now, it’s these things that will keep me going strong.

Interested in becoming an Uber Driver? Earn up to $200 by signing up using this link.

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