Re. Prof. Stephen Hawking, disability and defying the odds. And, above all, accepting your challenges.

I’m sure that everyone has heard that Professor Stephen Hawking passed away today at the age of 76. He had the condition Motor Neurone Disease for the majority of his life. Many of those with this condition pass away prematurely within a few years after diagnosis. However, somehow Prof. Stephen Hawking defied all the odds to live a long and fulfilling life. He was given two years to live while he was in university. He was just 21 when he effectively got given a life sentence to this cruel condition. He may have ended up in a wheelchair and been left having to speak via a machine but he never gave up. I’m not saying that those with the same condition gave up. There are varying degrees of the impairments which are linked to how fast it progresses etc. I know from experience how painful it can be to watch someone you love progressively get more disabled knowing that the eventual result will be that they pass away. I lost my Dad at 62 from COPD related complications. Like Stephen Hawkings he was determined not to let his disability beat him for a very long time. I don’t really talk about my Dad’s final years because the memories do hurt me. It just seemed to slot well into this post. Both of them are now free from the physical issues of their existence which must have been a constant struggle for the majority of their lives.

He was an example to us all in regards to what can be achieved if we accept our disabilities and not see them as something that limits our chances in life. It isn’t easy to do that when you discover that there are things different about you which are going to impact aspects of your life. He was told that he was going to only have two years left to live over 50 years ago. He achieved more than most of us ever will in one life time after being told that devastating news when he was still quite young. I honestly don’t know how he did it. It does make me feel extremely awful for not being able to accept my disability. I began to despise my own brain because it always seemed to let me down. There were times that I tried to be positive and then someone or something would just go kick me down again. A lot of people in my life have told me I’m intelligent but I can’t see that because my brain is lacking in areas which I really wish that it wasn’t. I know this sounds confusing, but I had a brain that I had no idea how to use until very recently.

Prof. Hawking worked out ways to get around his weaknesses caused by his disability quite quickly and never let it stop him obtaining his degrees, having relationships and children. He would have come up against a vast amount of stigma back then because disability was kept hidden and it weren’t talked about openly then. I weren’t born then but I’m just going by what I have been told by those that were. It sounds like that it was about acting tough and never letting people see weakness. I probably should have done that in my life. I failed by letting people into my life. At the end of the day, all those with disabilities that have succeeded never relied on anyone else. That is what I have noticed. Even in my own life I failed every time I relied on another person. The only way to be attractive to others and get opportunities as a disabled person is to be dependant completely on ones self and not allow yourself to become a burden. Those like Stephen Hawking carried this off so well and this enabled them to be accepted into non disabled circles both professionally and personally. I’m not saying that he never faced some form of discrimination, but in the end he had a ‘normal’ life which a lot of people with disabilities are denied due to discrimination etc.