I imagine everybody has seen either on Facebook or in the news today that Stephen Hawking has sadly passed away. The reason so many people know Prof Hawking is because of his incredible intellect, the manner in which he lived his life despite a rare form of motor neurone disease and of course the fact that he had a great sense of humour, appearing in a range of comedy and sci-fi TV series.
There is so much I could say about how Stephen Hawking has inspired me. I cannot say I understand a great deal of his area of work. I have attempted to read some of his books but honestly find it difficult to comprehend the vast complexity of the universe. I did and do find it mesmerising however.
I have had the immense pleasure of working with and getting to know, professionally and personally, many people over the years who suffer from a range of disabilities and chronic illnesses. It infuriates me when I see things in the media that indicate that people like myself and others whose bodies and/or minds have made it difficult for them to access the world the way others can, are: lazy, not trying hard enough, or as is often implied, trying to milk the system. Conversely, what I have seen are people who are struggling to find a way to somehow even survive the immense challenges they have to overcome, whilst also living in a world that although was getting better, is ultimately not designed for people with physical, psychological or cognitive difficulties. It is very difficult to put yourself out into the world when you are different, or indeed need to ask individuals and systems – from the infrastructure to cultural systems and ideologies – to make changes in order for you to be able to do even the simplest things your peers are doing.
What I saw in Stephen Hawking was someone who felt able to ask for what he needed to achieve what he wanted to achieve, putting himself out into a world where it would without a doubt have been difficult for him to be treated as an equal, where I imagine he had to go far above his peers in order to be acknowledged for his brilliance, at least in the beginning. He appeared to be someone who over a period of time was able to develop a very firm sense of self and a belief that he, as well as anyone else who was different and required help, deserved to be given the support they required to meet their potential.
I know for me, even writing like this on here is terrifying, as you are afraid of being judged, or people thinking that you cannot both experience a range of physical limitations and still be seen as competent within your chosen career or role in life. If we can take something from Stephen Hawking’s life, perhaps it is to open our minds – whether we are seen as healthy and able, or disabled – to see beyond a person’s normalcy within this world we as humans have over centuries created, whilst expecting more from the system, ourselves and the social constructs we exist in. I will always remember during my early years of working as an Assistant Psychologist being told by a colleague that it is not a person’s disability that is the hindrance, but the fact that the world is designed to really only meet the needs of the majority.
Even if my blog reaches just one person, and gives them the belief in themselves to follow their hearts desire, whatever that might be, it will be worth it. After all one drop really can make a ripple.
As always peace and love to you all!
The Wounded Healer
Dr Kristine Abercrombie