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Bryony shares her heartbreaking but hopeful story about living with cerebral palsy, PTSD and anxiety – and describes how people don’t always notice or understand these ‘hidden disabilities’. Mixing animation and live action, this beautifully shot and emotional film seeks to raise awareness not just of certain medical conditions; but of the impact of bullying and how it can push a person to feeling suicidal.





Hidden Disabilities

Hello, my name is Bryony. I'm 24. I live with my mum, dad and sister and all our animals. I am an actress, blogger and model. I'm passionate about raising awareness about disability, especially hidden disability. It came about because I was having a hard time and I needed a place to just write and vent. So I started my blog. I was in year two when my family started to take me to the doctors. This was because my teacher could see I was slightly behind my peers, so I would find balance very hard, PE, I couldn't concentrate. My walking wasn't the best. I trip a lot and she just sort of noticed I couldn't really keep up in class. So she spoke to my mum and we went to the doctor and then that's when I started having tests. When I was at school to begin with, I had quite a few friends, but then that kind of changed when people noticed that I was not coming into school as much because I was at a hospital appointment and they weren't really sure why. I think when I started telling my friends that I was disabled, they kind of saw me in a different way and didn't really know how to relate to me anymore. It was like I was a different person, but to me I was just the same. Then that's when people started picking up on things that they hadn't before. I hate to use the word normal, but I think they don't think I was normal.


When I found out I had cerebral palsy I didn't really understand what it was, but my mum and dad were very open about it. For me, it affects my right side of my body and it's scattered all over my brain. So I find reading and writing - I found writing very hard and doing puzzles. I had a splint which was like a leg brace that I'd wear on my right leg. I couldn't wear a skirt at school, had to wear trousers because I'd have to cover it because people would see it and make fun of me. This led to bullying from the age of year 2 to 16 years old. I got bullied verbally, physically and online. I kind of closed off to the world. I didn't feel like I belonged. My disability became more hidden, but I then had the diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety and depression. PTSD is when you've had an event happen in your life and it's affected you, and for some reason, you just can't stop thinking about it, but you're not even thinking about it. You just do it without even knowing. And it can be anything to everyone and it comes out in different ways. I covered it a lot with a smile, but like I say to people, just because you're smiling doesn't mean there's nothing wrong, like a smile can hide a lot and it kind of built up and built up and built up and people couldn't see that. I was just trying to cope with the basic stuff. Even just getting up in the morning. When I'm out and about and I'm not in my wheelchair, people walk past me and treat me completely differently. But it always makes me laugh because you could be walking past someone with a disability and you might not even know. When you see me walking, it might look simple, but inside my head everything's rushing and I get confused and tired and I just kind of learnt to just try and look as normal as I possibly can. I'd get bullied every single day and I'd come home really, really upset and crying.


Around the age of 14, when I was getting diagnosed with my mental health conditions, I was also diagnosed with visual and auditory hallucinations. And I couldn't... I couldn't see the world. It was like I was trapped in darkness. And I still have voices now. My voices would say nasty things that weren't very nice like they still do. But I didn't have coping strategies then. I felt very lost, very alone. I thought people would be better off if I wasn't here. I started to not be able to look at myself in mirrors. I kind of switched myself off to the world and that's when everything kind of just went a bit dark. Everything got a bit confusing in my head and I couldn't... I couldn't escape my own mind. I couldn't tell what was real, what wasn't real. Um... I felt very alone. I tried to take my own life um.... And.... That was really difficult because I was scared people would just say, 'you're doing it for attention' or things like that. But I couldn't think of... a way out. If I could talk to one of the bullies today, I'd... I'd be very anxious, but I'd probably say that even though for you, it was just like a little quick comment or just like a little bit of fun at school because nothing else to do it. It affected the way I saw myself and I didn't think I was worthy of... yeah. I thought that people would be better off without me. So it really like, it became my world rather than the real world for other people. It just became dark and I couldn't get out the darkness.

I spent a bit of time in a mental health hospital. They taught me techniques of how to cope with everyday situations if they got a bit too much. I also got help from CAMHs, which is a child's mental health service, and I'm now with adult mental health and they've been amazing and the support I received with them was brilliant. I have a support worker with me six days a week. I'm very lucky to have her. Her name is Ella. She helped me to try and be as independent as possible and to not rely on my mum all the time. When I'm out and about with Ella, she will link arms with me for when we're crossing the road because of my balance also because of my timing, I'm not really good at judging when it's safe to go. Also because I can have seizures. A seizure is when there's too much electrical energy in your brain and it goes too quickly so you can't have control of yourself. I explain this to little kids, as in you've got little jellybeans in your head, and then sometimes the jellybeans get so excited and they party in your brain and you just have a seizure and you begin to shake. My seizures can be brought on by stress, anxiety, the unknown. Maybe if I'm overthinking or even when I get really excited, they can happen for all different types of reasons.


I have a blue badge and this will help me with car parking so I don't have to walk as far to a shop. I also have a sunflower lanyard, which is a blue or green lanyard with sunflowers on it. This is what I wear when I'm out and about. This lanyard explains to other people that I have additional needs and I might be slower or I might need more help or just to be a bit more patient with me and things like that. Just making people aware that you might just need a little bit of extra help. Like with all my hidden disabilities, I like to find new things to do to help me express myself. And photography is one of them. I really like taking pictures of nature and wildlife and it helped me to be in the moment and just appreciate small little things in the here and now. Another one of my passions is acting. When I have an audition or a job, I will mark up my script in a particular way. This is because of my dyslexia and sometimes it feels like the words on the page can be jumbled. They can sometimes look like they're spinning or blurred, but because of the strategies I use, I always feel a sense of achievement afterwards because I always get there in the end. Despite my conditions and my disabilities, I want to try and be as positive as I can. I believe that my disability is part of me, but it doesn't define me. I made some amazing friends and it was a really nice way to connect and feel that you're not alone because you get told a lot that you're not alone and you think, 'yeah, everyone says that'. But, if you reach out, a lot of people you'll find will feel similar to you or understand what you're going through. So don't be scared to tell people because people would rather you told them and you were here than you didn't tell them and you're not here. I like to say to myself, just be you. Be true. There's no one else like you, and that is your superpower. Your story can change the world. Don't be afraid to be you and don't feel embarrassed to be you. We're all different. And that's what makes the world go round.


Hidden Disabilities

Video length - 10.40
Published date - Oct 2023
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4
Downloadable resources