It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, this film is a recommended watch for anyone who has experienced depression, whether yourself or a someone close.


Well, it’s not really. Not for me, anyway. It’s been a long few months of a lot of negative emotions, ill health and bad luck. Hence why I’ve had no enthusiasm for writing or anything much else, for that matter. I won’t relate the whole story, but since December I’ve been through a lot: new puppy which caused my husband and I to have a mini breakdown (he’s since been re-homed to a loving family (the puppy, not my husband)); new job which didn’t work out and I’ve now been unemployed for a couple of weeks; and finally, I have developed a chest infection after EIGHT WEEKS of coughing. Thanks to which, I have also suffered 3 cracked ribs (at separate times, not all at once) due to the force of my cough. It’s safe to say that 2018 is not working out for me. Certainly not yet.

On top of everything else, I’ve recently admitted to myself that I have depression. I think it had been building for several months – frequent weekends of feeling desolate, hopeless, lonely and a failure. Mentally stuck in a deep dark rut. These feelings became more frequent during January whilst trying to wrestle the cough from hell and hold down a new job. I would find myself in tears at least once a week about things, the sheer exhaustion of my physical illness sending my head into ever darker places and affecting my mental health terribly.

I’m currently awaiting an appointment with the local mental health services to discuss my depression and see what they can do to help me. In the meantime, since leaving work I feel a little less pressured and have been able to be a bit more me than I have in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, there are still days when I am so drained and feel I just cannot cope, but the days in between are better. T

The other day, my husband and I found and watched a film which helped both of us understand depression from different perspectives (thank you Netflix!). Which brings me to this blog’s title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010).

Starring Keir Gilchrist as Craig, a 16-year-old boy with clinical depression, and Zach Galifianakis as Bobby, a patient in a mental health hospital, the two find an unexpected friendship in one another. Craig admits himself into the mental hospital after feeling suicidal and has to stay there for at least 5 days – in the adults’ ward because the teenage ward is under renovation. As he eventually settles in, Craig and Bobby develop an almost symbiotic relationship. Bobby mentors Craig in his somewhat abstract way, and Craig offers Bobby the support and understanding he needs to get out of hospital and give life another go (having been a patient several times previously).

I won’t delve massively into the plot as it’s fairly straightforward, with the usual predictable, inevitable and fairly unnecessary love triangle that comedy-dramas frequently have. What really got to me is how the film dealt with portraying depression. As an awkward teenage boy feeling the weight of the world ever-pressing down on him, Craig struggles to fully express in words what he’s feeling. However, the montages into his head are superb. They highlight how the seemingly smallest problem can spiral from one negative situation to multiple other imagined negative outcomes. Craig is stressing about finishing an application to college; no application = no decent college; no decent college = a shitty job; a shitty job = not getting laid + a living in a dump. All that combined leads to a miserable life and an early grave. This is the kind of awful domino effect that occurs in a depressive’s mind. You might think ‘Sure, we all have those thoughts from time to time,’ but to someone with depression these thoughts latch on and consume you and sap your energy like nothing else. Sometimes to the point that facing life the next day seems impossible. That’s when you have to recognise that you need help – like Craig and myself.

Although dealing with very serious problems, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. A lot of this is down to Bobby and his quirkiness. Galifianakis plays Bobby’s character so well that it makes you wonder whether he has his own understanding of genuine mental health issues. Bobby comes across as a guy who knows himself well, knows what he needs, and yet is still pretty unstable as he screams into a couch cushion and tears down the bookshelves after failing an interview for housing. He’s straight talking and a bit of a rebel without being cocky, quite guarded with his own stories and feelings, yet its_kind_of_a_funny_storywilling to help others. Quite an endearing mix – you find yourself liking him immediately with his fuzzy dishevelled head of hair and beard. Despite still harbouring a serious illness and a tragic background, Bobby provides the light relief of the film thanks to Galifianakis’ blunt and quirky acting.

So, as time goes on with Craig getting to know the other patients and discovering more about himself, he finds a relief in art and draws ‘mind maps’. They’re literally like a kind of birds’ eye perspective of a street map (in a really cool style), but represent the winding, complicated roads of his brain. Simple, but I found that a very clever way to portray art as catharsis. Not just expressive with colours, but actually drawing and mapping out the problem. For many people with depression, art can provide a great deal of relief – I’m just beginning to find that myself a little too.

With lessons being learned, emotions realised and thoughts more under control, Craig reaches the end of his 5 day stay in a more stable, happier mindset than when he went in. And this, being the end of the film, is the bit that really, really got to me – all thanks to another very good heartfelt montage. It was basically just Craig listing all the things that he or anyone can go out and do, now that he has hope and can see the good in things. It sounds really silly, and you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘Why get choked up about that?’, but it brought me to tears of relief and hope as I was reminded that no matter how awful things seem to be, you can still go out and take a walk, skip, at a burrito, paint each other’s faces, get messy, ride a bike and all the other fun things that life is made up – the things you enjoyed once upon a happier time.

So that, dear reader, is why I hail It’s Kind of a Funny Story as quite possibly the best film I’ve watched in years. It meant something to me, it reaffirmed life for me, inspired me to write this post and do things I enjoy again. Put simply, it reminded me that there is fun to be had out there, and often you have to make that fun yourself. Acknowledge certain problems and if you can change it, try to do so. But from time to time forget the serious business of life, dwelling on them makes for a miserable, laughterless existence. Embrace the freedom of being human and the pure fact that we are able to enjoy things. Because in the end, we all die, and life truly is what you make of it.

There will still be dark days for me, but even though I’m jobless and fighting the worst cough in history, I’m going to try and see the positive in things and, well, have some fun.

Pole dancing

I feel a new hobby coming on…

This weekend saw the prenuptial hen do celebrations of a friend of mine, for which there were many surprises planned and I was thrilled to be a part of. Apart from the inevitable copious amounts of booze drinking – gin in particular for this special bride-to-be! – there was quite a different activity planned for Saturday morning (having kept Friday night fairly light in anticipation of the ensuing event…).

A pole dancing session! Eeeee! Just to clarify, that was an excitable exclamation rather than a fearful one. The idea of doing pole dancing for fitness has intrigued me for a while: it’s super strength-building and develops excellent core muscles, and I think just looks pretty darn fun. Spinning and twirling pulling all kinds of unusual shapes on a pole like a sexy acrobat holds quite the appeal to me. You might have guessed it, but I was the one to suggest the pole dancing for the hen weekend 😉 And surprisingly, everyone was up for it and willing to give it a go!

Instructed to wear short shorts and a vest top for maximum grip from our skin to the pole, off we went to our session with eager anticipation – although I’m probably largely speaking for myself here. Our trainer was a bouncy, fun, gung-ho trainer called Alice who runs pole dancing classes in her Funky Monkey studio in Bath. She was fantastic at getting us all giggling and loosened up with some warm up stretches, and she had quite a fun introductory activity for us. Stood in a semi-circle, we were asked to step in one at a time and strike a pose whilst shouting out our name, then say our pole dancing name which was to be a combo of our first pet’s name and mother’s maiden name. Feeling rather sophisticated, if perhaps a little snooty-sounding, my designated pole dancer’s title was Cocoa Charles (Cocoa was my first pet rabbit – thank goodness I remembered because initially I thought I’d be William Charles after the name of my first hamster at the age of about 8. That just wouldn’t work).

Suitably warmed up and ready for action, we had 4 poles across a group of 7 and paired up with the hen working alongside the instructor. The bouncing energy that was Alice demonstrated a variety of basic pole dancing moves and poses, of which we were instructed to have a go at ourselves – some of us tentatively, others with gusto. I was in the latter and happy to throw myself at and around the pole! I loved it, and particularly enjoyed the spins we did, which were called ‘the fireman’, ‘attitude’ and ‘the cradle’. Each spin required three steps around the pole before swinging into the move and propelling yourself around the pole – it takes some force, which I think is what some of the group were a little afraid of or lacking confidence to do. It was double points if you managed to spin your move right down to the floor with grace, rather than the pose ceasing midway down the pole leaving you with an awkward angle to try and depart from without looking like a tangled up flamingo.

Once we were familiar with how to manoeuvre around and work with the pole, Alice then began choreographing a dance routine. I had no idea this was going to happen, and it was brilliant! Working with our pole partners, we were taken step by step through a whole dance tune (I can’t remember what, but it had a great beat to swing our hips to). It was a lot to take in and remember the moves – we all had blank moments and realised we were completely out of synch with everyone else! – but it was hugely fun and great to do an activity where we all worked together. It was made special for our hen too as she was made star of the routine as she climbed a human staircase and was lifted *ahem* gracefully (ha!) up and around in a laying down pose for the camera. After several run throughs of course. After which we still fluffed a few steps….!

The moves are a real test of upper body strength, and although I lack a bit in flexibility, I was pleased that I was able to hold myself up fairly well and do so horizontally too for some of the moves. But my word does pole dancing make you ache afterwards! Hence it’s a great workout 😉 My back and shoulders have suffered a bit, but worst is my chest – holding yourself against a big metal pole when you’re a boney-chested slim physique isn’t too comfortable. I feel rather bruised, but it’s not dampened my enthusiasm to have a go at an actual lesson for fitness. As it so happens, there are quite a few options local to me – time to book up a trial!

Big thumbs up for pole dancing from me, it gets a sexy few G & T’s to cool off with after some hot stuff working the pole.

pole dancing

Maybe I’ll be able to do that one day….

Here’s how damaged I can expect to feel if I took up pole dancing:

pole dancing map










~ Ouch… Bring on the pain!

A veggie chilli recipe that packs a punch

You don’t want to miss out on the flavours of this dish…

I love cooking. And I love a delicious, warming, flavoursome chilli – great for those cold and wet winter (or in Britain’s case, summer) evenings to make you feel all scrumptious and satisfied inside. There’s nothing quite like a rich, beefy spiced chilli con carne to hit the spot. Or so I thought…

Earlier in the week, I decided to make the effort and plan a few healthier meals for the next week or so. Not that there’s anything too unhealthy about a beef chilli (unless you load it up with nachos, guacamole, sour cream & cheese of course), but in my scrolling through the BBC’s Good Food website for healthy recipes I came across a rather enticing vegetarian chilli recipe. Full of spices, a dash of cocoa, peppers and beans aplenty, it compelled me to give it a whirl. The taste test proved beyond expectations – and they were already quite high!

During cooking, I was getting all the rich and thick spicy aromas that point to a good,20747837_10210656555991097_1575086748_o flavoursome chilli as it bubbled and thickened in my casserole pot. The preparation took a little effort, but nothing that I’m not used to. It involves blitzing a few ingredients in a food processor to make a paste and a certain amount of chopping, but once all that’s done it’s largely a case of adding the prepared items as and when called for. Then it’s just down to time and heat to mingle the magic inside the pot of glory. The ingredients that give the dish it’s full-on flavour are the roasted peppers – of which you reserve the jar’s liquid and use that in cooking (adds a slight tang, which is an unexpected pleasing quality) – chipotle chilli paste, great for smokiness and punchiness, and a can of refried beans alongside the kidney and black beans. It’s a beany bonanza!

Little side note for anyone else out there with a garlic intolerance like I have: you don’t need to adapt the recipe! There’s no garlic in it! There’s likely to be some in the chipotle paste, but not much over a whole dish. I have to adapt my recipes so often to reduce or eliminate the garlic that it’s really quite refreshing to find a chilli recipe that doesn’t need any changing for my needs, yet still gives such a satisfying and complex flavour 🙂

If you want to jazz it up, go ahead and add cheese, jalapenos, coriander, whatever floats your boat. But honestly, give this recipe a go and I bet you won’t miss the meat! I’m going to let you in on a secret… It’s actually even vegan friendly! But Shhhh – don’t tell the hardcore meat-eaters! You just know that they’ll turn up their noses before they’ve given it a chance.

The recipe is quite simple at heart, but like all good dishes it requires a little time. But most chillies do anyway, so why not give it a go? You really have to try it! The taste is really quite something. Honestly, I troughed my bowlful without even thinking about it and was disappointed when it had all gone! There’s always seconds, and a few more days’ dinners to look forward to…

If you fancy giving it a go, then please do check out the Double Bean & Roasted Pepper Chilli recipe and cook away! You will not regret it or be disappointed with the flavours, I promise!

Reviewski rating: a bottle of rich Cabernet Sauvignon to warm you from head to toe, just like the chilli does.


Gym workouts – how they really work out!

My fitness future is certainly going in the right direction.

Last month, I decided to join the gym. I’d been wanting to for ages and always thought that it going to the gym would be, like, ‘for me’ ya know? I’m good at self discipline, not very good at committing to classes (my moods and energy levels aren’t terribly stable/reliable and I’m no good at evening exercise) and like setting personal goals with no other competition but myself. Not that exercise classes are designed to be competitive – in fact, they’re completely the opposite. But I bet there’s not one person in a yoga class, kettle bell workout, spin class or zumba sesh that doesn’t look at others who are already far fitter and able and feel a million miles behind. Of course at a gym, there are folk of all fitness levels too, but you’re not doing the same exercises as one so there’s no pressure to keep up. The only one pushing you to do that extra minute, those extra 10 reps is the little trainer in your brain telling your body to ‘Keep going, you can do it!’. I like it that way.

I didn’t take up the gym to lose weight, by the way. I’m actually underweight and want to gain muscle, tone up and generally increase my fitness levels. At the local gym I visit, Change, they have this brilliant machine called Boditrax that analyses your body for all kinds of things. This magical set of scales with rods to hold for a full body scan measures your weight, water levels, bone density, body fat, muscle mass, visceral fat (the bad stuff around your midriff where your organs are – nobody wants that sticking to their insides), metabolic age, and breaks down the information into very digestible stats using pretty colours and simple layouts. I was actually quite happy with my first body analysis: my body water was where it should be (apparently, this is quite rare for a first time scan, most people don’t drink enough), my metabolic age is in its teenage years (again, apparently this is great, it should always be younger than your physical age), and there’s not a great deal of fat on me (which is kind of expected, but nonetheless a relief to see anyway. Better than being a skinny person with a ton of internal fat hidden away like a walking pack of skinny butter).

One thing that was a bit low, as expected – apart from my weight, obvs – was my bone mass. I have early stage osteopenia, which is basically a precursor to full blown osteoperosis. Crumbly bones ain’t summat nobody wants. So I’ve been trying to improve on that for a while, with scans every couple of years to keep an eye on it. One of the things recommended for strengthening bones is weight-bearing exercise. I already eat enough stuff that contains calcium, and the supplements don’t agree with me, so one of the things I’ve been pretty hot on is doing weights in the gym.

So, one month on, and it was time for my second Boditrax scan. Already feeling more energetic as a whole from going to the gym, I knew there was going to be some improvement. Going 3-4 times a week and putting in about an hour’s workout each time was bound to do something! I think that even the gym staff member was impressed with my progress…

Over the course of one month, my body had gained 1.2kg muscle mass – 1.2kg muscle! Needless to say, I’m happy with that! I’d actually lost a bit of fat, which I wasn’t really expecting as I’m only quite slight. But hey, I’m not going to complain about having more muscle and less fat! But possibly best of all for me, I’d gained 0.1kg bone mass. This is a seriously big win for me. I don’t want to be a cripple due to failing bones in middle age. No-one does. If this gradual increase in bone mass continues each month, I’ll be out of the danger zone for osteopenia within a year, easily. It’s really boosted my confidence and made me even more determined to keep it up. I already wake up on a gym day and say to myself (sometimes out loud) ‘Yay! Gym day!’ and miss it on days that I can’t fit in a workout. Now I’ll be even more eager to go!

It’s amazing what modern technology can do (when it does decide to work). To be able to stand on a machine and in mere seconds it runs several highly complicated checks and scans on your body and gives you the results instantly is incredible. I think anyone stepping on a Boditrax scale for the first time will have their eyes well and truly opened as to what is really going on internally with their bodies. Be it positive or negative, it will make you want to do something about it. I want to improve on what I already have, and by starting my workouts at the gym has proved that it’s definitely the right thing for me. The results are there in black and white and greens, yellows, reds and blues thanks to the lovely printouts I now have filed away. I can’t yet see a great deal of improvement, but I know it’s happening inside as I can sense changes within my body. Hopefully, after another month the results will be more visible and I’ll have more body confidence as well as feeling healthier. Thank you to the gym staff too, by the way, for always being very helpful, supportive and kind – they’re always smiling and ready to help you out!

Time for the ratings for the Change gym and Boditrax machine! It would seem somewhat counter-intuitive to bestow a health institution with an alcoholic award, so I think that this time the drink will take form of a mocktail or two. A fiery Moscow Mule Mojito for the punchy hit of a workout, followed by a refreshing Blackberry Mint Spritzer to satisfyingly quench the thirst. Both of these mocktails and more can be found here if they take your fruity fancy! If not, your local offie will be more than happy to supply you with the real hard stuff 😉