I’m fine, how are you?

Tonight is census night in Ireland when an estimated 2 million census forms – one for every household in the country – will be filled in. Two new questions have been added to this year’s form from the previous census carried out in 2006. One of the new questions deals with how healthy you feel you are. Most of the questions are multiple choice and in the section on health, you are asked “How is your health in general?” with an option of five boxes to tick, ranging from… very good to very bad. This question poses a dilemma for me…

I was out to dinner with a group of friends last night and during the evening, the topic of the census form came up. When I mentioned that we would all be faced with a new question about our health, one of my closest friends leaned over and said, “Steph, I hope you tell them how bad your health really is”. I was quite taken aback by this remark as despite living with a chronic illness and being an ‘expert by experience’ patient, I’ve never really thought of myself as having bad health. I’ve always regarded episodes of illness/injury simply as obstacles to be overcome so that ‘normal’ life can be resumed. Admittedly, I’ve had rather a lot of so-called “episodes” but even so, it’s still come as a bit of a shock to realize that others may regard my health as being bad.

Over the years, whenever someone has asked me how I am, I much prefer to reply that “I’m fine” rather than have to watch their eyes glaze over with boredom while I detail my latest woe. Those who want to hear more, will usually dig a bit deeper for it and then I’m perfectly happy to oblige. After last night’s conversation, I’m now wondering… am I right to be so positive about my health or am I actually in denial?

I came across this rhyme recently and loved it so much, I want to share it with you today…

There’s nothing the matter with me,
I’m just as healthy as can be.
I have arthritis in both knees,
And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak, my blood is thin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

All my teeth have had to come out,
And my diet I hate to think about.
I’m overweight and I can’t get thin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

Sleep is denied me night after night,
But every morning I find I’m all right.
My memory’s failing, my head’s in a spin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

Old age is golden I’ve heard it said,
But sometimes I wonder, as I go to bed.
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,
And my glasses on a shelf, until I get up.
And when sleep dims my eyes, I say to myself,
Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?

The reason I know my youth has been spent,
Is my ‘get-up and go’ has got-up and went!
But really I don’t mind when I think with a grin,
Of all the grand places my get-up has been.

I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
Pick up the paper and read the ‘obits’.
If my name is missing, I know I’m not dead,
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.

The moral of this as the tale unfolds,
Is that for you and me, who are growing old.
It is better to say “I’m fine” with a grin,
Than to let people know the shape we are in.

(Source unknown)

4 Responses to I’m fine, how are you?

  1. Grannymar says:

    Have you the form filled yet? Mine went in the post ages ago/

    • Steph says:

      Grannymar, are you bragging again? 😉

      No, I’ve not completed the form yet as it asks to list “all persons alive at midnight on Sunday 10 April who spent the night at this address”.

      I’m waiting until midnight to check if I’m still alive and as I haven’t been to bed yet, I can’t claim to have spent the night of April 10 at this address :mrgreen:

      btw South of the border, we have to wait for the Enumerator to return to collect our forms and that could be anytime between tomorrow and 9 May!

      I just hope he/she doesn’t turn up before breakfast tomorrow ‘cos that’s when I intend filling out my form!

  2. Annb says:

    That’s so weird as I have just had the same dilemma over Boy Wonder’s answer to that very question. While he does need help with basic life tasks and he does have a chronic illness he has probably missed less days from school than many of his classmates. He certainly wouldn’t consider himself as suffering from ill health. I think they need to do some work on that question. Or maybe there is a semantic difference between the stats and the reality; now wouldn’t that be a revolutionary concept!! LOVED that poem by the way! Thanks!

    • Steph says:


      It’s a very subjective question isn’t it?

      When I’m well, I consider myself very well but ask me that same question when I’m floored by an abscess in my head and the answer is not likely to be very polite!

      I’d like to be able to answer “chronic” as all interpretations fit the bill nicely 😀

      All this talk reminds me of a rhyme from when my kids were small…

      There was a little girl who had a little curl
      Right in the centre of her forehead.
      When she was good, she was very very good
      But when she was bad, she was horrid!

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