How I Keep the Chronic Illness 'Unicorn Days' in Perspective


If you’ve experienced a chronic illness for long, you probably understand the hidden frustration of the “good” days that isn’t talked about much. I call these days when symptoms are at a minimum “unicorn days,” because they are so rare and magical. However, as wonderful as these days may be, they often lead to disappointment and heartache when the usual symptoms return.

In the first few years of dealing with chronic illness, I would get so excited on a good day and my mind would create these wonderful ideas of a pain and sickness free future. I would find myself daydreaming about finally finishing my degree, having a social life, and being able to work again. The next day when the crash inevitably came though was when I had to deal with the consequences of those daydreams.

Hope is a very important thing to keep alive, but at what point does it become more damaging than helpful? When I set unrealistic expectations on myself, the feelings of failure hit hard. It almost feels like my dreams are being yanked from me all over again and so the good days became nearly as frustrating as the bad ones. Recently, though, I have found a way to enjoy each day as it comes without setting myself up for the letdown.

When I have a good pain day, I think of it as just that. One day. So I take full advantage of every possible moment with no expectations for it to last. I no longer dream about the future, but rather live completely present, in the moment. I don’t make plans for the next day with the assumption in mind that I will still feel well. One really good day does not mean that it is my “new normal” and it isn’t enough to make me think it would be. I still hold on to hope that one day I will return to a more functional life, but instead of putting that hope in the hands of one 24 hour period, I place my hope in lasting healing.

One day maybe the good times can be my new normal and I would be thrilled, but while they are still “unicorn days,” rare and magical, I choose to enjoy each moment as it comes without pressuring myself with ideas of unattainable goals. When and if I return to the lower level of functionality, it no longer comes as a disappointment. It is simply the state of life right now and I have made peace with that. Now I have the freedom to embrace the times of feeling relatively well without setting myself up for failure later.

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