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The Phrase That Helps Me Through My Worst Days With Chronic Illness

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There is a popular story in Jewish tradition in which King Solomon asks his minister to present him with a ring which has the power to make a sad man happy and a happy man sad. Sure that such a ring does not exist, King Solomon rejoiced in the knowledge that he had once again outsmarted his trusted minister.

However, several months later, the minister came through. He presented King Solomon with a ring with the Hebrew letters “gimmel, zayin, yud” engraved on it. The letters, he explained, stands for “Gam ze ya’avor” – “this too shall pass.”


“This too shall pass” has become a popular Jewish proverb. But to me, it is more than that. It is a daily reminder that nothing is permanent, that even the worst days will come to an end.

When you live with a chronic illness – whether mental or physical (or, in my case, both) – it may feel as though the bad days will last forever. It may seem like there are no good days left. But this is simply not true. It’s hard – sometimes impossible – to see it when you are in the midst of a bad time, but it too shall pass. It has passed each and every time, and you survived it. You will survive this one too. Because this too shall pass.

The phrase is one that can make a sad [person] happy and a happy [person] sad. Sometimes when I am feeling relatively well, the reminder that this feeling can and will pass may seem…well, depressing. Yet it is anything but. It is grounding, and it is real. It reminds me that, just as my good days will eventually come to a (temporary) end, so too will the bad ones. It is a constant reminder to enjoy the good days and power through the bad ones, because chronic illnesses are like a roller coaster with their constant ups and downs.

“Gam ze ya’avor” is engraved on the bracelet I wear every day, as a visual reminder to myself that things may get hard but they will not last forever. They are the words that my boyfriend repeated to me over and over again the first time he witnessed one of my anxiety attacks. It is written on sticky notes and canvases around my room so I will never forget, because anyone who has been in the depths of depression or the all-consuming fear of a panic attack knows the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always visible. But this one phrase reminds me that even when I can’t see it, the light is there. It may take time, but the darkness will eventually pass and I will feel like myself again. Because this, too, shall pass.

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Thinkstock photo via Artemisia1508.

Originally published: July 5, 2017
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