Terry Baum
5 min readApr 24, 2022


The author, prone

Right now I am lying down talking into the Notes app on my iPhone. Then I’ll paste the text into an email, send it to myself, and edit it, sitting. Why am I doing this instead of just banging away at my computer the way I always have? Because I really can’t sit for very long. You see, I’ve got a pinched nerve in my spine that is causing constant pain down my right thigh. It hurts to sit, to stand, to walk. This has been going on for over two months!

I am experiencing the Western medical system in all its copious inadequacies. My doctor refuses to talk to me about what I’m going through. She just gives me prescriptions for one painkiller after another. So far, none of them help.

I am looking for a healer. My definition of a healer: Someone who is intensely interested in solving this problem I’m having with my body and who also has the skill and knowledge to actually help me. I have seen two acupuncturists, two chiropractors, and one massage therapist. I might have found my healer, on Monday when I went to the second chiropractor.

So far this chiropractor is the first person who appears to have a strong desire to figure things out. So I am very hopeful. She is not warm and cuddly, as all the other naturopaths were. She’s rather cold, brusque. I don’t give a damn. I haven’t been able to walk further than the corner mailbox without intense pain.

Rambling around San Francisco with my pups is one of the great joys of my life. But at this point, I’m not longing for long walks. I just want to be free from pain. Alright, I’d settle for a little bit of an ache, which is what I feel in the better moments. But this green pain that moves all around my right thigh and occasionally shoots down my leg… I can’t tell you why this pain is colored green, but it is.

I have had an incredibly healthy life up to this point. In fact, when I went to the doctor for my general check-up four months ago, she told me that I was “amazing.” You know, being 75 and all and having received some very nice genes from my parents.

Of course, I always knew that my amazing health could disappear in an instant. Unfortunately, my primary care doctor doesn’t seem to have foreseen that, and now she considers me a nuisance to be drugged in various fashions until I stop bothering her. It’s hard being left in the dust by a Doctor I felt really cared about me and cared for me very well over the years. Maybe she can’t get over her “amazing” prize patient turning out to be just another fragile old woman.

Oh well. Thank goodness I have a Buddhist practice. Whenever I’m going through a rough patch, I’m always grateful for Buddhism. The Buddhist answer to the question “Why me?” is “Why NOT you?” It’s like a glass of cold water thrown in your face to wake you up. You’re ALIVE, damn it! Get what you can out of it! You might not come around again. And yet, despite my 16 years of practice, sometimes I feel very sorry for myself.

Fortunately, I have a beautiful garden. Now that it’s hard to walk further than the mailbox, and it’s also uncomfortable to ride in a car (Have you any idea how many potholes, bumps, humps, and dents there are in streets of San Francisco?), I am cherishing my garden very much.

So, Buddhism and my teacher maintain that there is a way to transform constant pain into a superhighway to enlightenment. She explained to me the exact kind of attitude I need to have towards my pain, which is curiosity without obsessiveness. I think that’s what she said. Actually, I’m not sure what she said. I was in pain when we were talking. Right now I am lying down. But I think what she meant was something like, “Oh, how interesting that the pain is intensifying and causing me to contemplate the advantages of being dead for the first time since I was an awkward adolescent hoping to get hit by a truck!”

Yes, my teacher was talking about that rather than “I hate this! It’s not fair! …Oh, it’s getting better…. no, it’s not… Why me? Why me? Why me?”

First, I took an old prescription of Naproxyn, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug, that I had laying around. Didn’t help. I noticed the date on the bottle. It had expired. Of course, it didn’t work. So, the doc prescribed a new bottle of the same stuff. Didn’t help.

So Doc prescribed an opiate. All the information on the printout was very alarming. I will definitely end up in federal prison if I give you these pills, so don’t even ask. Also, even if I’m very careful and only take the drug as prescribed, I could still get addicted… Really? That’s not fair! But despite my qualms and after everything I read about the terrible opiate crisis that is devastating society, I was perfectly willing to risk addiction if I could go back to living without pain.

But, perhaps, fortunately, the opiate didn’t help.

Then my doc suggested lots of over-the-counter painkillers. No good.

My fourth painkiller (if you don’t count the expired pills) is not for pain but for seizures, and has the possible side effects of suicidal thoughts and blurry vision, among many other enticing possibilities. The pharmacist was emphatic that I must not leave my house alone until I find out if the drug causes me to get dizzy and collapse. I am really reluctant to take this drug, partly because it cost $1.87 for like a hundred pills. It’s not that I want to go into debt to get out of pain, but I’m suspicious of a drug that Big Pharma is getting rid of with a clearance sale. I haven’t taken it yet, but I might start tonight. I promise I won’t leave the house.

You know all those books that we’ve all read that were incredibly moving about people who overcame amazing obstacles to do very important things in the world or very astonishing things in the world or very beautiful things in the world? You know those people? You know how inspired we all are by those people who overcome really terrible obstacles, and certainly, sometimes the obstacle is chronic pain, right? Many people have chronic pain and they live with it and they somehow keep doing their lives even though they’re in chronic pain. And they are so incredibly inspiring to us, aren’t they? We are deeply moved by these people. These people have such depths. They have such wisdom. They have a spirit about them. They can never be trampled. You know these people? Of course, you do.

I don’t give a flying fuck about wisdom. I just want to be free of pain.

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Terry Baum

Terry Baum is an actress, director, teacher, filmmaker, political activist, and award-winning lesbian playwright. Her blog BAUMBLOG is a “Top 100 LGBTQ Blog.”