Excerpt from All In My Head by Paula Kamen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

All In My Head

An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache

By Paula Kamen

All In My Head
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Feb 2005,
    351 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    320 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Indeed, the subject of chronic pain--full of mysteries and unimaginably endless suffering--would fascinate with its stories of people with phantom pain in limbs that had been cut off years before. Sometimes they would even feel the sensation of nails digging into palms that no longer existed. The topic would capture my imagination with the accounts of the rare children born without the ability to feel pain, which isn't as fortunate of a thing as you would at first suppose, as pain can actually give you useful warnings. Such children would almost always die early in life, after years of tearing up their bodies by doing something as simple as jumping off a swing too hard. Just as too little pain was bad, I learned, so was too much of it. I would think about what it must be like to go on with pain that was not "acute" (temporary), but "chronic" (from the Greek word chronos: "concerning time, constant, continuous"), meaning that despite having no apparent medical purpose at all, it wouldn't go away.

My resulting science project--a report and a thick three-paneled poster board display, which I recently dug out of my parents' attic--reveals that I really got the drama of it all. On the middle board is the title, with the words "Chronic Pain" spelled out in twisting white wire garbage bag ties colored with a red marker. "Most of us well know what pain is and experience it quite often," reads the carefully printed explanation below, which was laid out on four strips of white construction paper pasted onto a red square, "but in the United States alone, for 40,000,000 people constant pain is a way of life. Here are some of the main ways people use to cope with their agony." I illustrated the intricacies of the nervous system with a diagram of nerves made of dried spaghetti noodles and a spinal cord of Styrofoam vertebrae, probably cut out of a disposable cooler, connected by a spine of blue drinking straws.

On the surrounding white poster board I had illustrated different remedies. One was "drugs," signified by a bulbous jar labeled "opium" and surrounded by a smattering of road-safety signs-"do not enter," "caution," "yield"--cut out of my mother's driver's ed book. I knew this was the most basic tool, as scientists had found traces of morphine in mummies unearthed from thousands of years ago. I also displayed another ancient method, acupuncture, using a photocopied line drawing of a hefty goateed warrior standing resolutely, his body dotted with acupuncture points. On display below was a vial of real acupuncture needles. But I had more license to play with the biofeedback machine on the table, which literally provided audio and visual feedback to a patient about the effectiveness of certain tension-reducing techniques. Demonstrating the machine required the use of an electricity-conducting pad from my limited stash. I would peel away a tab to expose the pad's side of sticky gel, which gave off a bitter odor of alcohol and petroleum combined. Then I would affix the pad to my forehead, plug the biofeedback machine's arm into the pad, and then contort the forehead at will. The machine, which resembled a professional version of a transistor radio, with its tiny bulbs and dials and handsome black carrying case, beeped in proportion to the tension levels I was creating.

But the pièce de résistance was an "interactive" board game, "The Control of Chronic Pain." The game's mission was serious, the players taking the perspective of someone trying to achieve pain relief; but the format was whimsical, ripped off from Candyland. The players, using a cardboard playing piece of a human figure, the kind that you see on public men's room doors, advanced along the steps of an upwardly curving path of blue footprints, with the ultimate destination point designated by the label "Pain Is Under Control." The players were escaping the villain, Pain, who was personified by three cardboard thieves who were pasted to the game board and who wore masks and stood in suspicious, hunched-over, lurking poses. A sign on the board explained the premise: "Wanted: PAIN. Charge: Hurting Millions of People. Reward: Relief." After rolling the dice, the players moved forward to spaces that gave further instructions, all soberly realistic, such as "Try to stop villain by surgically taking him out of nerve. It works. But there is numbness. Stay where you are." Another: "Advise a helpful drug to the victim. The victim gets addicted. Move back two spaces." The moral was illustrated by another sign on the board: "Pain Doesn't Pay!"

From the preface to All In My Head, pages ix - xvi. Copyright Paula Kamen 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Da Capo Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Arsonist
by Sue Miller

Published Jun. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  129Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.