Summary and book reviews of All In My Head by Paula Kamen

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
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2005,
    351 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

At the age of twenty-four, journalist Paula Kamen's life changed in an instant. While putting in her contact lenses, the left lens set off a chain reaction, igniting a constellation of nerves that radiated backwards from behind the surface of her eye. The pain was more piercing than with any other headache she had experienced. More than a decade later, she still has a headache--the exact same headache.

From surgery to a battery of Botox injections to a dousing of Lithuanian holy water, from a mountain of pharmaceutical products to aromatherapy and even a vibrating hat, All in My Head chronicles the sometimes frightening, usually absurd, and always ineffective remedies she--and so many like her--was willing to try to relieve her pain. Beleaguered and frustrated by doctors who, frustrated themselves, periodically declared her pain psychosomatic, Kamen came to understand the plight of the millions who suffer chronic pain in its many forms.

Full of self-deprecating humor, and razor sharp reporting, All in My Head is the remarkable story of perseverance, acceptance, and patience in the face of terrifying pain.

PREFACE
A Burning Bush in Gary, Indiana (1979)

I could interpret the strange fact that the title of my sixth-grade science project was "The Control of Chronic Pain," and that I later developed years of constant pain (felt primarily as a dagger of criminal nerves behind the left eye), in one of two ways:

1. It's just a coincidence. No connection. There is no real system of meaning in the universe. After all, I'm hardly unique. More than a quarter of all Americans experience some form of chronic pain each year, and about 20 percent of women have migraines or some type of persistent headache, a term I have used as shorthand to name my particular mystery affliction. For God's sake, the headache is the most common medical condition plaguing human beings! And there you have it.

OR

2. You see, the New Agers, much of the alternative medicine and self-help industry, and all those psychoanalysts are right. All pain has some meaning. Everything in life happens for a ...

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Reviews

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   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Curled Up with a Good Book

Kamen's book succeeds as a book of investigative journalism. No stone goes unturned in her quest to find out the history of chronic pain, the social mores that are associated with women and headaches, the history of pharmaceutics and treatments and the hundreds of way that pain is treated today. Kamen hits on an astounding number of subjects from Sigmund Freud to chiropractors to Xanax to disability payments from the state…The book really shines when Kamen talks about herself and her personal struggles…A must-read for those living with chronic pain—especially those with chronic headaches…It's also an interesting read for the rest of us who suffer from pain only occasionally but want to know more about Kamen's ordeal…A groundbreaking book on a pertinent subject.

Chicago Magazine

[A] wry new memoir…[Kamen] intertwines her journey (which, mercifully, is often comical) with the latest medical research.

Nancy Pearl Book Reviews (KUOW Radio, Seattle NPR)

The well told story of the author's long and complicated trip through the medical profession – both western and alternative – to try to bring an end to a headache that just mysteriously appeared…Kamen eloquently advocates for the need for a far better understanding by the medical community of the physical, emotional (and economic) impact of chronic pain on those who suffer from it.

Chicago Tribune

Gripping...Kamen takes us inside the world of chronic pain and shows us how the constant disbelief and distrust she encountered were almost as bad as the pain itself...a necessary book.

Publishers Weekly

Kamen's irreverent sense of humor about her pain and herself makes the book a delight to read as she unabashedly pokes fun at the corporate pharmaceutical industry (even while she hopes for a test-tube cure), doctors and other caregivers.

Library Journal

Engaging, informative, and at times humorous.

Kirkus Reviews

A darkly witty account of Kamen's long search for a cure for her headache, melded with a report on medicine's failure to solve the mystery of headaches and society's reluctance to take them seriously-especially when it's a woman who has them.....Sharp, entertaining, informative, and blessedly free of poor-me-see-how-I-suffered-ism.

Author Blurb Barbara Seaman, author The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed
Not since Norman Cousins' Anatomy of an Illness has there been a medical memoir of such depth and compelling fascination. The detail, the beautiful writing, the triumph of this young author's will over paralyzing pain will make you cry for her and adore her on the selfsame page.

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Beyond the Book

Facts and Stats
(more at BookBrowse)

At least 28 million Americans battle chronic headaches.

About 18% of women and 6% of men experience migraine.

Up to one-third of women between the ages of 25 and 55 have migraine.

4-5% of the population get Chronic Daily Headache (CDH) - defined as a headache at least 15 days/month lasting at least 4 hours per episode.

0.5% suffer from constant CDH, mainly women.

Chronic pain causes more disability than cancer and heart disease combined.

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States.

About the author:
Paula Kamen is the author of Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual...

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