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

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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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  • First Published:
    Feb 2005, 351 pages
    Apr 2006, 320 pages

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Younger women feel less shame in "coming out" about a whole range of medical problems. Starting out life with a higher status in society than our mothers, and not feeling as obligated to "prove ourselves" as equals to men, we are more willing to discuss "weaknesses." For a generation that has come of age with women speaking out about sexual abuse and assault, sexual preference, and (previously stigmatized) breast cancer, speaking out about chronic pain seems only natural.

Politically speaking, we are also more secure than past generations to discuss these issues because of less of a risk of damaging the women's movement. In the 1970s, the women's health movement mainly focused on women's physical strengths, at a time when they had to prove them as "equals" to men, such as with promoting women's sports and stressing the "truth" of the women's bodies (when doctors were treating natural experiences like menopause and childbirth as "diseases" needing heavy medication and dangerous procedures).

In the past several years, we have seen this beginning trickle of women "coming out" about stigmatized invisible health issues of all kinds:

    • Jane Pauley discussing her bipolar disorder in a new book.
    • Susanna Kaysen (author of Girl, Interrupted) talking about vaginal pain in the memoir, The Camera My Mother Gave Me.
    • Celebrities such as Cybill Shepherd talking about irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Memoirists on depression, such as Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation.
    • Laura Hillenbrand, bestsellling author of Seabiscuit, coming out in a New Yorker essay with chronic fatigue syndrome, only officially classified as a disease since 1988.

A New Activist Movement (Depression's Stepchild) (chapter 22)
Reflecting a general social movement to begin to address such problems, Congress has declared 2000-2010 "The Decade of Pain Control and Awareness." This enhanced social focus on chronic pain follows a general period of growing awareness on a related issue: depression. Like with depression in the 1990s, campaigns are now beginning to take hold that portray the problem as a neurological illness, and not as a moral failing or metaphor for a psychological conflict.

The source list at the end of the book includes a growing number of pain-advocacy groups. Some of the leading ones are the American Chronic Pain Foundation (theacpa.org) and the American Pain Foundation (painfoundation.org).

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.

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