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All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache Hardcover – February 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Imagine the sensation of a fishhook lodged behind your left eye and tugging backwards. Now imagine that you live with that pain 24 hours a day for 15 years. That is Kamen's headache, one that she attempted at first to cure but finally learned to accept. Kamen (Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution) first tried all sorts of drugs—some were addicting, others made her gain 70 pounds in six months; none had any effect on the pain. She turns to alternative medicine: cranial-sacral adjustments, acupuncture, gluten-free diets, magnets, yoga. Kamen intersperses her account of these increasingly bizarre treatments with a look at how Western medicine, and even feminism, abandons patients with chronic pain and other invisible ailments: since her pain has no discernible physical cause, she has been told it's "all in her head." This book may not be uplifting, but it is undeniably funny. 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. Kamen makes the reader understand what it is like to be happy even while one is in pain. (Mar.)
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"A must-read for those living with chronic pain...a groundbreaking book" -- Curled Up with a Good Book

"Documents the failures of our medical system to deal with chronic pain...Engaging, informative, and at times humorous." -- Library Journal 2/15/05

"Equal parts memoir, science journalism, and cultural critique, it looks at the headache and its treatment from every possible angle." -- Body+Soul May, 2005

"Gripping...Kamen takes us inside the world of chronic pain...a necessary book." -- Chicago Tribune 2/13/05

"Humorously self-deprecating...wonderfully insightful....Kamen takes her subject seriously because she's walked the walk...Highly recommended!" -- Biology Digest May, 2005

"If If you or someone you know suffers this malady, this is an excellent book on the subject." -- Bookviews, 9/6/05

"Kamen's personal story, and her quest for relief, is fascinating." -- 3/25/05

"Written with passion and a remarkable sense of humor." -- New Scientist 3/26/05

"[An] unlikely and often hilarious memoir...will provoke anguished cries of recognition from anyone who's dealt with chronic pain." -- 4/15/05

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738209031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738209036
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,923,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Judge Knott on February 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Paula Kamen, a thirtysomething author and lecturer from Chicago, has suffered from a mysterious headache (sometimes just bad, sometimes nearly intolerable) pretty much nonstop for the last fifteen years. In this smart, gutsy, no-holds-barred memoir, we follow her as she tries--with Herculean effort and Bhuddist patience--to find relief.

It is not a pretty journey she is forced to undertake. Kamen escorts her reader through the decade and a half of her headache hell, but somehow manages to do it (unbelievably!) with a quirky, never-give-in sense of humor. It is not an exaggeration to say that, in reading this book, you might well be doing a lot of crying and a lot of laughing.

The number of shills, quacks, charlatans, and snake-oil salesmen who parade throughout the chapters will give you a jolt. But the book is a lot more: Kamen spends a lot of time looking at how chronic pain, when it is not able to be quickly and successfully treated, starts creating resentment in the minds of medical professionals, in the minds of the families of chronic-pain sufferers, and (most tragically) in the minds of chronic-pain sufferers themselves.

Much more than just a memoir of a single person's frustrations and travails, this book also offers a broad look at chronic pain in the United States today. Kamen has done her scientific research, and shares it (without going overboard or turning her book into a medical study) generously if compactly with her readers. The appendix of resources at the end of the book is particularly helpful, as is the bibliography.

Like a pissed-off Joan of Arc, Kamen spends "All In My Head" wading in the medical, cultural, and social quagmire into which chronic-pain sufferers slowly sink, and, from the first page to the last, she's fighting. This book is a must-read for those with chronic pain, and highly recommended for their friends and families. In Paula Kamen they have found a co-traveler and ally.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vogel on May 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This memoir approaches chronic headache pain from every perspective, developed through her own experience and urgent research: types, sources, doctors, drugs, the pharmaceutical industry, alternative medicine, spirituality, self image, coping, social attitudes, history of approaches and views -- you get the idea. Ms. Kamen is an excellent writer and I enjoyed her spirit and her wit, which she never over-uses as some writers do. She takes a massive amount of information and experience and integrates it in a meaningful way, which is an enormous accomplishment. I have had chronic migraines (though nothing as unremitting as hers), and learned a lot from this book.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on March 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Hooray for Ms. Kamen- after reading hundreds of books on chronic pain, this very gifted author has created a funny and very helpful path out of the Guilt Woods with this marvelous book.

If you suffer from ANY kind of chronic pain- do yourself a favor and read this book. For the millions of us who have been used as lab rats by the pharmaceutical industry- Ms. Kamen's book offers insight that can help you find your own voice again.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Z on March 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I, too, am a "tired girl," suffering from some atypical facial pain -- which means doctors can't figure it out -- for almost two years. It was great to read Kamen's book becuase she voiced so many of the same feelings I've experienced since the pain began: Hurt and disappointed when loved ones and friends suggested the pain was stress related or psychosomatic; angry and sad when people couldn't understand why I had to cancel or reschedule or needed more flexibility; and, most important, the hopelessness and despair of being sick for so long and giving up rather enjoyable parts of my life because of the pain.

Some have criticized Kamen for not giving some medical treatments enough time to work. When in constant pain, it's difficult to invest too much time when the side effects add more pain or cause other troubling issues. Taking a few weeks alone for something to work is a lifetime to a chronic pain sufferer.

Kamen does a thorough job of providing details about her medical background and exploring the stigma attached to migraine sufferers and others afflicted with chronic pain. And kudos to Kamen for fighting the pain and coming to peace with it as well as sharing her journey with us!
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Format: Hardcover
I am not a chronic headache or pain sufferer, although I know some people who are, so this book may not have meant as much to me as it would to those who do suffer with chronic pain. Nevertheless, I felt I learned a lot from my reading of it, and I could relate to many of the author's experiences with the medical world. I also enjoyed reading about various alternative medicine types that I will probably never try, but have been curious about! The book is well researched and well written.

However, I feel this could probably have been about half as long and still have been effective. At times I felt like I didn't need quite as many details about almost each and every appointment. I also someone expected the book to me a bit more of a memoir. I would have liked to hear more about the author's life in general, not just the bits and pieces here and there included. She is an interesting woman and I think others would be interested in more than just her medical life.

Overall, a good contribution to the field of medical memoirs.
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