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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

4.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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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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Review

"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." -- MSNBC.com 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." -- Salon.com 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 (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,751,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When someone suffers with chronic pain and/or illness, it feels the world is out there and we are stuck in here... ALONE. As Ms. Kamen points out, not only are we not alone, but there are millions of us suffering in silence with these invisible illnesses.

She details the history of medicine as it relates to such illnesses and pain (especially women), but also allows the reader to feel he/she is a part of a greater world that includes so many who are suffering. She intersperses her own story with intricately researched segments on the history of chronic daily headache/migraine, and medicine as a whole as it relates to this condition and other similar ones of pain and illness.

What I liked so much about her book were the similarities to my own story. Literally, the timeline is almost identical. I tried everything she tried. I felt every emotion she felt. I reached every conclusion she did, and felt every ounce of despair and hope she felt. The reason this is so significant for me, is that it truly shows me that there are thousands or millions of people out there with a similar daily experience. I go through my life feeling like it's just me. I don't really know others with this disability, so I am singled out as the one 'headache girl' in my circle of friends. That leads to an incredible feeling of loneliness, and a pervading feeling that I am so unlucky and drew a really bad card in life.

Having the knowledge that at least one other person has an almost identical story, makes me feel connected to others in a very profound way.

Other readers may have differences with regards to their own journey, but I invite them to focus on the fact that we are all in this, together. That is what is important about this story and this book. We are NOT ALONE!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazingly informative, resolutely empowering and surprisingly touching memoir. I'm dying to know if Komen has continued her research on the neurological causes of severe headache since the book was published in 2006. I've recently started my journey into intensive treatment for my debilitating headaches. I've been stymied along the way because my headaches aren't "classic" migraines. Now I know exactly what I have -- very similar to Komen's Headache. I have chronic migraine.

Thanks to this book, I feel much more able to articulate exactly what is wrong with me and what I want to try next. I'm looking forward to my next headache clinic visit. I'm armed with a list of questions and suggestions that will prepare me to be a more equal partner with the medical team.

And what a comfort to know there are other Tired Girls out there. Almost a secret sorority. I've ordered two extra copies, one for my psychologist and one for the headache clinic. And I'm making my husband read it, too.

Anybody suffering from chronic pain, not just headache, can get something out of this book. Bravo!
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