Many readers, including this one, know what itís like to deal with a headache. But can you imagine dealing with the exact same headache for more than ten years straight? To most, itís unthinkable. To Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head, itís reality. When she was twenty-four years old, she was putting in a contact lens and triggered an excruciating headache that has lasted, in varying degrees, to this day.
All in My Head is the story of her struggle with The Headache (as she calls it). However, it is also much more than that. Because Kamen was a journalist and author before The Headache, she also makes All in My Head into a piece of investigative journalism on the subject of chronic pain.
Kamenís 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 (and many, many more). Unfortunately, the book is so densely packed with page after page of facts and statistics that it gets a little boring and ultimately takes away from what the book should really be focused onóKamen and her struggles with the horrendous Headache.
The book really shines when Kamen talks about herself and her personal struggles. The past ten years of her life have been filled with visits to every type of traditional and alternative doctor imaginable, sleepless nights, drug dependency and withdrawal and unimaginable pain. Throughout all of this, Kamen was working on deadline for a book, finished that book, and conducted exhaustive research and wrote this book. I would have been interested to read more about Kamenís personal struggles and a little less about historical and factual information. Although she chronicles her visits to the various doctors very well, she barely touches on how this affected her personal relationships with boyfriends and friends and her daily life.
All in My Head is a must-read for those living with chronic painóespecially those with chronic headaches. If nothing else, it will help educate those who are looking for the source of, and hopefully a cure for, debilitating pain. Itís also an interesting read for the rest of us who suffer from pain only occasionally but want to know more about Kamenís ordeal. Unfortunately, her focus on history and facts instead of personal recollections makes Kamenís book less easy to read and much drier than it could have been. Though itís still a groundbreaking book on a pertinent subject, All in My Head could have benefited from a little more heart.