I wasn’t going out of my way to read yet another work of non-fiction, but the cover of Paula Kamen’s “All in my Head” caught my eye. A larger-than-life white pill against a rich yellow background beckoned me to give this memoir a second look. I’ve always had a penchant for disability narratives and immigration stories and this one fit neatly into the former category.
This is Kamen’s dark, funny, sometimes optimistic, mostly depressing, poignant account of her experience with Chronic Daily Headache. Her battle with his this diagnosis began at the tender age of 27 and followed her to the time of the writing, at least a decade later. Kamen, who had established herself as a feminist writer prior to this work, talks not only about her personal experience with the Headache but also takes a critical look at the way physicians treat female chronic pain patients, in contrast to their male counterparts. She researches a variety of conditions beside Chronic Daily Headache that generally strike women more than men, such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. She states that Western medicine has traditionally classified any disorder whose organic mechanism was not known as psychosomatic. In a society where mental illness is still stigmatized, this obviously introduces a whole new set of problems for the patient who is not only experiencing severe pain, but is now not taken seriously by many medical professionals due to their supposed psychiatric condition