Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: My Head Hurts!

If you want to read a good, and dare I say, entertaining, headache book - this one's for you. It reminded me of the book Chocolate & Vicodin which I reviewed three years ago (wow, time flies!).

In My Head Hurts!: My struggle with the headache that refused to stop, author Jonathan Larney very openly discusses his constant headache and how it affected every aspect of his life. His headache started suddenly one day when he was lifting weights, and it remained constant for more than two years.

So how could a book about pain possibly be entertaining? Thankfully, Jonathan has a wonderful sense of humor - which is pretty much a necessity in order to survive constant pain. In the prologue, he writes the following which literally made me laugh out loud:
"I will attempt to lighten the mood, because reading about someone's headache seems thrilling enough to give oneself a headache. If smiling at how I illustrate my own misfortunes isn't entertaining enough, I encourage you to make this book into a drinking game. Each time I mention the word 'headache,' you take a sip of alcohol. The unique and clever part of this idea contributes to you waking up with a similar headache as I do every morning."
 Hilarious, right?! I also enjoyed the chapter titles. A few examples:
  • Karma, You Have the Wrong Guy
  • This is Your Brain on Optimism
  • Turn Your Head and Cough
  • I Didn't Choose the Headache Life, the Headache Life Chose Me
  • The War Against My Headache
That last one is my favorite, naturally.

Jonathan is great with metaphors, and he cleverly put into words how physically and emotionally draining it is to be in pain. While my pain isn't constant like his, I can still relate to having headaches/migraines that wear you down, but I often have trouble explaining them to people who rarely get headaches. Now I can use some of the metaphors or even have them read the book if they're close enough to me.

The author shares stories about others' reactions to his pain - which made me want to punch some of his co-workers. Most of the time he tried to act as though he wasn't in pain, but then people - doctors included - didn't take him seriously. I can identify with him, as I'm sure most of you can as well. It's frustrating when you hurt so bad that you can hardly stand it, yet on the outside you look fine and people treat you as though you're fine and should function at 100 percent. But you can't show how you really feel because then you would just be whining all the time. This is why a lot of pain sufferers keep to themselves and end up being depressed, which is what happened to Jonathan for a while.

The book describes the many treatments Jonathan tried and the different emotional stages he went through, including acceptance. Like him, I've always been afraid of that word because I figured if I accept my headaches, I'm giving up and allowing them to take over my life. In Jonathan's words, "acceptance is not about giving up though, but rather understanding and recognizing the need to retake control and resume living your life."

Does Jonathan still have a constant headache? Did he find the cause? Is he now headache-free? The book keeps you in suspense so I'm not going to give away the ending. But that's not really the point of this book. It's more about the journey and the laughs (and tears) along the way.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of My Head Hurts! in exchange for this blog review. My review is 100% unbiased.