Sodium Valproate, or “Here we go again…”

I started taking it a few days ago and I think I’m having a bad reaction. The physical stuff hasn’t been too bad, a little stomach trouble but that’s it. No super-drugged feeling.

But my mood has crashed. It’s now an active depression as opposed to a passive one. I woke up this morning crying with guilt and hopelessness. I thought of an upcoming vacation I’m supposed to take with my partner, how much I wanted to enjoy it, for us to have a nice time and be together again. Between the crazy and work, I have barely been present over the last two years, and he really loves me, so he has hung around and not said anything. I just wanted…I don’t know…for things to be nice. For him. For me.

And the shittiest part of it is that I was looking forward to it, despite everything. From the day we booked to a few days ago, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a vacation, albeit a shorter, closer one than we originally wanted. I was looking forward to the sea. I was looking up dumb tourist attractions in the area.  I was finally sort of happy about something.

Then, this  morning I woke up sobbing, then yelled at him over one tiny part of the arrangements that I didn’t take care of.

And I felt so hopeless. Guilty, that he deserves better. That everyone who knows me deserves better. That I have no future, my career is ruined and I haven’t been able to find a different kind of job. That I never will. As broke as I am, last night I gave away a sizeable chunk of money, in the hope that generosity would make me feel better, and also somewhere the hidden thought that I really won’t need it much more, that nothing matters.

This all happened so fast and unrelated to anything that it has to be a medication effect. That has been the one thread I have been holding onto, the objective knowledge that this is some freak thing, not really me. Real despair starts much more insidiously, doesn’t just appear overnight.

So, I have twelve days until we travel. I will give these drugs a two day washout, and then go back to my old med. I think I have about a month’s supply, if I scrounge through all the drawers. I just don’t think my soul could take another turning of something golden into shit. I need this week to be nice, not a week of me curled up in bed, hiding. If need be and it makes me too eager, I’ll toss in a little lithium.

I probably will cancel the appointment after with the new shrink. I don’t want to go there and immediately, first visit, have dumped the med he gave me and all. I don’t want to go down that road again, to be that patient. I don’t want to annoy anyone else or cause anyone any more trouble.

* * *

There is a post up at Shrink Rap with some fascinating comments. Seems like a lot of people have been through the same shit as me with shrinks. A lot of them do manage, in the end, to get ahold of their records. I called a patients’ rights group, and they said that I have every right, but they also said that to push it, it essentially goes to a government agency that gets on his ass, and there is no privacy. They recommended to start by sending a registered letter with a formal, documented request, to get a formal, documented refusal.

But I know that without a lawyer or some agency, that will get me nowhere. And right now, I’m so broke that I don’t have money to get a lawyer to write a letter that will serve as a reminder of the law. That government overseeing agency will do it for a minimal fee, but then privacy is shot. A whole board of doctors sees it.

I still want those records, not even so much for what is in them as for the way that I was treated, like I don’t even exist, like a child – just refused with no regard to the law or anything. I’m just a psych patient, so he can refuse and there’s nothing I can do about any of it.

And there’s also the element of full disclosure. In medical school, they drilled into us that the ethical thing to do when something goes wrong with care is to open all files, be brutally honest. It is better for the patient to know the truth, and it is dishonest for the doctor to try to cover up. I just want to know the truth, what happened, why I ended up so hurt by the whole thing. Something went wrong, not unlike a botched surgery. I just want to know. To understand. To be able to leave behind.

Anyway – thoughts? Did anyone finally get records in an unusual or creative way? Or even a standard way without involving lawyers or courts?

* * *

So much for my resolution to stay away from thinking about how crazy I am. I hope this med wears off soon.

18 Comments

  1. Hi. Obviously you are in a different country so I don’t know what systems you have in place for people who need free legal aid but possibly there must be some help available? Like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau here will write free letters and give advice. The only reason for them not to give the records would be because they think you might sue them, but if you wrote a letter to make clear your motives – ie you just want a clearer understanding of what has happened to you – then maybe that would make it easier for them.

    I think it is pretty disgraceful if they won’t let you see the records.

    I’m sorry that the Valproate had such a negative effect but did you gently come off the last lot of stuff or have a gradual change over period? If not then this may be the cause – ie withdrawal effects from the other stuff rather than a side effect of Valproate.

    I know what you mean about not wanting to be the patient who gave up on a med too quickly. And I know that the early stages of taking any meds are really tough. I’ve given up on quite a few of them myself because the initial side effects were too bad. I don’t know now if I should have tried a bit harder with some of them. It feels so bad when you take something to make you feel better and it just makes you feel a whole lot worse.

    I do think that you should enjoy your holiday before making any changes. It would be such a shame to mess it up when you’ve been looking forward to it.

    Hope you feel better soon.
    Best wishes,
    Bearfriend xx

  2. Hi,

    The law says that patient records essentially belong to the patient. The one specific time they can’t give them to you is if it is a direct risk – usually if a family says that someone will jump off a building if told they have cancer…then it has to go to a three-person ethics board. Which I am not sure this shrink will not try to do, knowing that I won’t let my name be dragged through that in the professional community.

    The government agency handles it in a simple manner…for a symbolic paperwork fee…but again, then the file gets dragged through their office. I just live in too small a town for that.

    Anyway, I’ll figure out what to do. It was the humiliation of it all, not that I even so much care what was in the file. It’s an ugly situation, because he really did do, in his eyes, above and beyond for me. In a practical sense, he did. But still, everything went wrong. We’ll see.

  3. Sara, i take mine with antidepressants…
    i am sorry you are going through a crappy time.
    all my love and lots of cuddles
    xxooo
    Milo

  4. I’m sorry the meds are affecting you this way right before your vacation. I think you’re wise to give it a day or two more and then stop. You should enjoy your time away – you can always try again when you get back.

  5. I’m so sorry you’re having this reaction to the med. And knowing what it is, or what you think it is anyway, doesn’t make the reaction go away, which really sucks, because every other kind of problem you solve, hey, it’s taken care of! But with this, you still have to feel these awful feelings.

    I’ve never requested my medical records, but I was wondering, what if your partner requested them (as a third party)? Would that work?

    Best of luck to you, and I hope that you are able to enjoy your vacation.

  6. No – no way they’d release records to a third party…that’s a real violation of privacy laws.

  7. Hey,
    So sorry all this is going on…and right before vacation. i know so well that feeling of wanting to make or at least help another person be happy when they have stayed with you through really bad times…story of my life and it’s still going on. (only now it’s lots of silence, which i hate)
    Anyhow, all about me, again. i apologize. Thinking of you and hoping you can get the meds all in a row and you will feel lots better.
    i got my records from the hospital a couple of times…just had to request them. However, from a physican, i’m sure that’s tons different. Plus, i can’t help believe they left alot out of mine…

  8. I hate the way they can be with the files. I had someone once ask me for a copy of my files from a therapeutic centre I had been attending, and when I refused, they told me I HAD to sign them over. When you’re a psychiatric patient, you get treated like garbage. It’s like they don’t think of us as human beings. Pffft.

  9. I am sorry that the medication has been so harsh. I’ve never been on it, but I’ve heard that it can be a real pain of a med. For mood stabilization, have you tried Lamictal? I was having a hell of a time with what I call big “D” depression and the anti-depressants were actually making it WORSE. The Lamictal really helped me. As for the other, I am truly sorry. I would not be surprised if this is one of the consequences of an overly litigious med. mal. culture. From a liability standpoint, they might not be seeing “patient;” they’re seeing “potential adversary in a court of law.”

  10. Thanks. I really thought that they would try lamictal before valproate – valproate is the first line anti manic, but lamictal is supposed to be so much easier, better for depression and also nonteratenogenic which is always a consideration for a woman about my age. everyone seems to love it, but no one is offering me. i think it’s partly because my last bad reaction was dermatological and even though it’s a totally different skin thing, the rashes and stuff made them nervous to try it. i’d be willing to try though.

    what do you do in life? i just surfed quickly through your site because i was late, i didn’t quite catch it?

  11. From what I’ve understood, the PI sheet (I don’t want to write, “prohibits”), but strongly suggests that doctors avoid starting with Lamictal. It’s almost like you have to exhaust every other option before you can start taking it; and here’s fun twist: based on what you’ve taken previously, you could be precluded from taking it at all. Jerod Poore’s website “crazy meds” was actually very informative. Armed with that information, I just kept hounding my docs. until they put me on the Lamictal. Probably just to shut me the hell up. I’m glad that I did. It’s been a very useful tool.

    But yeah, they are The Hyper Alert about The Rash. When I started taking the Lamictal, my doc. was Very Nervous about The Rash. It took awhile to get up to a theraputic dose, and every single increase came with The Concern about The Rash. Again, you may want to check out crazy meds. It could help put The Rash into perspective and inform approaching your docs.

  12. DUH. Sorry. I just saw that you already a link to the crazymeds site. Oops. Could I get a glass of water with my foot? Thanks, Busybody-chan.

  13. I’ve been meaning to respond to this for a while. Gah. Anyways:

    1) Re: the files – I finally got my hands on both files from both of my psychiatric in patient stays. Very useful documents to read. My shrink and I have had a number of conversations about the file that he keeps, and what it represents. Very nerve wracking topic, IMHO.

    2) Sodium Valproate was not my friend – never was. I gained approximately 80 lbs on it, to this date have only lost about 60…

    3) Lamictal is a wonder drug. I experienced very few side effects (dry mouth, sweating)… no weight change, nothing else of major significance. When I go back on my “cocktail” that’s the first/second one I add (the other being Bupropion). Regarding the rash: if you titrate slowly, there shouldn’t be a problem.

  14. I’m really hoping you’ll pull through this. Sometimes we have to do things when we’re depressed that don’t sound like a good idea, or like we wouldn’t enjoy them or maybe ruin the time for our partner, but try to go on this vacation. Sounds like you need it.

  15. Hey, just letting you know that your message and your feelings towards the holiday you had planned are very very similar to the way I’m feeling now about a wedding that we’re going to today. I have been planning it and really looking forward to it until last night when a tiny change in the plan was out of my control – and then – that was it!! Deep depression, anxiety, feel like I’m letting my friends and husband down if I don’t go but I’ll ruin it for everyone if I do!! Just letting you know you’re comment helped – made me realise I’m not alone. Also, I’m on Sodium Valporate but have been for about 3 months, have put on weight but no other major symptoms except ogf course, the main one – I have lost my “ups” but still very much have my “downs”.

  16. Hey there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something
    unique. P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  17. Yeah – it’s wordpress.

  18. money online

    Sodium Valproate, or “Here we go again…” | My Sad Alter-Ego


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