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Depakote Doldrums

I have migraine headaches -- or maybe, more accurately, migraine headaches have me.  Since I was 10 years old, the throbbing, pounding, I think I am going to puke/die misery that is a migraine, has come to be a major focus of my day to day life.  Do I have a headache?  Am I about to have a headache?  Have I managed to avoid having a headache?  What can I eat to head off a headache?  What if what I eat has MSG or Nutrasweet in it and I don't notice until it is too late?  If I go to a movie or a concert or a party, will someone there be wearing a fragrance that will give me a headache?  Did I sleep well enough to avoid a headache?  What if I travel?  What if I exercise?  What if I don't exercise?  Is there a big weather change coming that will start me on the path to a headache.  Will having an orgasm help?  How about a spanking?

Over the years, I've tried lots of different approaches to managing migraines:  medications, meditation, massage therapy, diet, herbal remedies, banana peels, accupressure...  Sometimes the darned things ease off and life gets easier.  Sometimes they seem to ratchet up and get a whole lot worse.

Sometime over the course of the last year or so, the frequency and severity of my headaches seemed to increase dramatically.  At the beginning of the year, I was averaging 20 days each month that I was needing to take prescription medication for my headache, and on some days, I was taking more than one dose -- a lot of pretty powerful drugs coursing through my system.  Beyond the pharmaceuticals, headaches that impact two out of every three days tend to limit my capacity to function and enjoy my life.

I consulted the neurologist that I've seen for a number of years.  He'd been maintaining me on a preventative medication called Inderal, but it seemed that was no longer working.  His next best option was an anti-seizure medication called Depakote.  It is not a new drug; has been around for years.  I asked him what I might expect in the way of potential side effects and he waved me off saying, "I'd rather talk about what it can do for you rather than what it might do to you."

That scared me, and I decided to find another doctor.  I located a local neurologist who specializes in migraines.  He is very Chinese, and his English is a little difficult for me to follow, but he seemed gentle and attentive and willing to listen and work with me.  I told him about the depakote discussion and he assured me that, while there can be a variety of side effects, depakote can be a real help with migraine.  He was clear that we might use it to simply interrupt the cycle of migraines and that I would not have to take it for very long -- probably no longer than June.  He told me that the st likely side effects were liver damage and weight gain.  He ordered blood tests to check for liver problems, and I agreed to try it and see what happened.

That was a month ago.  Within a couple of weeks, I began to notice that my sexual responsiveness (already compromised by the impacts of my hysterectomy) began to disappear.  Day by day, it has gotten harder and harder to achieve any sort of orgasm or even much in the way of sexual pleasure.  Then, I started to notice that my mood was flattening out.  Not depression exactly, but not anything resembling bright and joyful either.  And it is getting worse and worse and worse.

Here, our lives are getting better; happier.  We are beginning to feel as if there is something good and exciting for us in our life together.  I can see it.  I can feel grateful and relieved about that -- and I just cannot muster one ounce of enthusiasm about it. I know this is not me.  I know this is not the way I am.  I know that, even as we struggled though the last year, I was able to find the places where life was still good and hopeful.  Now?  Not much.  It scares me.

And so, today, I have decided to stop taking Depakote.  I was unable to reach my doctor, but I have called the pharmacy.  They have advised me on how to begin the process of tapering off -- stopping suddenly is dangerous.  On Monday, the staff at the doctor's office has promised they will call me with information from him about what to do with this...

I do not like the migraines, but I'll live with them rather than keep on feeling (or not feeling) like this.

Sheesh!  If it is not one thing...



  1. Dear swan... so sorry to hear about the headaches. I do Reiki on Paladin's and it seems to ease it quite a bit. One of the reason's we had him learn Reiki was so that he could also do it on himself and he says that helps too. Would be glad to send you some distance Reiki if we can set it up time wise between us. Write me if you wish..

    1. Anonymous10:04 AM

      Sorry to hear you are having such horrible side effects from the medication. Had a friend with severe headaches similar to yours. She finally went to an endocrinologist who did a complete eval on her endrocine system. She had a malfunctioning adrenal gland (master gland controling the others). Don't remember what she had done but it did cure the headaches. I do remember asking her why the neurologist hadn't thought of that potental problem...her response was something to the effect that doctors are so specialized today they don't think of the other systems in the body that could be causing the problem and just prescribe meds. She's a nurse and went to the endocrinologist as a last deperate resort. Hope the info helps.


    2. Hi Joyce. I do see a very good endocrinologist for issues related to my thyroid. When I told her about the depakote, she was very concerned. Told me to quit taking it (well, as close as she could come to that without stomping on the other doctor's territory), and recommended to me that I see a "family practice" doctor in her group that specializes in migraines.

      Thanks for the thought.

    3. Anonymous1:10 PM

      So sorry not the adrenal gland. Was the pituitary gland she had problems with...don't know why I said the other.

    4. Dear Mystress -- I would be very happy to explore the benefits of Reiki with you. Thank you for the offer! Actually, we are making plans to attend a festival locally in a couple of weeks that centers around a variety of different spiritual practices and healing modalities. There will be some workshops there on Reiki as well, and I hope to attend. I am more than glad to find alternative ways to deal with this. I will write to you privately.

      All the best,

  2. Impish18:02 PM

    Oh, Sue, those are such a pain! I went through something like that as I went through perimenopause and menopause. I had to go on a preventive ( not Depacote), and it really saved me, but I had to learn to live with some not very nice side effects. I didn't have much choice since I was non-functional due to pretty much daily headaches or migraines. It took me probably a year to learn?, train? how to recover an orgasim while on the med. Just recently (after several years), I discovered that the medication was making me sicker, not better, and when I came off of it, my headaches had improved as did my energy level. I guess I'm trying to say that I think you are doing the right thing being careful, and to continue to question as time goes by. My neurologist, whom I deeply trust, told me that most women improve several years after menopause. Hope for the future.

  3. From another very severe migraine sufferer: hugs. I've had them since I was three. Slow release pain killers with Zomig turned my life around twelve years ago at a point where I was spending 10 days of every 14 in a darkened room. Oh it was wonderful to be able to eat a little of all the forbidden foods again ... a glass of orange juice ... a bar of good chocolate ... a sip of wine ... and not suffer endless pain :)


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