There is much to consider when first taking a psychiatric medication, as you have correctly pointed out. I believe that the questions you have asked are very insightful and I am not sure if enough people ponder these sorts of questions before they begin a regime of psychiatric drugs. Thanks for the question.
From my understanding of Depakote, it does seem to be an effective drug for those who suffer with bipolar disorder. But as you have read, there are many side effects, weight gain seemingly being the most intolerable. My understanding is that most individuals who take this drug do gain weight. There are also other side effects, as you have mentioned, in addition to having to get blood work, that make it an inconvenient drug to take, and your case, not a medication that you could take even if you wanted to because of the cost.
Since you are not confident that you have been correctly diagnosed, and because of your concerns about the medication, it would be beneficial and wise for you to seek a second opinion, or even a third. I would also recommend that you strongly consider seeing a therapist and you can do this in tandem with seeing a doctor. If you find the right therapist, who can help you manage your mood, your everyday issues, and even your weight. You may find this approach much more appealing than taking medications and even more effective.
There are different and new drugs on the market that you may like better or that you would be better able to tolerate. My understanding of Depakote is, and I mentioned above, that it is safe and effective and that is why it is still widely prescribed. Keep in mind though that a drug that works well for others does not guarantee that it will work for you. Unfortunately, finding the right medication is more trial and error than an exact science. If you are patient and you have a doctor who is also patient and willing to work with you, you can find a medication that you can tolerate and that will relieve you mood symptoms.
I recognize that money may be an issue with regard to seeing doctors, therapists, getting medications, and so forth. Try a community mental health center if this is the case. The community mental health center provides services oftentimes on a sliding scale fee or sometimes, if you qualify, free of cost. I hope this helps answer your question. Please write again.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on September 1, 2007.