The simplest answer to this question is “it depends.”
Much of the information available says that—once you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder—you will have to take medication for the rest of your life. Most commonly included medications are Lithium, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. But different things work for different people.
Some people find that medications are very helpful for them in their recovery. They experience little to no side effects and see benefits from their medication(s) with the things they were struggling with. Even for those who experience serious side effects, they may decide—just like with any other type of medicine or medical procedure—that the risks and side effects are worth the benefits. Some choose to stay on medication when they are feeling ok to lessen the likelihood and intensity of future episodes of mania, hypomania, or depression.
Other people use medication for short periods of time. These are individuals who may not want to be on medication all the time, and may work with their doctors to adjust their medications based on what is happening in their lives. People may have years go by where they take no medications at all.
Some people choose to not take medications at all. Often, they do not want to deal with the side effects of medications or do not find them especially helpful.
For individuals who fall into either of the last two categories, it’s important to note that it is dangerous to suddenly stop taking medications. Any changes in medication, whether it’s adding, decreasing, or stopping, should be done in consultation with your prescribing doctor.
None of these options or approaches are wrong or make a person more or less “recovered” than another. Your recovery is about you doing what works for you and having the tools to live your best life possible.