Hopefully you will come to see your medications as a good thing. I do see mine as a blessing, as something that allows me to be fully who I was created to be. Now this did not come over night, and there are still days I resent having to take pills or feel a bit overwhelmed by it. But in my heart of hearts I know it is necessary and I am lucky to have them otherwise my life would be a royal mess.
It may help to read an unquiet mind by Kay Jamison. She is a world renown speaker, psychiatrist, and researcher, and bipolar. She tells her story very bluntly.
Try to see yourself as both/and. It is not an either/or. You are the person who is presenting to the government and you are a person with a mental illness. Your mental illness may have facilitated greater creativity to come up with the solution, but there is no quality to life, no ability to contribute, locked in a psyc. ward.
I know people who flourish on lithium. You have to be careful, get the blood tests, take the right amount, not get dehydrated. And they haven't lost their creative edge. I do know some who crave the mania and hypomania. They live on the edge because it is a high, and destroy their lives in the process.
Meds can cause flatness, it may take more tries than just lithium to find one that works. It took me about 3 years to get a good combination. That being said I have never tried Lithium because I have kidney issues. But there are a lot of different medications out there and one of them is bound to work.
Also - people who are doing well usually don't frequent websites so you are going to get a skewed view of what to expect. There is a book called The Bipolar Survival Guide that is a good one. There is a second edition that came out just last year. I come on because I was helped a lot by someone on a web forum and I want to give back.
Life will never be the same, but that doesn't mean it can't be great. Don't let this diagnosis define you. Remember always that you have bipolar - you are not bipolar.
It does get easier - I promise.
You are still you. You can do these things. You can deal with your mental health issues. Don't let it beat you. You have too much to give.
I would like to suggest another book, Bipolar for Dummies. It is perfect for people new to the diagnosis as it doesn't assume that you know anything at the start of the book. It is well written, clear and includes a bit of humor.
You are not your bipolar disorder. Your bipolar disorder is a brain chemical imbalance that causes your brain to atrophy when manic and makes you hit really low lows. YOU are still there. YOU will still be there when you take your meds.
It's a matter of finding the right meds now. It's your responsibility to talk to your psychiatrist about what is or isn't working for you with the med(s) you end up on so they can be adjusted, added, or taken away as needed. But you will find the right mixture so you can be you without the debilitating highs and lows.
It's more than that, however. You need to also learn how to notice your symptoms and triggers so you can avoid episodes, which will still crop up from time to time even on the right medications. Being on this site is a good start, assuming you use the trackers. My therapist loved that I had a printed thing similar to what this site offers that I kept for the longest time before I started this. It helped us figure things out for me. I needed my meds until I learned coping mechanisms to keep myself from going into an episode and deal with them so they didn't get out of hand when I couldn't stop. I had to learn responsibility to keep myself healthy and to learn when I need to seek help from my therapist or those in my support group once I was able to form one.
You may not feel as though you need the meds now, but trust me when I say that things just get worse with time. Each episode I have is worse than the last one in some way or another. Avoiding having an episode using the tools I was given in therapy, both individual and group, has been a godsend to me. Things don't get better unless you seek help and accept you need meds when you need them and the fact you may never be able to get off them, that you may need them to be able to keep at your baseline, to be able to keep being YOU. Because YOU are still YOU with meds. YOU *do not* equal bipolar disorder. YOU equal YOU.
As the first poster said, things do get easier. The deeper you get into treating this illness, the easier it gets. But you do need to form a support group of people you can trust who will not judge you when you need help, when you are at a low or at a high. You do need therapy, and at least for now, you need meds.
Mania is addicting, but the things it does to your body, to your brain, are not good. The decisions you make when you are manic aren't always good. And the lows that usually follow make it even less worth it.
I definitely do recommend An Unquiet Mind by Jamison. It's very powerful and shares her account of her experiences with bipolar disorder and her struggles. Everyone's case is different, but the symptoms we experience, the highs and the lows, are similar enough it's so easy to relate. Reading that book made me realize I wasn't alone.