Hi Nurse Jenn - I was intrigued by your comment that people can recover from their illness, which I read as saying that they didn't have the illness anymore? If somebody recovers from the flu - well they had flu in the past, but they don't now. Typically people with a mental illness like bipolar are described as being in remission, or recovery, but usually the mental health establishment will not allow a person to have had a correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder at one period of time, but then 'recover' from the illness and no longer have bipolar disorder anymore. My understanding was that someone could never say that they had bipolar disorder in the past, but had recovered from it, so that they didn't have it any more - as far as the psychiatric or psychological nosolsogy goes, anyway.
Rockmelon - I wouldn't say anyone is 'bipolar', people can have a bipolar illness but be completely symptom-free. All a diagnosis of bipolar really means is that at some point at your life someone has reckoned you've met the diagnostic criteria for (hypo)mania, you could never have a mood symptom in your life ever again, and you'd still have the diagnosis. This is where labelling can be so negative, because people can think that a label of bipolar condemns them to a life of mood instability, and that's not the case. People have widely varying illnesses. As others have said, seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist who specialises in mood disorders is probably the best way to clarify things, as they have the expertise in mood disorders and with you, who has the expertise in yourself, you can figure things out together.