Bipolar disorder is usually treated through some combination of drugs like lithium, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics and antidepressants, but pills often have side effects. Lithium in particular has a reputation for turning patients into zombies. It's not totally undeserved, but side effects usually fade away after a few months of use, and the remaining side effects can often be alleviated through dosage adjustment.
The same holds true for anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. Dosages may be higher than usual at first, especially when dealing with extreme mania or depression. However, once the crisis has passed, the dosage is generally lowered to facilitate a stable, happy and productive life. Lithium or any other specific drug may just not be right for you, but by working with your doctor, a better option can be found.
For more information about mental health issues, see the links on the next page.