Sorry to see no-one has replied to you yet; hope this isn't too late for you! This was once a lively forum, guess it's gone a tad quiet in the...erm...18 months since I left. Sorry.
I think your question is quite interesting, in that I think the answer differs hugely for each person. I my case, I was diagnosed around 3 years ago, and re-diagnosed (slightly differently) earlier this year as Bipolar II, with Rapid cycles. In slightly longer medical jargon, though.
I'm 25, and have been with my fiance for just over 2 years; in those 2 years my life has been turned upside down several times, which has pretty much been a lifelong pattern for me, but I've gradually coped better with what life throws at me. I'm extremely lucky that my Fiance is brilliantly supportive and puts up with my moods very well; I think his consistency and calm approach has been what has helped me gradually sort my head out.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still struggling with my Bipolar Disorder, I still have bad days, and I'm very reliant on my medication to keep me on the right track. But since I found someone who consistently supports me - the first person in my whole life - things have gotten easier. I no longer have panic attacks, I no longer go into crisis after a really bad day/week.
I think everyone with Bipolar Disorder has something that helps them find a way to cope, a road to recovery if you like. For some people its a hobby, like art, or perhaps their career if they love it; I think the trick to living with Bipolar Disorder - and the best route to recovery, perhaps - is finding that one thing that, come rain or shine, is consistently there for you. That you can always depend on, no matter what.
Hope that helps.
I'm also on Twitter: elTweeno (of course!)