Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: Jon Fox. His story is a looong & windy road of ups & downs w a battle w bipolar disorder. What I love about this story is John’s strength throughout his battles, & the candid way he describes how various ppl in his life have treated him treated him so incredibly differently based on what they thought of him, resulting from his diagnosis. Some shunned him…some super supportive. But, he is in a great place now w life & career. The long read his worth the happy place he is at!
“By the time I was 12 yrs old, my older sister (by 8 yrs) got married & my older brother (by 5 years) got his HS diploma, packed up his car, & moved to Arizona. That essentially left me as an only child, which felt odd. My father worked in NYC 5-6 days a wk while my mother & siblings lived in Northeast PA, to go to school. We only saw him 1-2 days per wk. My parents were & still are married but my father had a good career in the Postal Service in Bronx, so geographically, it’s a compromise he made.
Fast fwd a few yrs, & in February 2007 when I was 16, I had a breakdown that resulted in me being admitted to an adolescent psychiatric center for evaluation near Philadelphia. I was admitted for 7 days & was diagnosed w bipolar disorder. The diagnosis did not catch me or my fam off guard, for a few reasons.
One, a few people in my fam had shown signs of MH disorders or had some sort of diagnosis. I was well aware of that, was somewhat familiar w these conditions, & knew it was at least partially genetic, which made me susceptible. Two, my mother told me after I was diagnosed that she’d seen little things since I was much younger that looked like signs of possibly having bipolar. Despite being prepared for the news, I went into a bit of a depression after my diagnosis. I thought abt so many different things…What does this mean now? Do I tell my friends?, etc.
The breakdown had taken place at school one afternoon & continued the next day when I was on the phone w a school admin – who I said some pretty nasty things to. Bad move on my part. But, I had to deal w the consequences of what I had said on that call. The school decided after that incident, that I could stay enrolled but needed to finish my jr. yr home-schooled. I was ok w that since I wasn’t entirely ready to go back into a school setting anyways.
Fast fwd a bit to July 2007, I needed to appeal to be allowed back into school for my sr. yr & was eventually accepted. I was so excited to get back. I re-joined the football team after I had a pretty decent jr. yr as one of the starting WRs. That didn’t last long…I quit the team after a couple of wks bc I wasn’t getting on the field in off-season workouts. I felt the coaching staff’s decision to do so was related to the incident I had w the administrator. I was most likely reading the entire situation incorrectly & the coaching staff likely just wanted me to earn my starting spot back.
I regret the way I handled that situation & shouldn’t have given up the way I did. I sincerely apologize to my coaches for the way my Buckhorn career ended. The entire staff was just trying to motivate me & make me work for & earn my spot back. They were great & I handled all of that poorly.
My sr. year didn’t last more than 2 wks. By the time the school yr started, I wasn’t regularly taking my meds & was acting out. I was hanging out w 2 friends all the time who were new to the area, but from the same neighborhood I was from in Queens. I should’ve been taking my MH regimen more seriously but unfortunately I didn’t. On Friday September 13, 2017, the day after my 17th bday, I was called into the principal’s office. The principal & vice principal, who was the administrator I had the earlier incident w, accused me of having illegal substances on me & giving some to another student, contributing to him currently being under the influence at school. That was the furthest thing from the truth since I was doing everything to stay on the straight & narrow.
My mother called the police to have them meet her at the school so they could search me for the things the school was accusing me of possessing. The police officer thoroughly searched me, & I was clean. Even after the officer told the school admins this, they decided to ban me from their school. My mother immediately became irate & I said a few choice things to the admins about how they handled my situation, how they loved doing this to me w/o proof, mixed w some colorful language. I decided I was going to be moving to NY to live with my father & finish sr. year there. Well, that was the plan…& this is where my life changed forever & my MH became the focal point of my life.
I enrolled in Cardozo HS in Bayside, Queens abt a wk later. In October, I was jumped in Jamaica, Queens late one night. During the altercation, I hit my head on the concrete. I was a ‘John Doe’ in a hospital for 1-2 days, not recalling much of anything. I don’t even know how I got to the hospital. I didn’t have my contacts in my eyes since they must have fallen out during the altercation. Once my fam found me, I was comatose for 6 days while recovering. I was then transferred to an inpatient adolescent psychiatric center for rehab from the accident & for my MH. I did physical therapy, worked on my health & gained back most of the weight I’d lost while I was bedridden for those 6 days. I also had daily sessions w therapists & psychiatrists. I attended all my sessions & tried so many different med combos. Since it was inpatient, I wasn’t seeing my fam all the time. I was taking my MH treatment seriously & I was looking fwd to finally getting back on track. I spent just under 2 months in the hospital, until I was released a couple of wks before Christmas 2007.
After being given the runaround abt returning to school, I decided to study hard & instead take the GED so I could get my diploma at the same time that all the ppl I grew up w did. I passed the GED test w a great score & was very proud of myself. I’d been through a pretty hectic yr & a half.
What would I do now though? I had no plans to go to college. The friends I spoke w weren’t as close to me as they once were & a lot of them were going to college. Over the next yr, I kind of just stayed at home & didn’t do anything. I was going to psychiatrists & fell again into a depression. I never weighed more than 140 pounds & even dropped to under 110 at one point of my hospital stay. But w me staying home, being unmotivated, taking medication, & not in a great place mentally, my weight ballooned to abt 180 pounds. That’s when I knew I needed to work on myself.
We found new a psychiatrist that I began to see. I didn’t feel I was getting enough help from my existing one. He was giving me so many different meds, changing the doses, the types, & combos every single visit. He gave me one med that legitimately made me feel like there were bats flapping their wings, flying around my bedroom every time I tried turning out the lights to fall sleep. Meds take time to have a full effect on people. By changing my meds every month, my body was in constant overhaul mode.
This new doctor I saw was an amazing man. He immediately told us the meds I was on were terrible. He also told me that one of the meds I was on had a very high chance of making people gain weight. So we stopped that one & he put me on what he thought I needed instead.
Also during that time, I began working w a woman who was part of an organization called NAMI. She was unbelievable. Our fam did not have much money so we couldn’t afford ongoing therapy sessions. I’m not sure how, but my mother found this woman & she gave me free sessions, just to talk about things, & give me little tips & advice on MH. She never asked for anything. She was really a joy to be w & she helped me through some really challenging times. I pray that one day I’ll be able to bump into her again & that she’ll remember me like I remember her.
In August 2009, my mother was moving to Arizona. Since I wasn’t very social outside of my fam & since I wasn’t going to school & didn’t have a job, I thought this was a great opportunity for me to start over fresh. I immediately got into treatment with a psychiatrist that someone had recommended to me. He too was incredible & I couldn’t have been happier.
I decided I needed to start going to college & really fully commit to improving myself as a person. I moved to Arizona, this time permanently. In January 2011, I enrolled in a community college in Chandler, Arizona. After 4 semesters there, one of them including 2 wks studying abroad in Belize, I wanted to move on to a local university that had a Sports Management. I’d always loved sports & was truly obsessed w football & the business side of it. My dream was to work in an NFL front office. With the grades that I received at the community college, I was accepted to & given a partial scholarship from the university & began their Sports Management program.
Fast forward to late 2014, I had a serious girlfriend who I began seeing earlier in the yr. I knew for a fact, immediately upon mtg, that I’d marry her one day. I told her about a wk or so into us seeing each other that I had bipolar disorder. It wasn’t even a thought in my head to hide it from her. I knew that something like this could throw a wrench into a relationship & I knew it was smart to lay the cards on the table early & let her know exactly who I was. She told me some time later that she was really caught off guard by that convo & it surprised that I told her so easily, so freely.
I’d been diagnosed as bipolar for almost 8 years now & I was comfortable w who I was. She accepted me. She told me she was happy I felt comfortable telling her something so personal abt myself. She, on her own, began researching bipolar disorder to learn more abt it so she’d understand the disorder & understand me better. That meant so much to me. She was, & is, incredible. I proposed in June 2015 at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee. She said yes, & I felt great.
By late 2015, I wasn’t enjoying myself at my job. My fiance knew I was interested in sports talk radio. She suggested I look into a program in that field. I found a school in Phoenix that specialized in TV, Film, & Radio Broadcasting. We knew it was meant to be. I went through an interview process, was accepted, & would start in May 2016. I loved the school, the director, the courses, everything abt it. It was an amazing decision & I couldn’t have been happier.
In December 2016, my director at school referred me to a job opening at a media company that was one of the largest in the entire country. The company had a location in Phoenix, which was actually about 5-10 min from my school. He thought I should apply even though the job wasn’t in sports, the field I wanted to end up in, long-term. It was in traffic, not my strong suit. But, I knew I was a fast learner. I interviewed toward the end of the yr, & shortly after the new year, I got the call:
“Hey JP, how would you like to come work for me?”
The answer was obvious & I was on cloud nine. I was going to be working at one of the largest media outlets in the country. My career was starting. One application. One interview. I did it. Wow, just wow.
It’s now April 2018 & I’ve worked in radio for over a year. I can finally read a map & I believe I can report the traffic pretty well too. I’ve been to the same psychiatrist for about 7 years & I’m on medication daily. I’ve been engaged for almost 3 years & yes, we will get married eventually! I have my ups & downs still w my MH. I told my boss pretty early that I have bipolar disorder & he was incredibly cool abt it. It wasn’t a big deal at all & he’s never made anything out of it. He took that huge piece of info about me just like anything else I had ever told him. He couldn’t be a better boss.
I have bipolar disorder. It doesn’t define me, it’s a part of me. It’s a little piece of information in my ‘about me.’ I’m just like anyone else. ‘I have bipolar disorder’ isn’t pasted on my forehead or my shirt for people to read. Overall, I look at where I was compared to where I’m at now, & I couldn’t be happier. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud that I was able to overcome the challenges that came my way, & I’m proud that I defied the odds.
That’s my #SameHere🤙 story so far. I’m now 27, engaged to a beautiful & amazing woman, a dog dad to 3 amazing pups, & have a career in radio. Life’s great & I only see greater things ahead. Yes, We’re All A Little “Crazy.”