Maintaining Diabetes a Secret

Many of us talk openly about our diabetes and discuss a whole bunch on the internet. But not everybody is comfortable with that, or at least they have not always worn diabetes.

We’re very delighted today to share the story of fellow PWD Kelly Griffin at New York, a classical music singer and celebrity who had been diagnosed with type 1 in her mid-20s. She has kept her illness a secret for most of that time. I was delighted to create Kelly’s acquaintance in the Friends For Life conference in Orlando this past summer, and after some wonderful dialogue we got to play a round of Connect 4 (and obviously Kelly beat me!) .

Now, here’s what Kelly has to say about locating the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) and “going public” about her life with diabetes.

A Guest Post from Kelly GriffinKelly Griffin

Until about a year ago, I lived my diabetes life in secrecy. When I began speaking about it, I never gave a lot of information out. It is like I brought out it when absolutely essential, and carried it about in my handbag.

Now, I receive a unique opportunity to talk. I am getting better. I am getting bolder, and I am grateful for the opportunities.

I’m a performer. I sing classical music. I’m a type 1 diabetic. As I write this, I feel a twinge of anxiety.

I grew up in rural New York. I believed that I would be missing out on a lot, and moved with my loved ones from a town. In me, that town was where I learned to love the arts. I had been afforded many opportunities, and I am grateful for this training.

My dad is a physician, and one Christmas he gave me a stethoscope. Maybe he expected that I’d follow in his footsteps. When my parents discovered that I was using the stethoscope for a microphone, they helped me find a more productive outlet. I began singing, and auditioned for a children’s theater group. A teacher heard something in my voice, and suggested that I look into voice lessons. The first couple of months of course were full of musical theater, which I adore, but I sang my first classical piece, and I was hooked. It had been my thing — the thing that I did that no one else was doing (at least no one that I understood at that time). It kept my future, and me laser focused on my objectives.

I have an amazing family. They have always supported my fantasies, so no one was taken by surprise once I decided to major in music as an undergraduate. Fast forward many years, and I am now living and working in New York City in which I keep to sing, and handbag my passion for classical music.

Diabetes entered my life 13 years ago.

At that moment, I had been in graduate school, and trying to figure myself out as a singer, student, teacher, etc.. I had been invited by industry-types that were well-meaning to keep it to myself. They had been worried that I’d lose out on opportunities because people would think of me as incapable or too much of a risk. That’s exactly what I did. I kept it to myself. It was never spoken of by me.

As opposed to concealing my glucometer under a brace offstage, would not it have been easier to let someone know that’s where I’d be storing it so I could check between scenes? Instead of buying lunatic quietly stuffing a fist full of gummy worms in my mouth, could not I’ve said that my blood glucose was low? I recall after a dinner break realizing that I had been given a regular soda instead of daily diet, and my blood glucose was skyrocketing. I ran to the restroom, poured in the insulin, returned to rehearsal, and hoped for the best. I never told anyone. I kept going as if nothing happened. At that point, I wasn’t even wearing a medical ID since I did not want to be conspicuous.

Life has stresses of its own. On top of that, in my secrecy, I had been adding even more stress. It eventually started to wear on me, and I found myself needing help, requiring community.

I looked for T1D meet-ups within my regional area, but could not find anything. Keep in mind, I reside in New York City, so I presumed it’d be easy. I even referred to as a company (which shall stay nameless) to ask some information, and never heard back. Finally, I ended up online.

The DOC has been unbelievable. I unexpectedly had a group of new friends that I was able to reach out to for encouragement and support. I found that the Juicebox Podcast, and DSMA Live in which I heard about the Friends For Life conference at Florida. So, I left New York City, flew to Orlando, and eventually met some type 1 diabetics in individual! That was an amazing week. I’ve never had the opportunity to sit with individuals who experience the same struggles I do. I am so grateful that we’re able to encourage one another during those difficult times and cheer each other on if we have successes. During FFL, I even discovered groups in NYC that I knew nothing about. It is funny that I had to go to Orlando to meet different people with T1D right here in New York!

If you hide a part of yourself, you can’t be an authentic actress. I understood that to be accurate, but never thought of it in relation.

Kelly Griffin, Opera Singer living with Type 1 diabetes

Now, my performances are very different. I can’t promise that I am 100% from those shadows, but I take a far more proactive position. I inform my stage manager of my condition. I wear a CGM, which I continue on my person whatsoever times. In reality, I had been involved in a concert a few weeks ago, and right next to my Verdi score (sheet music) was my pink DexCom receiver. While all of the other cast members had bottles of water, I had water and apple juice, just in case. But if I need to check my blood glucose, I pull on that glucometer out regardless of what is going on in rehearsal. How can I be in my best when I do not? How did I not understand that before?

If you hide a part of yourself, you can’t be an authentic actress. I understood that to be accurate, but never thought of it in relation. The more open I am with this part of my entire life, the more open I’m on stage, and the better my performances become as I am me warts and all, lancets and all, pump and all, CGM and all…you get the point.

For those from the DOC that I have met, I am so grateful to know you. I’m blessed advocacy and by your guts. I hope that in some small way, I am able to give back. Thank you for this chance to talk about my story. Be well.

Thanks for sharing your story, Kelly. We’re proud of you for “coming out,” and are so happy to have you as part of this D-Community! (Locate Kelly on Twitter in @kgsoprano)

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created a customer health blog, for Diabetes Mine. The content is not medically reviewed and does not stick to the editorial instructions of Healthline. For more information regarding Healthline’s partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.

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