Living the Dream Despite the Demons


I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of 6.  In a small rural farm community in NW Ohio, I was the only T1D kid for miles around and struggled to understand why and how this had happened to me.  My friends and family knew very little about my condition, and I was in the dark as much as they were.

Throughout my adolescence, I was often in the ER for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA); the nurses at the local hospital knew me by name and even knew my favorite color.  I battled the dark cloud of self-defeat and depression, perpetuated by high blood sugar and lack of stress management. The one thing that always kept my spirit believing in the limitless possibilities of life was music. Singing and performing anywhere an ear would listen was all I ever dreamed to do.

In 2009, I unexpectedly became a single mother of an amazing human being.  While it should never be a child’s burden to bear, my beautiful son became my saving grace and continues to be so every day I wake up and get to hold him in my arms.  My life was chaotic and unstable at the time, and I knew that big changes needed to be made in order to give him the life he deserved.

In 2010, I took a chance at changing our world forever.  I auditioned for American Idol in Chicago IL, and by the grace of God made it all the way to the end, finishing in second place before millions of people.  However, during that grueling process, I let my priorities slip.  Rehearsals and appearances trumped boluses and blood sugar checks, and I kept my T1D a secret to avoid any special treatment. I needed help, but didn’t ask for support from anyone.  It nearly cost me everything.

I was once again, hospitalized for DKA and was told by the executive producer of the show that I would not be allowed to continue in the competition.  I begged and prayed for another chance.  My prayers were somehow answered, and special arrangements were made to allow me to stay in the game.

However, now the whole world knew that I had type 1 diabetes.

I am eternally grateful for that day in the hospital because since then, I have had the opportunity to travel the world doing what I love for a living, and have spoken to thousands of other people, young and old, living with T1D.  I’ve met my personal heroes: I cried my eyes out when I met Mary Tyler Moore, skyped with Nick Jonas, cooked Sam Talbot’s delicious recipes and had a jam session with the late BB King.

I reluctantly became a spokesperson, but now I fully embrace the gift of sharing my story. I have truly learned more about perseverance and determination from the very people I intend to inspire.   I am by no means a perfect diabetic, but I understand that an out of target blood glucose reading doesn’t define the human as good or bad. I’ve learned not to beat myself up for it, it’s simply information to be gathered and acted upon. Living the dream, despite the demons, is how I live beyond.


WRITTEN BY Crystal Bowersox, POSTED 09/18/15, UPDATED 09/20/22

Crystal is an American singer-songwriter and actress who came in second on the ninth season of American Idol in addition to being the first female finalist in three years. Her debut album was released in December of 2010 and was followed in March of 2013 with a second album. Crystal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1992. After initially hiding her disease, she now fully embraces her role as a spokesperson and the gift of sharing her story to help inspire other people with type 1 diabetes. Her first priority in life is managing her diabetes, allowing her to raise her son into the amazing person he will become. Crystal is a member of the Beyond Type 1 Leadership Council.