Kris Giardino looks at herself in the mirror at her apartment in Fort Collins, Colorado. At 46, Giardino has been battling anorexia, depression, and bipolar disorder since she was in high school. Because of her parents fighting, her depression around age 15 lead to her anorexia in high school, which then developed her bipolar disorder upon entering college. Twenty years later, she continues to struggle to survive because of her mental constraints.
Kris Giardino weighs herself on a scale in her apartment on Saturday, August 10, 2009.
"If my pants start to get too tight I get more calorie-counting aware," Giardino said. Despite this, she sees the scale as a focus on her weight in a productive way. “I look at it as a positive thing. (I'm) trying to see how much I gain."
Kris Giardino, center, says goodbye to her boyfriend Tom Neal at the old location of the Spirit Crossing Clubhouse in Fort Collins on Thursday, July 30, 2009.
Giardino started today off schedule, and her body reacted negatively to her stress.
"I'm feeling bipolar today," she said. "It's just not a good day for me."
Giardino barely ate, paced around her apartment, and had a hard time leaving to go to the Clubhouse for bowling. Her episode soon passed once she was among friends and was more active at the bowling alley.
"(Bowling) helped me a lot. I'm glad I came."
Kris Giardino speaks on the phone with a friend from the Spirit Crossing Clubhouse at her apartment in Fort Collins on Sunday, August 9, 2009. While being able to reach out to members of the Clubhouse in times of need, in turn, members reach out to her when they need someone to talk to.
Giardino suffers from anoriexia, depression and bipolar disorder. By feeling welcome and appreciated at the Clubhouse, Giardino has seen a turn in her life. There are still days of isolation when her depression or bipolar disorder overcomes her, making it even harder for her to reach out to others.
"(I'm) trying to get together with friends to make sure I don't isolate and get depressed," said Giardino. "I learned that it's okay to accept help, that I'm not alone, and that I don't have to be alone."
Kris Giardino, top, talks with her therapist Dr. Jennifer Amaral-Kunze at her office in Fort Collins on Monday, August 3, 2009. Dr. Amaral-Kunze is an eating-disorder specialist.
"Eating disorder behaviors are used as a way to cope with uncomfortable situations, feelings, (and) emotions," explains Dr. Amaral-Kunze. "People tend to think eating disorders are just about food and weight. (They are) trying to feel in control."
Kris Giardino kisses her boyfriend Tom Neal. Giardino got to know Neal, who has schizophrenia, through the Spirit Crossing Clubhouse in 2000. They have been dating for about two years.
"Tom is supportive," said Giardino. "Sometimes you just need someone to be there with you. It's been nice to have someone supportive of me that's in my life on a regular basis."
Kris Giardino holds up a piece of her artwork done for therapy on Sunday, August 2, 2009. Giardino uses different forms of therapy to express herself and her emotions. This piece was to explain how she feels about parts of her body through color. The only parts of the body in black were her head and her stomach, which stem from her anorexia and her battles with depression and bipolar disorder.
Kris Giardino dresses after showering at her apartment in Fort Collins on Monday, August 10, 2009. Since high school, Giardino has suffered from anorexia, an eating disorder that causes one to lose weight by eating very little amounts of food. In many cases of eating disorders, one can overcome their problem in about 1 1/2 years. Giardino has been battling her anorexia for over 20.
"Recovery looks different for different people. There are people who still struggle. Who still think about it. Who use it every now and then," said Dr. Amaral-Kunze, who specializes in therapy for eating disorders. "It's a journey that takes time, and even after your behaviors are gone, you're still on your journey."