Runner Reads: If you’re looking for an honest dive into mental illness, read “Full Circle” by Andrea Barber

I listened to Andrea Barber’s book, “Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again,” back in January, and I enjoyed it so much I really wanted to share it with my blog readers, even though it isn’t the typical running book.

It isn’t a book about running, but it was written by a runner — and one who is more like most of us recreational runners than the ones who are often writing running books. Barber, best known for her role as Kimmy Gibbler on “Full House,” did include a chapter focused on running in her book, and it’s clearly something that is an important part of her life.

I’ve always been a fan of “Full House,” watching all the episodes of the show when I was a kid (although later than when it first aired). I’ve also watched Barber as she returned as Kimmy Gibbler in “Fuller House” on Netflix.

At some point, I did learn that Barber struggled with mental illness, and that she was a runner — she even participated in a runner ornament exchange that I’ve participated in the past three years.

I waited to write about this book because I knew to fully explain why I connected with it so much, I’d need to say that I have also struggled with a mental illness (which I mentioned in my last Runner Reads post). Barber and I don’t have the same diagnosis or the exact same symptoms, but I related to what she said in the book so much that I cried at times.

The audiobook, which I listened to on Audible, is narrated by Barber herself, which is nice, as it gives it more of a personal feel. You may recognize her voice as Gibbler’s. However, early on in the book, readers learn that she’s really unlike her quirky character.

Barber talks about her life, which includes playing Kimmy Gibbler on “Full House,” growing up and attending a normal school, getting married, having children and later getting divorced. She talks about her struggles with anxiety and depression.

I made note of a quote from the book in the notes on my phone: “It doesn’t make sense; it’s anxiety.”

For some of us with mental illness, I think we can recognize that we are dwelling on or worrying about things in a somewhat irrational way — but it can be hard to control. It’s an illness.

Since I hadn’t listened to the book since January, I re-listened to parts of the book yesterday and picked out a couple other quotes I related to.

Like Barber, I found success in meeting with a therapist (once I finally decided to go), where I learned more about my diagnosis.

“Simply learning about the illness helped me understand and start to accept it much more,” Barber said in the book.

Don’t give up if your first therapist isn’t a fit, Barber encourages. She ended up connecting with the third one she went to. Luckily, the one I started going to in Salisbury I liked from the start, but I did have some less-than-stellar experiences with therapy as a teenager after my parents separated.

And, like Zeke in “Running with Sherman,” Barber has wondered why she ended up with a mental illness when she had a generally happy, non-traumatic life and loving family. I’ve wondered the same thing about myself. We can only work with what we have — which Zeke, Barber and me have each done.

Of course, mental illnesses do not just end, but having the resources to deal with a mental health diagnosis can certainly help — and that can include medication.

I also think Barber would be an awesome running buddy. Unfortunately, she does live across the country, but it seems that we share similar sentiments regarding making runners of all paces feel included in the running space. Based on her race times she shared, I also think we’d be able to run at a similar pace. She just seems like a cool person who I can relate to — and, I’m also a fan of her as an actress.

She even said something in the book that I say all the time about runners’ “slow” times being someone else’s fast ones.

“I want everyone to encourage everyone else,” she said in the book. “Because honestly, what’s slow for one runner may be really fast for another runner. Speed is relative.”

So, whether you suffer from a mental illness (as one in five of us do) or just want to hear more about Barber’s life, this is a great read — or listen.

2 thoughts on “Runner Reads: If you’re looking for an honest dive into mental illness, read “Full Circle” by Andrea Barber

  1. Thank you for sharing ❤ I'm glad that mental illness no longer has the negative stigma that it used to have. I think it is something that affects all of us in some capacity…whether it's our own personal battle or someone we're close to.

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