Book: Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass

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Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass: A Psychologist’s Memoir

Dr. Annita Perez Sawyer, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry

(Santa Fe Writers Project)

Dr. Annita Sawyer’s memoir is a story of her battle with mental illness, and her triumph in overcoming it. In 1960, as a suicidal teenager, Sawyer was institutionalized, misdiagnosed, and suffered through 89 electroshock treatments before being transferred, labeled as “unimproved.” The damage done, she contends, has haunted her life.

Discharged in 1966, after finally receiving proper psychiatric care, Sawyer kept her past secret and moved on to graduate from Yale, raise two children, and become a respected psychotherapist until 2001, when she reviewed her hospital records and began to remember a broken childhood and the even more broken mental health system of the 1950s and 1960s.

Revisiting scenes from her childhood, and assembling the pieces of a lost puzzle, “Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass” is a tale of careless psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, both 50 years ago and today. It is a story about understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and making emotional sense of events that can lead an individual to despair.

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