What would lead a lively, high-achieving teenager to shrivel into a dark, inaudible wraith dedicated to her own destruction? How would she survive? How might healing happen?
Dr. Annita Sawyer’s memoir is a harrowing, heroic, and redeeming story of her battle with mental illness from an early age, and her triumph in overcoming it. In 1960, as a suicidal teenager, Sawyer is institutionalized, suffering through 89 electroshock treatments based on a misdiagnosis before being transferred, “unimproved.” After finally receiving proper psychiatric care, Sawyer is discharged in 1966, but the damage done haunts her life. She returns to school, keeping her past secret, while she moves on to graduate from Yale, raise two children, and become a respected psychotherapist, achieving a level of equanimity – until 2001, when she reads her hospital records.
As she begins to remember a broken childhood and the even more broken mental health system of the 50s and 60s, Sawyer revisits scenes from her early years, assembling pieces of a long-lost puzzle. Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass is a cautionary tale of careless psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, both 50 years ago and today. It is an illuminating story about understanding PTSD and making emotional sense of events that can lead a soul to darkness. Most of all, it's a story of perseverance – of pain, acceptance, healing, hope, and, ultimately, success. A unique voice for this generation, Sawyer moves well beyond The Bell Jar and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden to shed light on an often misunderstood illness.
Annita Sawyer is a psychologist in practice for over thirty years. She is a member of the clinical faculty at Yale. Her essays have won prizes and been included among Notables in the Best American Essays series.
Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass: A Psychologist's Memoir was selected by Lee Gutkind for the Santa Fe Writers Project 2013 nonfiction Grand Prize and published by SFWP in June 2015.
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