Annita Perez Sawyer

I have woven a parachute out of everything broken – William Stafford

Annita Sawyer is a licensed psychologist and a member of Yale’s clinical faculty, in practice for over thirty years. Her essays and stories have appeared in a number of literary and professional journals. Her memoir was awarded the 2013 Santa Fe Writers Project Nonfiction Grand Prize.


Annita spent most of her adolescence in psychiatric hospitals. Although shock treatment erased almost all memory of her early life, and stigma compelled her to hide her past, she graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 1971. She earned a PhD from Yale in 1981. Decades later, reading her hospital records prompted recall of those lost early years – all the sensations from her disconnected past poured out as terrifying flashbacks. Re-traumatized, she sank into despair in a process she had helped her own patients manage, but couldn’t control in herself. She promised herself that if she survived, she would write about what she learned. Again, with skilled help, she recovered.

Since 2003, when she attended her first writers’ conference, Annita has worked to educate herself as a writer.  Talented friends around the country, faculty and students from outstanding writers' conferences, generous artists at prestigious residencies, and members of a dedicated local writers' group have served as her literary mentors.  

Seeking to diminish the stigma of mental illness, Annita presents her story as both a cautionary tale and inspiration. Her essays, stories, and clinical presentations illuminate dangers of fads in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, longterm effects of early trauma, shame, and secrets, and the power of human connection to heal.