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Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass


In 1960, as a suicidal teenager, Annita Sawyer was institutionalized and misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. She suffered through a total of 89 electroshock treatments before being transferred, labeled as “unimproved.” The damage done to her—and the questions left unanswered—have haunted her life ever since.

Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass: A Psychologists Memoir  (Santa Fe Writers Project; June 1, 2015) is Dr. Annita Perez Sawyer’s harrowing, heroic, and ultimately redeeming story of her battle with mental illness, and her triumph in overcoming it.

Discharged in 1966 after finally receiving effective psychiatric care— but left with little to no memory of her childhood—Sawyer kept her eyes forward and moved on to graduate Summa cum Laude in Yale’s first coeducational college class, raise two children, and become a respected psychotherapist.  That is, until 2001, when she reviewed her hospital records and began to re-experience disturbing elements of her hospital years—provoking even more unsettling memories of her broken childhood. Only after retrieving these jagged memories from her past did she realize that the troubling childhood events were what had led her to her unstable mental state in the first place.

Revisiting scenes from Sawyer’s childhood and assembling the pieces of a lost puzzle, Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass is an informative 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 success. Sawyer’s is a unique voice for this generation, moving well beyond The Bell Jar, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, and Girl, Interrupted to shed light on an often misconstrued illness.

Meet the Author

ANNITA PEREZ SAWYER has had a psychology practice for more than 30 years, and she is a member of the clinical faculty at Yale University. Her essays have won prizes and been included among the “Notables” in the Best American Essays series. She lives in North Branford, Connecticut. Using herself as a case study Annita speaks to clinical audiences around the country. Her talks, essays and stories illuminate lifetime consequences of childhood trauma, harmful effects of fads in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, the impact of stigma and shame around mental illness, and the power of emotional connection to heal. Visit her website at www.smokingcigaretteseatingglass.com.

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