Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass: A Psychologist’s Memoir

**I received a free audio copy in exchange for a review**

Smoking Cigarettes, Eating Glass: A Psychologist’s Memoir by Annita Perez Sawyer, narrated by Annita Perez Sawyer

Memoirs are hard for me to read, but I get so much out of them because the authors are just normal people, but have overcome incredible odds. There is so much to learn from them. This one is no exception. Even after listening to this book, I have a hard time imagining the struggles this author went through. At a young age, she wrote in her journal that she wanted to kill herself. Her parents took her to a hospital and she began her lifelong struggle with overcoming mental illness. It wasn’t until years later that she began to understand the consequences of a flawed system.  The author tells the story in a very straightforward manner but manages to entertain and educate. If I have any issues with the book it would be that I think it is a little long. There were times when I wanted to skip ahead to hear about the next stage of her life.

I applaud the author for writing about such a personal and private part of her life. She needs to be given even more accolades for narrating herself. I think that takes a lot of guts.

Annita Sawyer’s memoir is a harrowing, heroic, and redeeming 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 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 University, raise two children, and become a respected psychotherapist. That is, 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, her autobiography is a cautionary tale of careless psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, both 50 years ago and today. It 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: pain, acceptance, healing, hope, and success. Hers is a unique voice for this generation, shedding light on an often misunderstood illness.

 

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