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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Should be required reading for every psychiatrist
Broken systems terrorize
Anita rose like a phoenix from the broken mental health systems of the 60s to persevere and flourish.
This book is a must read for anyone going into the psychiatry/psychology field (as well as anyone who is interested in mental health). As someone in the medical field, I was drawn to this book because I heard about the questionable practices of the psychiatric field in school, but a firsthand account of the horrors would bring much-needed light and compassion to the subject. This is such a well done memoir that, at times, I have to admit that I forgot I was reading non-fiction; this book reads like fiction. It grabbed me by my collar and didn't let go. I think the one and only criticism I have for this book is this: it progresses very linear and easy to follow, but then after Anita requests her records, it starts to skip around a bit and gets just a bit hard to follow. Otherwise, this is a great book that I think should be required reading in every university that teaches any sort of medicine or mental health studies. I also have to point out that after reading this book, I can acknowledge how hard it must be to market and ask for reviews, especially those that aren't positively glowing. This author has come such a long way in her life and has accomplished so much, I bet none of her psychiatrists could've predicted her being able to handle becoming an award-winning author (among everything else!).
I volunteered to review the audiobook through Audiobookworm Promotions; this in no way affects my opinions. Anita Perez-Sawyer narrated her own book, and I think that was very fitting for this situation. I am not always a fan of author-narrated books, but this is such a personal and emotional story that I can't imagine it being appropriate for anyone else to narrate this book. This is not a professional-level recording as you can hear a few swallows and stumbles over words, but it did not lessen my experience any. There were not any pops/crackles/static in the Audible recording; it's still a high quality recording.
If you are in a mental health field (or just curious as to what the not-too-distant-past was like) I absolutely implore you to read this book. It's well worth your time and will open your eyes to the suffering that a broken system caused. I believe many mental health diagnoses could have been prevented or cured with traditional talk and drug therapies rather than the more extreme ECT and lobotomies that caused irreversible damage. It's my hope that with books like this and people in the mental health world like Anita Perez-Sawyer that history will never be forgotten and never repeated.