Sakeenah Francis describes her life as a Cinderella story in reverse. She grew up in a well-respected, middle-class African American family. She went to college, was homecoming queen, married, began a career and had children. Then, schizophrenia struck and she lost everything. She went from homecoming queen to being homeless and institutionalized. Sakeenah Francis tells her daughter about her darkest moments of living with schizophrenia in a series of letters that chronicle the first time she heard voices in her head, her hospitalizations, her struggle to parent, and her arduous path to long-term recovery. Both shaken and moved by her mother's revealing letters, Anika faces the haunting effects her mother's mental illness had on her. After years of keeping the secret about her mother's illness, Anika breaks her silence voicing what it was like to grow up with a mother with a severe mental illness.She describes the emotional roller coaster created by her mother's bouts of recovery and how this impacted her well into adulthood. Though Sakeenah lost many bouts in her early struggles with schizophrenia, she kept striving. Through it all, there was love which at times was the only thing that made sense to Sakeenah and Anika. Love gave them the strength and resilience to heal and piece together that which schizophrenia had torn apart in our lives. This sobering story carries a message of hope that will be inspiring to people affected by a severe mental illness and the web of people connected to them.
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