Showaye Silassie (L) tells her friend Susan Greenfield (R) about an early memory of her mother.
SS: She asked me what I wanted to eat. And my favorite meal was like, Chef Boyardee ravioli. And I went to stick my finger in, to like, get the little gooey bits of ravioli from the inside of the can and I cut myself. And she goes in the kitchen to get a rag to clean my cut off, and, uh, she reaches around the wall with this little yellow bunny rabbit puppet. She’s like, “hello, how are you?” And I’m just laughing hysterically. I forgot I cut myself. I loved it.
SG: Part of the challenge for you though, was that you were homeless from a very young age.
SS: Yeah, um, she was a paranoid schizophrenic. She thought that people were trying to follow us,poison us, and kidnap me and my brother. She would drop me off to school and wait outside of the school. She was always outside. So, I was like, able to look out the window and see my mother outside. The kids would kind of like, make fun of me, like, “Oh my gosh, is that your mom?”
Eventually, she ended up locking me in my room. And she would use like, um, combination lock on the outside.
SG: You know, you’re not the kind of person who someone meets and goes, “Oh my God, what a life she had.”
SG: But you tell me that you still have…
SS: I have anxiety about other people, because I’m always wondering… if I’m meeting someone, are they wondering if something’s wrong? I’ve read so many articles about mental illness, because I feel like, any point in time it’s going to like, fall out of the sky.
SG: What do you think got you through?
SS: My brother and my mother. I could have had it much worse. I could have had a parent that didn’t care about me. So, even though she went through what she went through, I still consider her one of the most fascinating people I’ll ever meet.