She Wore Perfume to Bed
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This story is being shared in an effort to reduce the stigma around Mental Health conditions that when left untreated can result in suicide.
She wore perfume to bed, styled her hair as if each curl was important and was blessed and cursed with the figure of an adult Woman at the young age of 11. She was my best friend from about 3rd grade to 7th grade before her world began to crumble and she was sent back to El Salvador by her parents.
Do you ever feel like a memory from your youth comes back from a smell or a feeling? Last year, I was given an expensive bottle of perfume for Valentine's Day which is very unusual. Not because my significant other isn't loving or romantic, we just usually don't spend money on that type of thing. Perusing the counters in the fancy department store, wafting the freshly sprayed papers was exactly what she and I did as adolescents on the weekends when her parents took us to the Mall. The Mall was a big deal back then and her parents, barely speaking English, worked two jobs each just to get by and were almost never home, were somehow off on the weekends and we would all dress up and spend our Saturday at the Mall.
We would take the perfume papers home and try to rub them on ourselves. We would buy small things from the Sanrio store and put them in our purse, erasers, pencils, stickers. For some time, we were "BFF"s and life was good. I came to realize her sadness as we got older, whether it stemmed from boys only giving her attention for the wrong reasons or from coming home from school to a parent-less house for years. She started doing things to hurt herself and I was once told to come with her parents to pick her up at a facility as they thought my presence there would calm her. I remember she had shoes with no shoe laces and was embarrassed for me to see her without her hair done.
Not long after that she was taken away and I was told her life would be better "back home". However, her inner turmoil was not cured by a new setting. Over the years I would hear a story here or there about her. Having a child young, marrying, getting into trouble. We lost touch and when an old friend of both of ours found me on Facebook a couple of years ago, she told me she had died. I was shocked. She would have been about 33 yrs old.
Guilt is a part of grieving, but I felt like at the time of even her early signs of sadness that resulted in physical harm to herself, roughly over 20 years ago, no one wanted to acknowledge she may have needed real help or suffered from a mental illness. I wasn't to speak of the incident when we picked her up and rumors of her "crazy" at school spread fast. This was before smart phones and social media, when all kids had to secretly communicate was notes handed off slyly in the hallways. I think of what could have been if things for her were different, if she stayed in the US or got help earlier on. I think of her children and how they must miss her. She was special and she treated herself that way, even when no one else did.
It felt right to share this story, especially after watching the film, Social Dillemma, on Netflix which talks about how social media is affecting today's youth in particular and is a likely contributor to the rise in suicide rates for their age group. I worry about my children and hope I can raise them with these influences in moderation, although I know it will be a challenge.
Thank you for reading, much love.