Mental Health in the Deodorant Aisle

Eric Boyd
5 min readAug 18, 2021

It’s like a radio stuck between stations. Static and half-thoughts. I’m nervous all of the time. I can’t stop picking and chewing at my skin. Yesterday I hung something on a wall and spent hours thinking about the fact that I didn’t center it properly. I try to unwind with video games. Listen to music. Drink tea. Take everything from fish oil and vitamins to ayurvedic herbal supplements. None of this is helping, is it?

For years I’ve unsuccessfully practiced Transcendental Meditation and, when I do settle into a daily groove with it, I either fall asleep or come up with ideas for writing. Granted, a lot of my anxiety comes from feeling inadequate at writing, so getting ideas or clarity on that front is nice — but a part of me hopes that my well-being doesn’t have to be tied to creativity or productivity. I just want to feel better.

While 20% of Americans are diagnosed with mental health conditions — and nearly half of all Americans report symptoms — seeking therapy is expensive to most and inaccessible to many. Often, mental health professionals don’t accept commercial insurance and in some states the number of licensed therapists available is so low that only single digits of the population are being provided for. The American landscape for mental health is putrid. Good thing there’s… deodorant?

I was at Target a few weeks ago and they were out of my deodorant. Like any good American I immediately picked up the stick that had a hang-tag offering something free. I’m a sucker for these types of offers and deals. During the holidays I live for visits to the liquor store to see gift sets with little glasses and jiggers. I use online coupon services like Rakuten and Honey religiously and more than once have based purchases off of them. It’s in my blood: my parents — scratch-off fiends who you can’t even tell to stop because they pretty much win all the time — visit the local amusement park every other day or so because their season passes include meals. The idea of a deal is enticing when you grow up poor. However, despite the dystopia we currently live in, I was surprised to see the hang-tag for the deodorant I picked up was offering a three month…

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Eric Boyd

Work in Joyland, Guernica, and The Offing. Winner of a PEN Prison Writing Award. Working on a novel. // linktr.ee/ericboyd