Tess’ Note: I reached out to Basil Griffin, founder of Cottage Craft, on Etsy, and I was thrilled when they said they’d love to write a guest post for QUILL. I absolutely love their article, and I know you will, too.
I, like many queer people, struggle with anxiety and depression.
I was able to manage on my own for a long time, but after moving away from home and losing my support system, I found myself at an all new low. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep (or slept too much), couldn’t find the energy to shower or change my clothes or even just roll over in bed some days. I felt like I was disappearing and I didn’t even care. I don’t remember exactly what snapped me out of it, but I remember realizing how poorly I was living and being terrified. Self harm was nothing new, something I had curbed years ago, but I realized that if I made the choice right then not to change how I was treating myself, I couldn’t call it anything but that.
I started with one of the only things I had energy for: the internet. I knew there had to be others who could tell me how to overcome my slump, and once I got there, therapy would be a walk in the park (though, god, wouldn’t that be exhausting). There was no end to the number of Self Care blogs and Self Love Influencers telling me to “pamper myself” and “put effort into myself,” but that was precisely the problem: I had no effort to give. No energy left to pamper myself with. So was that it? Was I just supposed to accept my new normal until there was truly nothing left of me?
The thought infuriated me. I sat there, stewing with anger, asking myself why everything had to be so hard, when the funniest thought came to me:
What if it didn’t?
What if I could practice self care and not make it complicated? I didn’t have to cook myself a fancy dinner, I could have something good delivered. I didn’t have to do a full face of makeup, I could just use a moisturizer my skin loved. I didn’t have to pull out the candles and the bubble bath, I could just crawl onto the floor of my shower and lay there until I felt a little cleaner. So I did. I took little steps, did simple things that I needed.
And slowly, I had the energy to do more. I could do things I wanted. I could do some of the things the blogs recommended. I could get real help.
I’ve been very fortunate, I think, not to have fallen back into that pit.
The pandemic got me really close, but rather than let the anxiety overwhelm me, I was able to turn it into inspiration.
I opened my business Cottage Craft with one goal in mind: to help others learn that self care can be simple. I started with handmade soaps, designed to be functional as well as pretty enough to feel like a treat.
Over time I’ve added more to the line up; Sugar Scrub, Beard and Hair Balm, Lip Gloss, all designed with ease of use in mind. I wanted people to buy things they needed while still feeling like they were giving themselves a gift every time they ordered.
But it isn’t enough for me that people enjoy my products. I want them to feel good about buying from me! I want them to know that their purchases are making a positive impact on the world! I made sure to use ingredients and packaging that would have a low environmental impact: no palm oil ever, man made micas instead of mined, recycled paper and low-water printing methods, etc. I make regular donations to NAACP, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and local LGBTQ centers. I am very vocal on instagram about being a Black Queer Business owner. I’m trying to be the kind of representation that I used to look for! And, I’ve started the hashtag #SimpleAsSoap to help connect other people on low-energy-self-care journeys!
I’ve had so much personal growth running this business, sometimes I still can’t believe everything I’ve done. I have so much planned for Cottage Craft this year! But no matter where I end up, I’ll just be happy knowing that I could help a few people make positive changes in their lives.