Cutting My Own Hair: A Frugal Experiment

There are thousands of ways to save money and I’m trying to find out which ones work best for me. This week, I decided to try something incredibly daring: cutting my own hair. I’ve never talked about this before, but I am sensitive, and a little vain, when it comes to my hair. It’s my favorite part of me and I love it dearly. So this was an emotional experience for me.
I debated on cutting my own hair, taking several things into consideration:
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Goal Check-In: Day 200

This post contains referral links. Please see my disclosure page for full details.

Today marks the 200th day of the year! That means it’s the 200th day of my 2016 goals, including my savings challenge. I posted an update at the 50-day100-day, and 150-day marks to help me stay accountable. I’ve made it a goal to post an update every 50 days to help hold myself accountable.
My savings have had a pretty significant change due to my decision to forego my original goal of saving $7557.95 then putting it towards my debt at the end of the year. This goal changed to paying a total of $7557.95 extra on my debts throughout the year.
Here is my 200-day savings update:
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My Mother Has Borderline Personality Disorder

My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder. If you are unfamiliar with Borderline Personality Disorder, start here. For those of you with a relative, or even parent, with BPD, you know how exhausting this situation can be to endure. While many people have been formally diagnosed before they realize they have a personality disorder, my mother has never been formally diagnosed by an outside professional.
I am the one that diagnosed her. I realized her diagnosis when I was in graduate school working in my internship with people with addictions and co-occurring disorders. More on that later.
Like anyone else with a mental illness, she has good days and bad days. I’ve come to think of my mother as two different people: my real mother and the borderline version that controls her. On good days, my real mother is there, pleasant and fun. On bad days, which are unfortunately the norm, my borderline mother is there, arguing and trying to bully me into spending time with her.
 

Word of Warning: If you suspect someone you love has Borderline Personality Disorder, refer them to a professional to be assessed and educated. It is often an incredibly difficult conversation to tell someone about their diagnosis. There will be a backlash and it will be ugly.


I’m going to walk you through my experience growing up with a parent with Borderline Personality Disorder. Be prepared, it is LONG. I wrote it over several days and I had to write this post from present to childhood.
 

Notes About My Mother

  • My mother’s default weapon is guilt (this is not true for every BPD parent)
  • I am her only child, and I was born on Christmas. She basically holds my birthday/Christmas hostage, complete with overwhelming guilt.
  • She had an incredibly close, positive relationship with her mother
  • She didn’t display many BPD traits until her mother died
  • My mother and father work at the college I attended

 
Here We Go Story Start
 

My Childhood

My mother didn’t display many borderline traits when I was very young and few directed at me. She did have an overwhelming ability to make me feel guilty for the stupidest things or would regularly say “I love you but right now I don’t like you.”  I mostly saw her traits when she interacted with people outside of the family (rapid changes in relationships, paranoia).
This lasted until my grandmother died. My theory with this is that my grandmother could help her regulate everything in her life and after my grandmother committed the ultimate abandonment act (dying), she didn’t know how to handle her life anymore. Then her symptoms really started showing.
 

Adolescence

Once my grandmother died, my entire family shifted. We had a lot of overall shifting but one of the biggest shifts was the emergence of my mother’s borderline traits. After the catastrophic aftermath settled, I noticed some significant changes. My mother was hyper-focused on me.
She started interfering in my relationship with my dad, preventing us from spending quality time together. Showing any interest in this relationship meant I didn’t care about her.
During high school, she looked through my files on the computer, listened to my phone conversations, barged into my relationships, and essentially refused to allow me to have any sense of independence. Her overwhelming fear of abandonment overshadowed her parental ideal of fostering independence. I thought she was going to lose her mind when I opened up a bank account by myself.
I also noticed she didn’t have any friends. Literally zero friends. And she tried to use my friends to help her develop some sense of self-identity. Being my mother was her entire identity and she needed my friends to see how incredible she was to help better develop her sense of self.
This pattern of overbearing, controlling, crazy-making behavior continued until I finally graduated and left for college.
 
Moving Out College
 

College

Once I was finally able to move into my dorm, I felt free. I no longer had to answer to anyone, fear someone barging in on my safe space, or worry someone was looking through my stuff. I could expect relative consistency from the people around me and I thrived.
Around the 3rd week of school, my mom started this awesome habit of calling me at 6:00PM on Fridays. I’m assuming this was her attempt at preventing me from partying (which she really didn’t need to worry about). She would try to keep me on the phone for hours, talking about nonsense.  She’d also use this time to attempt to guilt me into visiting her on campus several times per week. This pattern continued until my second semester when I finally agreed to meet her once a week for lunch, within a time limit (because I was a full-time student with 2 part-time jobs). I also primarily stopped answering her Friday night phone calls.
In her defense, I had really started to avoid her so her noticeable pushback for attention drove me extra crazy. And she hated my boyfriend at the time so I wasn’t thrilled to hear about that every time we talked.
The first year went well overall after she finally adjusted to the fact that I didn’t live with her anymore. Looking back, I realize this was an incredible struggle for her because being my mother was her only identity prior to my leaving. For someone with a disorder characterized by unstable image, that’s like pulling out the bottom block in Jenga.
After she got over the loss of her long-term identity (“mother”), she started developing really intense friendships with other women on campus. She got really involved in Pogo.com games and chatted with a ton of people on there. Somewhere in there she started emotionally cheating on my dad (likely still going on).
During my second winter break, my then boyfriend (now husband) invited me to Christmas with his dad’s family. I was so excited to get invited and I happily agreed. To my mother, it was the same as stabbing her. To her, my actions didn’t say “I want to spend part of my birthday here and part there.” They said, “I hate you and I never want to see you again!” She still hasn’t let me forget this heinous crime.
When I decided to work at a rafting company the following summer, it was like I twisted the knife from Christmas. She was very upset that I wouldn’t be home all summer and I wouldn’t be spending time with her (despite the opportunity to live rent-free and work full-time). She never came to visit me that summer.
The next fall I used my saved money to buy a new car. I had been driving their unreliable-at-best minivan until now. I was pretty convinced my mother thought I was trying to kill her. She repeated nagged me about how I should keep driving their van on their insurance, how I wouldn’t get an insurance discount as good as what we had now, and how she wanted my dad to look at the car. In reality, I was about to get rid of her last big area of control over me. I’m certain she had some normal parent concerns but for the most part, it felt like a control issue.
Then it came time for me to apply to graduate school. She was her normal, negative self until I needed to conduct interviews. She offered to drive me to the closest interview (3 hours away) and I happily accepted. Leading up to that day, we have a pleasant relationship. When she picked me up that morning, it went downhill. She criticized my outfit for about 30 minutes then later informed me we would be stopping to see her old friend. I obviously couldn’t say no since I had no other way home. She had tricked me into spending more time with her. At the interview, she walked me to the room and waited outside (even after I asked her not to).
Later that month, I flew out to Oregon to do another interview. She knew I had applied to a variety of schools but she was very opposed to Oregon. I know normal parents aren’t thrilled at the idea of their children moving across the country but I’m fairly certain most of them either get over it or adequately express their feelings. My mother is not a normal parent. She lacks the ability to express her real emotions, instead making guilt-ridden statements such as “What if something happens to me or your dad?”
I ultimately did not get into the schools across the country and accepted my place at Appalachian State University. The summer before I started, I returned to the rafting company in West Virginia and my then boyfriend proposed. I didn’t tell anyone until I drove down to see my mother. When I told her, not only was she not excited, she got mad at me and didn’t believe me when I said she was the first person I told (she then spent the next 4 years leading up the wedding telling me he had to get her’s and my dad’s approval before I could get married). I pretty much ignored her for the rest of the summer.
 
 
Getting Out Grad
 

Grad School

Naturally, when it came time for me to move, my mother was a little frantic. Not only have I worked out-of-state all summer (different state), now I was moving to another state for at least 2 years. You can imagine she felt abandoned. Here I was, her only child, moving 3 hours away for graduate school.
Contrary to the typical overbearing parent, she rarely called. Often, she would make me feel guilty when I called to check up on her, saying things like “I was wondering when you’d call. I haven’t talked to you in 3 weeks.” She would occasionally drive to see me and we would have an uncomfortable and tension-filled meal. Then she would leave, later trying to make me feel guilty for never coming home when she would drive 6 hours in a day to see me (she knew I couldn’t afford it).
This pattern of feeling betrayed is typically in people with BPD. They often report feeling disrespected and abandoned when they do something for someone else and the other person doesn’t reciprocate.
I started to suspect my mother of Borderline Personality Disorder during my second semester Diagnosing and Assessing class. One thing I learned about people with BPD was their behaviors typically worked for them to meet their needs at one point in their life and now those behaviors don’t work, often causing the opposite reaction.
I also learned that most people with BPD have a history of trauma. The same is true for my mother. I used a school assignment of creating a genogram (family tree + relationships and family patterns) to get a better understanding of her history. Her mother was abused by her father and they later divorced. She also talked about her sister being violent towards her.
In a therapy program, you learn a lot about how to help and support others. What’s rarely talked about is how much you learn about yourself.
I came to the realization that my mother has Borderline Personality Disorder when I started working with Meg (named changed) in my internship. Meg had many of the classic symptoms of BPD: frequent & severe mood changes, unstable relationships, and an intolerance for being alone. The longer I worked with her, the more she reminded me of my mother.
One day when I was reviewing the criteria for BPD, I realized my mother met almost every single criterion. She wasn’t acting like this on purpose – she has a personality disorder! This moment was revolutionary for me because it started my process of not taking her actions personally. I have to continually remind myself of this when she attempts to manipulate me through emotional blackmail.
Once I realized her diagnosis, I tried very hard to let go of the years of anger I had built up. My view of her changed from “my crazy, overbearing mother” to a long-standing victim of her past. It also allowed me to start looking at my own learned borderline behaviors and change them.

Note: Children of people with mental illness can learn behaviors associated with those mental illnesses even though they may not have them.

 
 
Where We Are Now
 

Present Day

I’m still struggling in my relationship with my mother. I have a lot of anger towards her and towards the universe. In my adolescence, I accepted that I would never be best friends with my mother. I’ve transitioned to anger at the universe for taking away any chance I could have ever had at this type of relationship with her.
She continues to intervene in mine and my dad’s relationship. My dad never got a cell phone so any time I need to get in touch with him, I have to go through her.
I’m still not great at setting boundaries but I’m so much better than I used to be when I first started setting them. What’s more, I’ve gotten better at maintaining boundaries with her.
She continues to struggle both with understanding and following these boundaries. Here’s a recent example for December:
I volunteered to help my young cousins one weekend in December. I later got an invitation from my family to our annual family gathering which happened to be the same weekend. I let me my mother (via text) know I couldn’t make it because I’d already agreed to babysit that weekend. She quickly responded asking if I could bring them to the event. Before I could respond explaining the situation (i.e. I’d be out-of-state at their house), she began calling me. I didn’t answer her because I knew she was heightened and it was a situation I didn’t want to put myself in. It turns out she was very heightened. She called me 57 times without leaving a message or taking a break. I wasn’t even able to finish my text to her for over an hour because of this.
Mom's Calls
I rarely try to explain other people’s behaviors however I must make an exception for this. This is an example of one of the core diagnostic criteria for BPD: frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
I can tell you from decades of experience that not answering a call from my mother only means 1 of 3 things to her:

  1. I’m avoiding her
  2. I hate her
  3. I’m dead

Despite years of repeatedly telling her my phone was on silent or I was unavailable, she continues to jump to these conclusions. I can’t blame her, however, because it is literally part of her personality.
 

Borderline Criteria & My Mother

1. Frantic efforts (wild, chaotic, disorganized) to avoid real or imagined abandonment (does not include suicidal or self-harming behavior)
This is basically the rule my mother lives her life by. She also experiences paranoia related to her fear of abandonment (#9).
2. Pattern of intense, unstable relationships that frequently shift between extremes
My mother has only had one stable relationship in her life, and that relationship was with her deceased mother. She often changes from love to hate with me, my dad, other family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances.
3. Identity disturbance, such as ever-changing/unstable sense of self or self-image (Often presents as rapid career changes, sexual identity, morality, or types of friends)
My mother changes friends quickly, changes her mind on moral issues quickly, and has changed jobs approximately 12 times in my lifetime.
4. Impulsivity in at least 2 self-damaging areas (sex, spending, reckless driving, substance abuse, binge eating, etc.)
My mother has a history of reckless driving, binge eating, and emotional/impulsive spending. Despite being continually late or overdue on the mortgage AND cell phone bill, she bought a new chest freezer. Then 2 years later, with the same financial situation, she bought a dishwasher.
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, OR self-harm
She does not do this.
6. Inability to control or cope with moods (extreme reactions, usually lasting anywhere from a few hours up to a few days)
Every reaction my mother has is extreme and she takes everything personally. For example, she responded to my engagement announcement with anger and disrespect.
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness
She has not expressed this, though she was diagnosed with “Empty Nest Syndrome” and later Major Depressive Disorder.
8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
My mother has no ability to control her anger, which is often out of proportion with the situation or completely uncalled for. She often gets angry and is unable to explain the cause of her anger. She will also suddenly get angry about something that occurred months or even years ago.
9. Fleeting stress-related paranoid thinking or severe dissociative symptoms
My mother has paranoid thinking about abandonment and what others think of her. She has never talked about any type of dissociative symptom.
 

How I Cope

It’s been about 3 years since I realized my mother has borderline personality disorder. Since I realized this, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my childhood and adolescence, and working through years of anger. I haven’t formally gone to therapy for this, though I need to. I talk about how this relationship impacts my life and my work every week when I meet with my supervisors (for mental health licensure, not direct supervisors).
The things I’ve found to be most helpful are trying not to take her statements personally. When she tries to make me feel guilty, I focus on how she’s trying to communicate another message, like “I want to spend more time with you.” It takes a lot of reminding.
I also try to focus on the good days, when my real mother is there.
I intentionally avoid playing her games and fighting fire with fire. If she begins to act passive-aggressive, I simply say what I think the issue is.
I have to set a lot of boundaries, such as “I feel like you’re only trying to make me feel bad so I’m getting off the phone.” or “You cannot stop by my house with letting me know in advance.”
I also have to be assertive, something I did not have growing up. This is when I say things like “It’s not okay to talk to me like that.”
And I talk about it, a lot. I talk to my best friend, my supervisors, my husband; anyone that’s appropriate. I write about it because it helps get the years of anxiety, frustration, fear, and anger out.
And I read everything I think could be helpful to me.

Recommendations (Affiliate Links)

 

I Hate You, Don't Leave Me
$11.79 on Amazon
$10.27 on Amazon
$12.71 on Amazon
$13.75 on Amazon
 
 
 
 
 
 
$11.97 on Amazon
$11.25 on Amazon
$12.35 on Amazon
$11.33 on Amazon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I recently purchased Surviving A Borderline Parent on Audible as a tool to help myself cope with how this relationship has affected my life.
I also purchased I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me for my mother.
 

Closing Note

I used to think my family was pretty normal until I went to grad school and realized it was just a shitshow I’d adjusted to. I hope you enjoyed my story.
[Tweet “I used to think my family was pretty normal until I realized I was used to this shit”] My Mother Has Borderline Personality Disorder

More Struggles of the Frugal Lifestyle + Challenge

A few months ago, I wrote about the struggles of becoming newly frugal. Continuing along those lines, I’ve created a list of 4 more important aspects of being frugal as well as a 31-day challenge for July!
Transitioning to an intentional frugal lifestyle can be difficult. Some days it’s fine and other days it’s exhausting. Everyone has bad days and it’s okay to need continued motivation. Here’s a list of obstacles you may struggle with in your continued frugal journey.
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My Top 5 Money Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

This post contains affiliate links to help keep FurryFinches running. For more information, please review my disclosures page.

Part of being human is making and learning from mistakes. Today I’m sharing a more personal post, looking at my 5 worst money mistakes. I’ve touched on how little I learned about money from my parents and I’m going to share the hard truths I’ve had to learn for myself.
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Becoming A Better Therapist: Getting More Experience

I’ve mentioned several times about my experience towards becoming a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). I’m not going to go into the full process about how that happens today, but I want to talk about why I decided to take a second job in the mental health field. I spent a lot of time thinking about my decision and here’s the list of things that I took into consideration when making my decision:
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Pooch Perks Review: What's In Your Box?

This post contains affiliate links to help keep FurryFinches running. For more information, please review my disclosures page.

Thursday, I received my Pooch Perks box! I’m very excited to share our experience with you! Before I start my review, I want to give you a little information on Pooch Perks.
Pooch Perks in a Miami-based company that provides subscription boxes for pets. The have several different options for box sizes and contents. They also have options for either treat-only or toy-only boxes.
I tried my best to summarize their mission and goals, but if you’d like more information about them, please go to their about page.
Here are the things I find most compelling about Pooch Perks as a company:
– They donate a portion of the proceeds, from every box, to neglected and abuse animal charities. They list their organizations on their website.
– “We believe in helping those that cannot help themselves and are committed to rescuing dogs in need. A portion of your monthly Pooch Perks subscription is donated to organizations that rescue abused and neglected pooches.”
– Each month, items are selected by the company owners and tested on their own dogs before they determine what will go into the box.
– All products are made in the United States.
– The put an emphasis on high-quality ingredients for treats, mostly selecting Natural, Organic, Non-GMO, and Gluten Free.
– “Are tested by our human bakers and their favorite pooches (Yes! We eat the treats.)”
– They give preference to small batch, socially aware treat companies!

Turtle

This turtle is so cute! This was the second favorite of my pups. He squeaks and it very squishy. Addie loves to carry him around all over the house. This is the only toy we have that doesn’t have apparent marks from Scout. He’s still cute, green, and filled with stuffing.

Nemo

I personally thought this was the coolest toy. It floats! That’s awesome to me, even though we don’t have a pool or anything. This guy took a beating! He ended up with only minimal stuffing after about 2 days with Scout. This is not to say that he isn’t a high-quality toy. I believe he was. Unfortunately, not much stands up to Scout the Destroyer!
On a positive note, the more damage a toy takes, the more the dogs appear to like it. Nemo continues to be the favorite (if they pull him out of hiding). They only made a small hole in him so I refilled his stuffing several times before they made the hole too large. I was also able to repair Nemo with only minimal effort.

Magikarp (not its real name)

I’ll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Kong toy in the mix. I was definitely pleased because Kong toys have been very well made in my experience and stand up to some beastly play. This particular toy has a squeaker and a crinkly tail. We’ve never had a toy that crinkled so I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out our dogs love the crinkle!
My dogs love the Kong Magikarp the best. Unfortunately, they love him too much. Scout ripped his top fin within minutes! Despite that, they continue to climb onto the table over and over again to get him back. He has since been relocated to a safe place until we can watch them play.
I was so excited to get the opportunity to try a new type of toy and to learn more about what my dogs love!

But Wait! There’s More!

It also contains high-quality treats!

These treats are a cracker-like consistency. Scout and Addie both loved them. While they weren’t the favorite of the bunch, they were happy to do a number of tricks to be rewarded with these.
These were the clear favorite. They are larger treats that can easily be broken up into smaller chunks. They have a squishy-without-being-sticky consistency and a strong aroma. I’m not going to lie to you; they smell delicious. My husband actually tried a bite of one and was pleased.
Scout and Addie were basically willing to do the impossible to get one of these. Now that’s the mark of a good treat.
I was surprised and pleased most by these single ingredient treats. It’s hard to find a single ingredient dog treat in many of our local stores. They are freeze-dried and have a bit of a crumbly feel to them which makes me worry less about our smaller dog.
They have a strong fish odor to them because their only ingredient is pollock. Regardless, our dogs tried to climb my husband to get to them.

All three treat types were overwhelming winners at our house!

Finally, we have the grooming product for the month: Aromadog Derma Pooch Spa Therapy Bar.
This stuff smells amazing! It’s lavender scented, which is my favorite. I let my husband smell it and, no joke, he said, “I’m using this.”
I haven’t used this yet because we don’t wash our dogs that often for health reasons so unfortunately I cannot give a review of this bar yet. I’ll let you guys know after our next bath time!

Highlights

– The box has AMAZING contents! I can’t even find half of what’s in the box at our local Petco.
– The treats are made of quality ingredients. My dogs LOVE them.
– The packaging is adorable and shipping is super fast!

What to Consider

Because I have a destructive dog, I know what it is like to have to buy toy after toy and toy, trying to find something that will survive the week. For those of you with dogs like this, this box is for you. This way, you don’t have to go to the store several times a month. You can just get your toys in the mail each month, plus treats!
If you have a dog that loves to play and chew without destroying, this box is for you.
However your dog likes to play, you’ll find something great in each Pooch Perks Box.

Overall

These boxes are picked and packaged with love. If you’re looking for a convenient way to spoil your pets, I would highly recommend this box. Plus, for a limited time, you can save 30% with the discount code SWIM30.
 
 

What are you waiting for?

A Peek Into My Budget: Living on 53% of My Take-Home Pay

I’ve mentioned several times before that I’m incredibly focused on paying off my debt as soon as possible. Today I want to go more into detail on what that looks like on a monthly and yearly basis. My goal in sharing this with you is to show you how I prioritize my spending.
First of all, all the numbers and percentages are based on my take home pay from my full-time job in mental health. My husband and I have separate finances and so my example will likely look differently than your situation.
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What I've Learned from Commuting 100 Miles A Day

This post contains affiliate links to help keep FurryFinches running. For more information, please review my disclosures page.

If you didn’t already think I’m a super weird person, I’m about to solidify that idea for you. My husband and I both commute 100 miles per day, to and from work. Here’s a little background on my situation and our commutes:
My husband and I live in Southwestern Virginia, and we work in vastly different fields (geology & mental health). I still work at the same company that hired me right out of grad school and he works at one of the 9 district offices for the Department of Transportation. His office is 110 miles from my office, and we live in the middle. Read more

Goal Check-In: Day 150

Today marks the 150th day of the year! That means it’s the 150th day of my 2016 goals, including my savings challenge. I posted an update at the 50 day & 100 day marks to help me stay accountable. I’ve made it a goal to post an update every 50 days to help hold myself accountable.
Unfortunately, the past 50 days have been a significant drop in my savings. This is partially due to a decrease in my Food cash category ($250 biweekly to $150 biweekly).
Here is my 150 day savings update:
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