My Mother the martyr

She, the martyr,  likes to be the pillar of the community and the centre of attention at her church, but behind closed doors mum is a very different character, overbearing, moody and rude, and everything – and I mean everything – revolves back to her. “Oh what a terrible time I’m having with all this worry,” is a statement we grew up hearing much too often.

I find her to be a very toxic person and for the last twenty years, I’ve managed to maintain a healthy distance, which in my opinion is never far enough. These days, we only text every 6-8weeks, but her lack of interest in anything other than herself can feel very damaging, even after all these years.

The last time I made the mistake of sharing something significant was when I suffered a slipped disc. One day, mum asked what was wrong and I duly told her the basic facts, but she never did reply to that text. I didn’t hear from her again for almost four months.

She text me the other day and this really shows her character in all its glory.

Mum: Hi Cat, how are you

Me: I’m fine, thanks, how are you?

Mum: It’s been a busy week with services at church and all the bible meetings and I made soup for the Sunday lunch club and all the ladies said how lovely it was. I can’t do it every week, but I’m always there to give them a good laugh and boost morale. But, we’re okay. Plodding on (She means her and Dad. I wonder if she ever notices we haven’t actually spoken a word in over sixteen years).

Me: That sounds nice

Mum: They want me to be Secretary for the Women’s Guild because it’s never the same when I’m not there to organise things. I said I would think about it, but I’m not sure I am up to it, I like to support them all I can, but you know how I’ve never “been able” (she means after losing a lung sixty years ago and barely a week goes by without some reference to it).

Me: How’s Auntie Barbara (who’s severely disabled since birth but still lives independently at 86yrs old and never complains)

Mum: B is ok. I finally went to the Doctors with my niggling complaints (actually, she’s never away from the Doctor’s). The Doctor is getting onto the hospital about them, but it could be thyroid problems. The main problem is I’ve sweated all through winter (she also sweated her way through an early and late finishing menopause and we never heard the end of that either and we suffered the full force of her depression).

Me: Do you take codeine for pain? (Codeine makes me sweat)

Mum: No I don’t like taking too many tablets, I’m already on 10 a day. No one knows pain like I do, I have a high tolerance for pain, but it’s just my back and my arthritis and my right foot gives me terrible bother but the Doctor gave me cream to rub on. The last Doctor gave me painkillers but I don’t use them. I’m not one for complaining, me and yer Dad just soldier on as best we can. So R u ok then? (She has revelled in her martyrdom since my earliest memories).

Now, I do not know what possessed me to respond with my next text. Maybe there is still an urge deep within me to reach out to my mother and… well, receive a mother-kind-of-response.

Me: I need to go for a colonoscopy next week because I seem to be losing a lot of weight too quickly.

As soon as I pressed the ‘send’ button, I regretted it and waited for the cold cutting response. I can never be certain if I’ll get an answer at all, so it was a long ten minutes. Maybe there is a hidden need for her to find it within herself to show as much love and compassion to her children as she puts on show for her churchy friends.

Mum: I know the feeling

End of conversation.

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72 thoughts on “My Mother the martyr

  1. edwinasepisodes

    Christ Cat, your mother is a nightmare! From just that conversation, you can tell so much about a person. She is all about appearances to other people it seems, and how indispensable she is to them. I am so sorry that she didn’t give you any support about your upcoming colonoscopy which I know you are worried about (I am so pleased that you are going though). I know she is still your mum and everything, so I am sorry if I have overstepped the mark, but she still sounds a bloody nightmare!

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    1. Cat Post author

      You haven’t overstepped the mark, Edwina, it actually helps to hear it isn’t just me. For years I used to think it was and I was the terrible person for thinking ill of her. She’s more than a nightmare, she’s a night-terror of the sweating kind! Thank you for your support, much appreciated 🙂

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  2. cardamone5

    Oh dear. I think distance is very healthy in light of your mother’s narcissism. You have to have a colonoscopy? Have you ever had one before? Have you spoken with you doc about the weight loss and your worry? Is this part of your diagnosis/treatment?

    I am sorry you parents are not there for you. I was about to say “I know the feeling” and then I reread your transcript, and laughed. I want to be supportive and in no way resemble your mom. It is normal to still miss them and experience hurt at their loss.

    Wishing you better health and peace of mind.

    Love,
    E

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth… Ha, I had a laugh at “I know the feeling,” although I do realise that you will relate in some way. The Doc spotted the weight loss as a (apparent) problem. It’s all happening so quickly. I went to see him about three weeks ago for something else and he was concerned at the weight loss, while I’m delighted. He made an emergency referral to the hospital and they too say I am losing too much weight, so it’s a tube up the bum next week!!! I wrote about it in this post (a little funny one, I hope)

      https://mytravelswithdepression.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/just-thinking-the-p-word-medical-triggers/comment-page-2/#comments

      Thank you, Elizabeth 🙂

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  3. therabbitholez

    What did I say about the toxic in my last comment, you just can’t deal with them on any level and when they are a close relative it’s even worse, but this kind of passive aggressive narcissitic type behaviour can almost drown you you, because as a fellow human being your needs are never met.

    I’ve come across this many times and it’s just unbelievable how self obbessed someone can be and you do have to keep them at arms length, they do a lot of damage with their constant litany of complaints which always seems to be your fault, and because they are family there is little you can do save stay away.

    My favourite response to martyrs is: get off the cross we need the wood….:)

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    1. Cat Post author

      Your last comment about toxic people really did hit home. It’s like drowning in her toxicity. I do try to keep her at arm’s length , but not far enough. According to her, she meets everyone’s needs, “I bend over backwards for everyone.” I like the get off the cross, we need the wood… I must try to remember that one 🙂

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  4. mandy smith

    Cat, if this was a sit-com I was watching I would be laughing, but it’s not and I’m not! How painful to be so dismissed. I grew up with a mom who was always dying. I seriously waited each day for her death. (I left home when she was 35 (I was 14) so she was not old and she was not sick. When she got the brain tumor at 54, it’s terrible to say, but my first thought was Finally, she got something that’s going to kill her. Isn’t that awful?
    Now you are having all kinds of fears with this colonoscopy (justified) and need some comforting and reassurance. You wonder if she heard. Damn. I’m sorry Cat. We never stop needing our mothers I guess, no matter how detached they are to us. I’ll be glad when you get this procedure over with. What day? I’ll send all the positive thoughts I have to get you through the day!
    I noticed my comments on your last two posts are no longer there. I wanted to ask about it since I wondered if they didn’t go through. But if you deleted them I didn’t want you to feel bad!

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    1. Cat Post author

      “Deleted” your last comments? I would never do such a thing, not even if they were from an abusive person. I don’t know what happened to your comments, I just thought you were busy! 🙂 I have checked the spam, but nothing from you, I’m afraid.

      I used to get similar to what your mother said to you. “You won’t have me for long” and “You better make the most of your mother while she’s still alive.” This is not good for any child to deal with. I completely understand your thinking on learning about the brain tumour, but that must’ve been incredibly difficult for you to deal with, I can well imagine what went through your mind during that time. Can I be nosy and ask, did you ever visit her?

      I have the colonoscopy on Thursday 10.30am. Paul organised everything for me and spoke to them about my fears. They offered a general anaesthetic and said to Paul only female nurses and Doctors would deal with me. Huh, while I was grateful, Mandy, I couldn’t help but notice the stigma attached to their care. By assuring Paul that only females would deal with me is inferring it was a man who was the perpetrator of my sexual abuse. I don’t think Paul even picked up on this, but I did immediately. Gosh, this is like a min post! Thank you, Mandy, you are a rock 🙂

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      1. mandy smith

        Well, I’ll have to go back and try to remember what I said in my comments. You’ll probably get mini versions–not so bad since I’m so long-winded, Lol!
        When I got the call my mom had a brain tumor, I immediately flew back “home” and was there for her. After all, taking care of her had always been my role. It just clicked in. I tried to have private talks with her, to make amends, to take back all the hurt I’d caused–see I clicked back to the child me very quickly. She wouldn’t accept it–said that would be my lot in life-ruin everything I ever touched. Meanwhile, my stepfather tried to take advantage of my once-again little girl and her being out of the way . The whole ordeal was disgusting and even more damaging. I held her vomit bucket right to the end, attended the funeral (which my stepfather held off a couple days so it could be on my birthday.) Ugh–I’m feeling a need for a vomit bucket myself right now.
        What is our time difference–I’m West Coast-Pacific Standard Time. I’m going to be with you in spirit next Thursday Cat. It’s on my calendar. You’ve got to get this done. Whatever is going on with your dramatic wt loss needs attention. I’m glad you’ve got Paul to take care of the details. The important thing is that you will be comfortable with who is dealing with your procedure–I’m glad he was able to arrange that. It’ll be what seems like a long wait until Thursday, Cat, but it’ll be over with soon and we can move forward with whatever is needed. (See how I said “we” without a second though? That’s how we roll, right?) 🙂

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        1. Cat Post author

          No need to go to that trouble, Mandy, with rewriting comments, I know I am in your thoughts. Well, I am rather disgusted that she couldn’t accept “your apology” but it is only her that took that resentment to her grave. And as for the stepfather…yuck, disgusting selfish narcissistic man (not got a lot going for him then!). Their toxicity runs through our veins like boiling hot poison.

          I’m not sure of the time difference. I think I am 7-8 hrs ahead, or is it behind? No pun intended. I will lap up their attention and, of course, the drugs and thank God I won’t know a thing about it. The good thing is, the Consultant talks to me before I leave (well, that’s procedure, anyway) and I will know then if there are any concerns. I still put it down to the reduction in meds and 1-2lbs weight loss per week is considered “healthy”(I just checked!) I have always been 11st, I ballooned to 14st 10lbs, but I’m still 12st 7lbs, so I have a little to go yet before I’ll be concerned and I still have all my “slim clothes” put by. Fingers and toes crossed, Mandy, thank you for the positive vibes, I’ll soak them up like a sponge 🙂

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          1. mandy smith

            I’m glad you said that first–I almost said the procedure will all be behind you soon, but I didn’t want to remind you in such vivid terms, lol! How fun to get out the skinny clothes. I’m afraid my will be donated upon my death.

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  5. kat

    ya my mom is toxic too. only with her, its how perfect she is, and how terrible and awful i am and how that makes her feel. so even a text every 6 weeks is too close..we haven’t spoken in over 7 yrs. that is about the right distance for me.

    good luck to you, for trying so hard to keep her in your life at all, you are a truly good person.

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    1. Cat Post author

      What troubles me, Kat, and this is my next challenge in therapy, but because she truly believes she’s perfect and has contributed nothing to our relationship problems, I feel guilty because the ignorance is really a hurtful experience for her… this is what keeps me tied to the post. I can go longer without talking to her, but every now and then, she and my sister book a weekend in London (they’re in Scotland) and then expect me to meet up and if I don’t, I am selfish and inconsiderate and how can I NOT make time for my loved ones. It’s very damaging and I so much wish I had never let them back into my life again. Thank you, Kat 🙂

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  6. EmWell2

    When I read stories like yours I remember how grateful I am that I got my Mom. We’ve been through hell and back, but today I call her my friend. My father on the other hand….

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s nice to hear when people have good relationships with their parents…well, maybe except your father. Thank you 🙂

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  7. Janni Styles

    OMG We had the same mom~! Why didn’t I realize we were related before now, lol. Funny how the “do-gooders” out themselves just by what they do. It is so challenging to get past this if ever we can and I’ll tell you what helped me somewhat to get past my mothers mentality of “I had one too but my wheels were squeakier.” I read a book called Transforming Your Dragons by Jose Stevens (hope I spelled the name right but the title should get you there). In this book are helpful ways to handle people and explanations of why they are so “stuck” at 3, 13, or whatever age. It was so good because after I read it, whenever I was dealing with my mom, I just told myself, “remember, she’s only three” because that was about where she got stuck for life (look at me, look how good I am, look what I am doing – just as three year olds do). I don’t say it made it hurt less or made it less frustrating to manage that relationship. Only that it helped me cope and any help is better than none.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That sounds a very interesting book, trouble is, I don’t have much patience for manipulative 3 yr olds 🙂 But, it’s true what you say and has crossed my mind of late. Thank you for sharing, it really helps me a lot to soak up the validation

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  8. Ellen

    Man, I am sorry Cat. She does sound completely narcissistic. I did enjoy the dialogue though, as theater – I like how you’ve written it.

    My mother is problematic in a completely different way. But there’s also been a huge lack of connection and nurturing there, which sounds similar. We have to learn to nurture ourselves and treat ourselves very kindly, with that background.

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    1. Cat Post author

      While I don’t like to label people with diagnosis’, I did often contribute a lot of BPD to her mood swings and then I met a couple of diagnosed narcissists and so many things made sense and helped me shake off some of the self-blame, although a considerable amount still exists and this is what I’ll tackle next in therapy. I’m glad you liked the dialogue, writing the post was a good exercise of seeing it for what it is. Thanks, Ellen

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  9. ziggy40

    Sorry Cat,
    I also would love kind words from mum. I will say I’m fortunate that as she ages there are SOME works of concern and kindness. I don’t hold my breathe . Lots of compassion and kindness sent your way..lol
    Love. Ziggy

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  10. Priceless Joy

    Cat, I am at a loss for words. Seriously. Yes, she is a martyr. Yikes! I would want to stay a healthy distance from her too. “I know the feeling” gives me the shivers! We need to think up some witty comment to that response. Something like this, “Well of course you know the feeling because you have had it all.” LOL! Sorry you got such a crappy response from your mom. Promise me next time she texts you one of her “ailments” you will text back with, “Yeah, I know the feeling.”

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    1. Cat Post author

      Lol Joy, that did give me a laugh and I’m gonna write those down to remind me the next opportunity I get and, believe me, there are many of those. I liked what Rabbit said about what we should say to martyr’s, “get off the cross, we need the wood”. Thank you, Joy 🙂

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  11. Devin

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with this. My mom is similar, except she is more quiet at church and then would go home and complain about how no one would talk to her. Or that she would walk up to people and they would walk away. She tried to act friendly to outsiders but she was never good with the social part, so they kind of saw through it. At home though, she was the martyr. And the abuser. We talk on the phone now and see each other every couple of years. I think she is changing a little bit as she gets older, but I always have my guard up because I still never know what to expect.

    It’s hard when all you ever wanted was to be loved by the people who were supposed to love you the most, but they didn’t know how. How are we EVER supposed to know what love is?

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s so true, if we don’t experience love with the people who are supposed to mean the most, how can we ever know what love is. In many ways, whenever I’ve seen my mum on the rare occasion, it does appear that she has mellowed her ways, but I am always suspicious that she is only on her best behaviour. Let her in again, and she might wreck the same toxicity. Thanks for your feedback, it helps to know people understand 🙂

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  12. sensuousamberville

    There are some disorders where the person living with it will never seek help. From the tiny glimpses you have provided of your mother I have suspicions. But she brought us you Cat. Forgive her for her actions for she is not truly the person she could be. I know this is very hard. Forgive her for you. Not for her. She is unlikely to change. A distant wave now and then to thank her for bringing you to us. Smile inside.

    How much weight have you lost?

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, I have considered this aspect already and maybe one day I will be more “forgiving” but for now, I can’t think of her. I’ve thought of her views as being right for all these years, so now is my time. She will never change, which is a shame really, but it’s too damaging for my own MH.

      I lost 2st (I think that’s 28lbs) in about 6 to 8 mths, but I put it down to reducing Seroquel, albeit a very slow reduction. I was a little overweight, so I was more happy than concerned. I went to the GP recently for something else and he identified an APPARENT problem. It all happened very quickly, 3 weeks ago and next week I will have the colonoscopy….gulp 😉

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      1. sensuousamberville

        You can expect to lose a lot of weight when reducing Seroquel. Without trying and quickly. Tis good to check though. Apparent problems are always worrisome though. Most often the prep for the colonoscopy is worse than the actual visit. I will cross my fingers.

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        1. Cat Post author

          I’m quite sure it will be okay. I just checked a healthy weight loss is 1-2lb per week and I am on 2lb per week, but I guess it will be a good MOT down there for the future. Thanks, Amber

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  13. Amber Rose

    Your mom sounds like my dad’s twin. When my brother and cousin died (both from cancer) he wrote me a three-page letter complaining about all his medical problems, then ended it with, “Oh yeah, by the way your brother/cousin died.” I’ve found out the best way to cope with him is to live in a completely different state!

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    1. Cat Post author

      Oh my goodness, I can imagine getting to the end of the letter and then reading that. How many miles is the “next state”? The UK is a reasonably small island, so the furthest I could get was 350miles, any further and I’d be living on the sea, marooned on a boat just to get her away from her 🙂 Thank you so much for commenting, Amber, knowing so many people understand really does make all the difference

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  14. princessinpain

    I am so glad that is not a problem I have with my mom but now that I have read about yours, I feel the need to write about mine. I might do that one day. I wish you the best with your health and wanted to say I appreciate you following me as well.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I have been wanting to write about mine for some time, but there is so much jumbled stuff going through my mind, I really didn’t know where to begin, I still don’t, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I don’t quite know how to get the rest of it out of my head and every time I try to write about it, I draw blank, but this was a good start. I can thoroughly recommend writing and therapy together . Not only are we able to get it down on paper and sometimes see a slightly different perspective, it helps so much to hear other people’s take on our experience. The validation goes a long way in healing. I look forward to reading your future posts 🙂 Thank you for contributing to mine

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  15. Anxious Mom

    Jesus, what a piece of work. Sounds like the conversations I have with my dad. Putting some physical and emotional distance between the two of us has made a lot of difference over the past couple of years.

    I hope your colonoscopy results come back good next week. Do you have someone that’ll be able to go with you? I went to my hubby when he had one and he was pretty floopy for a while after. ❤

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    1. Cat Post author

      Lol… if she could hear you now, she would tell you how offended she was for you taking the “Lord’s name in vain” As well as a martyr, she was always a crusader for no cause and likes nothing more than going after someone with her fierce judgement…but hey, I’d love to see it AM, you and my mum head to head, you would have her as mince meat, she crumbles easily.

      Yes, I have someone to collect me after the colonoscopy. Thanks 🙂

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  16. Glynis Jolly

    Cat, I can honestly say that I feel your frustration and… let’s face it, anger with your mum. She is truly exasperating making you want to scream bloody murder. How do I know? I have someone in my life who is the same way. Luckily, the person is not my mom so I think it’s a little easier for me to take than it is for you. Narcissistic people are so tormenting and not being able to tell them where they can go can make us anxiety-ridden to the point where only meds and therapy can make it manageable. ❤ ❤

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    1. Cat Post author

      The narcissistic tendencies make it all the more difficult and, of course, the fact she is thee mother. She truly believes it’s all my fault, what could she possibly ever do when she was always the perfect mother. In her heart, she feels hurt and treated unfairly, so I harbour a lot of guilt for this, which is my next challenge in therapy. Thank you, Glynis, appreciated 🙂

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  17. littlevoicetalks

    Narcissists bringing up children, should come with a serious health warning. I’m sure your mother and my father are twins. Children born to this kind of parent often feel not good enough or an extension of the parent’s ego and when we don’t conform or feed their voracious egos, we are criticised so woefully, no wonder we suffer with no confidence and self-doubt.

    Your decisions around your mother and removing yourself from the firing line must have been painful but ultimately the best thing for you.

    xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      You sum up the consequences of narcissism so well and this is probably why we suffer so much guilt, even though we realise it’s them who are the problem. It’s not been easy pushing her away, for years we were out of touch and, in all honesty, I wish I had never allowed communication to rekindle. Thank you for your feedback, the validation is so important 🙂

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  18. peggyricewi

    You’ve written about an awful relationship – I’m so sorry that’s been your experience. But I have to tell you – it was really well written! I could feel the tension in the texts, the frustration you feel when she goes on and on, the hunger for a word of praise or concern. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you, Peggy, for the compliment, there’s a lot of tension and I’m pleased that came out in the text, I appreciate your feedback, it helps:-)

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  19. fromthedarkintothesunshine42

    Well I don’t know your mom at all cat …
    Im sorry it’s this way we all want to be excepting to them as well as to us ..but somethings you can’t change!
    I’d be running never answering her texts they feel so one ended ..I’m sorry for putting it like that ..but like she couldn’t care about you meaningfully and hell ya I can feel that hurt!
    Take lots of care
    Lis

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Lisa… yes, I do run from time to time, but then feel riddled with guilt and my sister is usually on my back to stay in touch with mum…tut. Thank you for your feedback 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      I am having so many problems trying to talk or write about this and kinda stole the text idea from one of your posts. It helped me start the dialogue inside my head and I might be able to unravel the rest. Are you travelling home this weekend?

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  20. borderlinefunctional

    Gosh, she certainly doesn’t know what thinking about someone else truly means. Even the things she does for others are really for her. ‘Martyr’, sadly seems the perfect word to describe how she acts. I’m sorry for the impact this is bound to have/have had on you! :/ x

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  21. Sharon Alison Butt

    You know Cat, I deliberately avoided this blog because I knew ‘she’ would make me seethingly angry and I wasn’t ready for that emotion.

    You have handled her very graciously and she’s lucky that she hasn’t had anything toxic put into her glass by now.

    You know, you could write a play using her character as the attention-seeking bitch. Then at the end put, ‘based on a true story.’ It would be snapped up by publishers around the world!

    Knowing that someone is so selfish and hateful is one thing, but to know they hide behind the facade of being an upright godly citizen, is beyond hypocrisy! Your only consolation is that God is not fooled. Attending church, knitting for the poor, serving coffee and cleaning skid marks of the boy scout toilets doesn’t cut it with him if it’s not accompanied by a right heart. And ‘the mouth speaks out what’s in the heart’, which you have correctly discerned is, Her Her Her.

    You have tried, many times more than we could ever imagine. Forgive again, like you have done so often, then avoid her. She does you no good whatsoever and is like a dagger in your back, only existing to pull you down.

    You don’t need people like that in your life and if it’s possible, avoid her altogether because unfortunately, not only is she far from being a mother, she is also a devil sent to make your life more Hell.

    Wash your hands off her and look into the mirror with a clean conscience that you tried. Cry a river for the love you never received, then happily move on, breaking the chains forever. Xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you so much, Sharon, I am soaking up every word of support and your advice and just love how you defend my position. She does drag me down and I have been keeping my distance. There was a comedy series from the 80’s called Keeping up Appearances and the lady, Mrs Bucket, pronounced Bouquet, is just like my mother, you would think the writers knew her very well. Oddly enough, mother used to always hate the programme 🙂 Thank you, Sharon

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  22. chromegurl

    Narcissism and martyrdom I think are two sides of the same coin. Both are equally crazy-making. What I find mind-boggling is that people like this are convinced that they’re going the extra mile for you, but are really just feeding their own egos.

    I hope your colonoscopy goes well!

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