Now that I’m dead, I want to tell you a few things.

It’s sad that now I’m old, I only realized a couple of years ago that the ONE thing I should not have done in my abusive childhood was sacrifice myself for my siblings. And my mother.

The details are not that important, only that I grew up with an alcoholic, abusive father and a co-dependent/enabling mother. As the eldest of four girls, I was often told that I had to “take care of my sisters and mother.” And I did, and though I was never again abused, had a wonderful husband but no children of my own, I often put my siblings and mother’s interests ahead of my own all of my adult life.

I always felt responsible for them, and made sure they all survived our terrible childhood and went on to live happy lives. In some ways, happier lives than myself.

So I would say this to children in an abusive home: Yes, you should help your siblings but NEVER to the extent that you sacrifice your own life in ways that will come back to haunt you when you are old. If you need, at some point, to leave the region where you were born because you feel instinctively your potential will never be met otherwise, then you must go. Instead of staying where you are, helping your siblings, get professionals to help — contact outside agencies whose responsibility it is to make sure abused children are taken care of. You do not owe your life to your siblings, and certainly not to abusive or enabling, neglectful parents.

Live YOUR life, and don’t make sacrifices you will regret once the opportunities of youth are lost to you.