A letter to my 12 year old self

My therapist asked me to write a letter to my 12 year old self because I still associate with my younger self. We are working on sending her love and setting her free. Writing this letter was one of the most painful yet most beautiful things that I have ever done.

A lot of my behaviors, thought patterns and feelings come from my childhood because there is a part of me that is stuck there. For example: being a people pleaser and searching for my worth in other people developed when I was a child. This is a huge obstacle that I am currently overcoming but for the first time EVER…I am able to define and see my own worth.

This is an unedited, raw letter that I wrote. I am sharing because I want to be transparent as I heal and grow throughout my journey in hopes of helping others. If you feel like there is a “young child” that still lives within you…I highly encourage you to write a letter to that child. Send them love and set them free.

Dear Emma,

These are the things that I want that 12 year old girl to know:

1.) You are beautiful just the way you are. Society will try and convince you otherwise. Sadly, you are a victim of manipulation. You are told that you can’t be beautiful unless you are a size 0. You can’t be happy unless you have the best clothes and toys. And you will never be good “enough” unless you look a certain way. You feel unworthy most days but this isn’t your fault Emma. After all, you are only 12 and no one was there to tell you otherwise because they were also fed the same lies from society.

2.) Other kids call you names like fat, cow, pig. I wish that I could hug you because those things are far from the truth. The bullies hurt you over and over again but you remained kind and your heart remained big through it all. Those bullies were hurting and it was never about you. It was about them.

3.) You will begin searching for your worth in other people. This will send you down a dangerous path as you get older but I forgive you for not knowing better. You gave pieces of yourself to people who never deserved it. You said things just to make people happy even though you knew it was wrong. You tried so hard to fit in but again…you were only a child.

4.) You have one of the most beautiful hearts that I have ever known. You feel things deeply and are very sensitive. I want you to embrace this part of you because it is nothing to be ashamed of.

5.) The boys you like reject you over and over again. You wonder if there is something wrong with you. There isn’t. They are also taught from a young age to desire a certain type of girl. You are beautiful and there will be a guy that will make you feel all those “fuzzy” feelings one day.

6.) You feel fearful of the real world. Your mind plays tricks on you and most nights you can’t fall asleep without your mom laying next to you. She loves you so much.

7.) You have an anxiety disorder that you stay quiet about. You know that something is wrong and the way you’re feeling can’t be right. You are just a child so you stay quiet because you can’t bear the thought of being judged. Instead you turn to food, nail biting and hair pulling. I love you for trying your best to make it through each day. You are so brave.

8.) I’m 27 years old now and finally dealing with all the pain I faced in my childhood. I want you to know that I love you but I’m ready to set you free. I’m ready to set the pain free too. You will always be a part of my journey but you no longer serve a purpose in my life.

I will always love you.


Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate

I have debated hitting the publish button on this blog post for over a month now. The fear of what people would think about me held me back and I just couldn’t find the courage to share it until now. Being vulnerable is SCARY. I recently watched Brené Brown’s special on Netflix called “the Call to Courage” and it rocked my world. By watching this special, I was able to see my vulnerability as an advantage and not something to be ashamed of.

I have made the decision to own my messy, imperfect and beautiful mental health journey. I have recently stepped inside of the arena and I am fighting my demons one by one. Facing emotional pain that I haven’t touched in years means that my ass is most definitely getting kicked but I’m choosing courage over comfort. And here is my story:

The word mental illness can carry such a heavy daunting stigma in our society. It can leave people feeling like there is something wrong with them, which then leads to shame, guilt and loneliness. People would rather isolate themselves or suppress their feelings in order to avoid judgement.

But here is the truth: most of us have struggled with mental health at some point in our lives and we decided to stay quiet about it. We choose comfort over speaking our truth. We stay quiet because we feel “crazy” for what we may be thinking or feeling. REALITY CHECK: we are not crazy, broken or unworthy. We are HUMAN.

You might be thinking…“Emma, how do you know this?”

Well I know this because mental illness has been my reality for many years. Looking at me, you would think that I’m a healthy 26 year old woman. You can’t see my brain or hear my thoughts so you have no idea that I have been diagnosed with three mental illnesses over the course of my life. My health chart would say: Anxiety Disorder, Depression and an Eating Disorder.

I have decided to share my story in hopes to help others find their voice. To help others feel like they are NOT alone. I am sharing my story to help end the stigma that I have put upon myself over the past 20 years because ending the stigma starts with US. I also want others to know that recovery IS possible.

I first realized that I was different when I was in elementary school. I had irrational fears such as my parents dying or being kidnapped from my own home. My thoughts were obsessive, scary and uncontrollable. My mom had to sleep with me most nights in order for both of us to get a good nights rest. I would try and sleep over at friends’ house to only end up in tears by 10pm and begging to go home. The anxiety consumed my childhood leaving me to feel like I was broken.

At a young age, I figured out that food helped calm my anxiety. It made the “yucky” feelings go away but only for a short time. Food made me feel safe just like my mom did when I woke up screaming and crying from a nightmare. I ended up weighing 230 pounds by the time I was 15 years old. I was taller than most of my peers, boys didn’t like me “that way” and I was shopping in the women’s plus size section when all my friends were shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch.

I was bullied for the way I looked. I was called a pig, cow, fat, and “big girl”…just to name a few. One kid even put me in a choke hold because he knew that I wouldn’t stand up for myself. I can still feel his arm wrap around my neck as he laughed a laugh that I’ll never forget. I was prey to anyone that was hurting enough to hurt others.

I lost 80+ pounds in less than a year during my sophomore year of high school. I became obsessed with the number on the scale and how small I could get my body. People were calling me beautiful for the first time ever and boys actually liked me! As a 16 year old girl, you can imagine how confusing these messages were. I was willing to do just about anything to make sure that the attention continued.

I was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa and depression by the age of 16. I was sick both physically and mentally. I spent 4 weeks in an eating disorder clinic to only relapse the day after I was discharged. I was terrified of gaining weight and becoming the “big girl” again. I battled my eating disorder for 7 years before feeling like I finally had a strong grip on it.

I went to college feeling broken, lost and 100% unworthy. I discovered that alcohol could help me feel comfortable in my skin but that’s a story for another time. I began to question my own life and experienced passive suicidal ideation. It is an understatement to say that I was in a dark place for years and this might come as a surprise to some. I got extremely good at putting a smile on my face even when my heart was hurting.

As I got older my irrational fears shifted. I became obsessively worried with what people thought about me and I became a chronic people pleaser (I am still working on this). I gave ALL the love and kindness to everyone except myself. I figured that putting everyone before myself would solve the feeling of not being enough.

But boy was I wrong…very wrong. By the age of 25, my anxiety was at an all time high. People would tell me to think positive thoughts or that I just needed to stop worrying. YEAH OKAY, stop worrying? What they didn’t know was that it’s not that simple because anxiety is such a complex illness.

I was second guessing every conversation and obsessively thinking about things from the past. I would beat myself up for things that I did YEARS ago. I was giving up opportunities because I felt like I wasn’t worthy of them. I would have days where I felt a rush of happiness and others where I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I was confused, sad, happy, and anxious all at the same time.

I turn 27 next week and I can truthfully say that I am in a place of finally allowing myself to heal. I have been working with an incredible therapist twice a week and have opened up about painful feelings that are deeply rooted in me. It will take time to quiet the anxiety and to rewrite the untrue stories that I have been telling myself for years. The difference is that I am hopeful for once. I am hopeful that I will finally start living my life without feeling paralyzed by fear and anxiety.

Mental illness does not discriminate. I grew up in an amazing family with loving parents. We had a beautiful house with a barn, pond and endless amounts of land to explore. They gave me the world and yet I struggled through every stage of my life. Is it genetics? Life experiences? Brain chemistry? Whatever it may be, I know that mental illness will not win and that I will come out of this stronger than ever.

My goal is to share more about my mental health journey through writing. If you are struggling, please don’t ever feel like you are alone. I’m here if you ever need someone to talk too. There are 46.6 million people in the United States living with a mental illness (National of Institute Mental Health). Let that sink in. WE are not alone and together we can create change. Let’s be vulnerable, courageous and imperfect together.


I have been meal prepping for 4+ years and I am not sure why I have NEVER made mason jar salads. My life just got that much better! A couple weeks ago, I decided to give mason jar salads a shot. Both my husband and I LOVE salads but we HATE making them the night before a work day [it’s a struggle, I knowww].

We have really mastered meal prepping and put in 2-3 hours a week preparing our meals and snacks for each week so making salads every night just didn’t feel right. We have become the kind of people that just grab our food and go in the morning. Meal prep has proven to save us both time AND money over the years.

I was anxious when I made my first batch of salads. I was worried that the lettuce would wilt, the ingredients wouldn’t stay fresh and we’d have to throw them out. I was WRONG. We have been making anywhere between 8-10 mason jar salads a week. We prepare them on Sunday night and everything in the jar is still fresh by Friday’s lunch time.

I have been receiving a crazy amount of positive feedback from my co-workers and Instagram friends that I decided to create my first blog post about my latest obsession: mason jar salads!

We use Ball mason jars. We had a bunch left over from our wedding and they were being stored in our basement so it was a win win. You can get these are Walmart, Target or Amazon!

The KEY to making your mason jar salads a success is to put any liquid at the very bottom. This weeks salads are taco salads so the first layer is salsa. You would also put any salad dressing as the very first layer! 2-4 tablespoons of dressing is enough depending on the size of your mason jar.

Next, you add the non-absorbent items like: tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, bell peppers, chick peas, black beans, ETC.

The third layer is your soft veggies and grains. We added cucumbers and I added black olives to mine. This is where you would add toppings like corn, sweet potatoes, edamame, quinoa, brown rice, and pasta.

The fourth layer is your meat (if you choose). This week we used ground turkey cooked in taco seasoning! You can add things like chicken and steak too.

The VERY LAST layer is the lettuce. This layer will help create a moisture barrier that keeps the other ingredients from getting soggy. It is important that you pack everything tightly–less air between layers will help keep ingredients fresh. You could also add cheese, nuts or dried fruit on top of the lettuce.

These are mind-blowing-EASY to make. It’s an easy way to get your veggies in and each jar can be altered to fit your goals! I measured my items using the 21 Day Fix containers.

The most famous question yet: Do you eat your salad right out of the jar?

Great question! But no. I bring a large Tupperware with me to work and dump the salad into it.

I plan on creating different mason jar salads every week but would LOVE to see what you come up with! Share your mason jar creations and be sure to tag me!

-The Maine Girl
Instagram: emmajanedionne