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“When We Seek Externally to Fill Internally” by Hannah Rose, LGPC

I can’t eat. But I’m starving. I can’t tell whether it’s a potential bout of depression slowly making its way into my psyche or the subtle but unwavering dull throb of emptiness as a result of a string of failed relationships.

I guess using the word “failed” for my relationships doesn’t do them justice; I know they all serve a purpose, I know they all come together to make me who I am today and who I will be tomorrow.

It continues to amaze me how pervasive the ever-constant seeking and manufacturing of relationships is in society today. Almost every song I hear on the radio is about love or heartache, almost every TV commercial embodies the picture perfect and almost unrealistic expectation of what a marriage should be.

Day to day I ask myself and am asked by others what my love life is like, and I’ve never thought about answering it about how I am loving myself today.

Until now.

What my love life looks like is this: a daily reprieve consisting of arriving to a place of acceptance or despair about the lack of a strong, structured relationship with a man in my life. When I slide to that place of acceptance, I experience a connectedness and wholeness that I always seem to forget is possible. When I am in that place of despair, I turn to a rage or deep sadness that I seldom remember is going to pass. Just like everything else.

I am utterly and irrevocably in love with myself. Sometimes, most times, this is magnified when I am receiving some kind of external validation from a man who sees in me what I know I see in myself. Other times, I find it during my commute to work, when I am taking in every bit of fall foliage turn in the road or angle of sun shining through the relentless clouds covering the Harford county scenery.

It’s here, I know it’s here.

But even now, as I’m typing these words with no real expectation or intention or plan or goal or point, I feel like I could break into tears at any moment.

I feel broken and rendered useless. I feel a void so large in my chest that in shoots physical sensations of pain throughout my entire body. I feel my eyes welling up with tears and I want to punch something, because anger hurts less than simply sitting with the full awareness of pain.

I keep feeling like there is some certain action I can take, some profound article I can read, or some Pinterest-style quote that will take away all of this pain.

Where is the pain coming from?

Externally, my life looks pristine. Internally even, the gratitude I feel for the circumstances of my life is immense.

I am 25-year-old with a master’s degree from a world renowned institution, working in a field that I am passionate about at an incredible treatment facility. I have a network of incredibly insightful and strong women in my life that lift me up in ways I could have never imagined even some months ago. I have a loving and present family, a beautiful apartment to which I can spend much needed time alone in, and I’m quite happy with my physical appearance. I am relatively financially stable and am active in service work in both the 12-step program and in my career. I value my ability to engage in meaningful conversations, my capacity for insight and self-awareness, and my quick, witty humor. I feel a deep love for my audacious personality, knowing that my passion for most things is almost contagious to those who I encounter.

And yet I harp on what I don’t have. And I don’t lack much.

I crave a love so deep that it’ll fill my heart to the brim and overflow my life with excitement. I yearn for someone who sees me. Someone who really sees me. And I yearn to see someone, too.

I want this so badly that I’ve fallen into the trap of attempting to manufacture relationships where there really aren’t any; with guy friends, with people I pass in life at meetings or on the street who I’ll never meet. I literally construct projections and expectations of relationships in my head with people I’ve barely spoken two words to.

I’m so bogged down with the expectation of what this perfect something will look like that I’m robbing myself of the magic of the present moment.

I cry myself to sleep and wake up in a panic at times because I can’t manage to fill this dark hole inside myself with external things.

What if I need to stop seeking, and start sitting?

Meditation was such a huge part of my life for months, and I’ve removed myself from it due to the pain—the pain of sitting with self, of sitting with all of these feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

But maybe the only solution, or the only way through the pain is just that: go through it.

I find myself wanting to change the words that are flowing so freely from my brain into my fingers onto this keyboard. I want to write about how I pray to have these compulsions removed and then they simply are. That when I throw myself into therapy (providing therapy, that is) and into service, all of my self-seeking needs are removed. I want to tell you and tell myself that I’m standing in the light 24/7 and feeling the benefits of this necessary time with self.

But it doesn’t work like that.

I read somewhere that most clinicians who enter the therapeutic world do so as a means to distract themselves from the pain of their own lives and their own existences. I can definitely see how that can be true.

In the 12-step program we talk about stepping out of self and being there for others, of helping and helping and helping, but seldom do I focus on so many significant parts of the Big Book that emphasize the importance of sitting with self. Of self-care. Of setting boundaries. Of being true to ourselves. Of doing the work on ourselves, not on others. Of showing up to love ourselves, not simply to love others.

I think I need to break down on the floor of my apartment and let myself cry. I need to let myself grieve the loss of the person that I was and feel the presence of the person I am now.

Perhaps I need to do all of this without the expectation of becoming more whole but solely for the purpose of finding someone to love and be loved.

But how? Expectations are insidious little f*ckers.

I’m starting by telling on myself. On putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and writing from the heart. By shedding the shame, the guilt, the remorse, the self-pity, and self-loathing, and simply write and share it with you.

Because each of you, my dear elephant journal readers and writers, has held space for me. Each of you has allowed me to grieve and process and cry and laugh and distract and breathe and sit and run, without judgment.

I can’t express my gratitude for this space you’ve created for me to just be.

Because maybe, just maybe, I can create that space for myself too.


This article originally appeared in Elephant Journal and can be found at


Hannah Rose, LGPC, is an addictions counselor, an aspiring yogini and a lover of all things caffeinated. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and went to Goucher for a Psychology BA. Hannah takes an avid interest in meditation and mindfulness and is partial to the original Star Wars trilogy. She lives in Timonium, MD and although originally from Connecticut she loves Old Bay enough to stay in Maryland.

If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment in the Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at


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