The Not-So-Lonely Planet: Sh*t-throwing flying monkeys… There’s no place like home


Alana Daly Mulligan talks us through the rough last few months of her Erasmus, and why she decided to return home.  EDITORS WARNING: this piece references topics like depression and self-harm.


I’ve always loved The Wizard of Oz. I read the books and watched the film so much that it’s probably imprinted on my mind via process of osmosis. We can relate to Dorothy’s plight of wanting to feck off over a rainbow to something better, and then realising no matter how great the other side of the light refraction is, there is something about the feel of a sepia reel that’s just right. Long story short, year abroad didn’t work out for me. I ran home with my tail between my legs, seeking lots of help, working to figure out who I had been trying to find on study abroad, and who I was risking losing in that process. 

America has always been THE dream. I was looking towards sunny California, but my budget was not as enthusiastic about that, so Maine it was. I soon realised that America was not what the movies had told me, and understandably, I panicked. I cut myself off from everyone, not having a clue where the resources were or how to access them. I was caught up in the fear of being perceived as a failure, that I couldn’t just suck it up and do the year abroad, “be fucking grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” I told myself over and over again. I started self-harming, I stopped eating, I didn’t sleep, and when I did, I had horrid nightmares. I couldn’t understand why it was all going so wrong when I’d worked so hard to make sure everything went according to plan. 

So, I came home. Spent January wallowing in bed trying to recover from serious burnout and all the anxious and depressive episodes that comes with it. It was my poppy-field moment, and all I wanted to do was drown in the numbness.

But every good story needs shit-throwing flying monkeys to appear and disturb the peace. I feel like I’ve lied to you, reader, built up your expectations of studying abroad over our time together, and I’d like to apologise for that. But I’m hoping there’s a happy ending or at least a new beginning for me, and a moral for you. If I hadn’t gone on study abroad, I don’t know if I would’ve stopped to evaluate my happiness. I don’t know if I’d be around to write this now. I’m so lucky to have met the people I met, who kept me awake when all I wanted to do was suffocate in that poppy-field. 

Life is different now. I eat breakfast. I exercise every day, or I try to. A little pill helps me sleep and stops me feeling sad. Goodbye insomnia. I’m calmer now. I’m not as anxious. I don’t bite my nails. I breathe more, I cry less. I talk to a therapist every week. I’m learning to say no – I’m still working on that one. My body has a few new additions but they’re fading, slowly but surely, my skin is healing. I am healing. I’m exhausted from performing my happiness for other people’s comfort, so I’m going to be honest, because truth should never be entirely comfortable. I’m taking time for myself, and doing what I love for me, because that is enough. L’Oréal was right: I’m fucking worth it. 

And I’ve returned to my Kansas, my blank canvas for the next showreel. I will pick the colours. I will draw the frame. I am making the best of a less-than-ideal situation. I’m learning that home isn’t a place or a pair of open arms – happiness is entirely self-centred and we shouldn’t shame such important selfishness. 

I’m trying to find a reason to live again and remind myself that this little spinning ball millions of miles from the sun is filled with lonely people living lonely lives, just looking to be loved. And we should be a bit kinder to one another, or at least try.

We’re gonna be okay guys.  

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