HAYLEY STOCKALL #4: Bedroom Ceilings

Art by Frances Cannon
Art by Frances Cannon

IT IS EASIER for me to spot the chaos and the confusion now than it is for me to pinpoint where it first emerged.


I am twenty when the cracks start appearing and, before I make it to twenty-one, the foundations completely slip. I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, I cannot do anything but panic.

So I seek help.


I am early for my appointment, but the rest of the world is running behind. The doctor leads me down a hallway. She smiles but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

‘Tell me why you’re here,’ she begins. I have rehearsed this part, so I say my lines without fluctuation. She places a tight strap around my arm and when that is finished she says, ‘Your heart’s beating like a little rabbit’s,’ and smiles again. It still doesn’t reach her eyes. I take the prescription and fold it once and then twice and leave the clinic, crushing Jacaranda petals beneath my feet.


The days drag. Each hour feels like it has tripled in length, and I am forced to find ways to pass the time. A walk around the neighbourhood might take care of an hour. Can I wash my hair for 30 minutes? Do I need to go to the bathroom again? If only we could dissect time as we would an orange. Peel away the hours we have no use for, and savour those filled with sweetness and all that is good.


I take the anti-depressants every morning upon waking, and I spend the rest of the day memorising the side effects.

Nausea, decreased or increased appetite, abnormal dreams.

Sexual disturbances (decreased sexual drive).

Fatigue and muscle pain.

Anxiety and difficulty falling asleep.

Thoughts of self-harm (frequency not known).

Surely they must be doing some good.


In my dreams I smash lamps, throw rocks through windows. I scream at my mother you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, and pull my hair out in large clumps that gather at my feet. In the morning I take the little white pill again.


‘Tell me why you’re here,’ she said.

I’ve spent my entire childhood staring at ceilings, wondering when one would fly off and suck me away with it.

‘I’m just not feeling so great,’ I said.


It can seem impossible to write of sadness. You feel sadness, you are sadness. You want to sink into the ground and never resurface.


I learn a new German word: zukunftsangst. ‘Future angst’. It becomes my ‘word of the day’ every day.


How many hours have I passed, lying on beds staring at a series of bedroom ceilings, staring until the kaleidoscopic shapes appear? Do these small parts make any kind of whole?


A sliver of hope, of faith. An assurance. Something that comes to me in my sleep:

One day you will climb to the top of the tallest tree and you will hold the sun in your cupped hands, and slowly it will begin to melt.


Please let me peel away these hours.