1,658 Sheep and I’m Still Not Asleep

Hello everyone! Happy Monday and thank you for politely ignoring the fact that I haven’t posted since 2015. I have realized that in my absence from this blog, I have collected quite a few things to talk about. So everyone, please give a warm “thank you” to Google Chrome for remembering my WordPress login credentials so we can begin.


Today, I want to talk about the thing we all wish we had more time to do: SLEEP. More specifically, I want to talk about when sleep doesn’t happen. At least for me. I can talk about myself right?

I suck at sleeping. I love to actually be asleep, but the prospect of falling asleep is . . . I don’t have a word for it. I’m not scared or anxious or depressed. I think I find the process of falling asleep to be boring. Confusing even. I have felt this way ever since I was a little kid, and I was wearing my poor tired mother down by asking her to tell me bedtime story after bedtime story to put off actually having to go to sleep.


After all these years, I think I have figured out what’s going on. I may be totally crazy, but you see, I’m on a gap year right now (yay for being a USC alum!) This means I have a little bit more time on my hands than I’m accustomed to, which lends itself nicely to overanalyzing why I don’t like to go to sleep.

I take out my hearing aid and cochlear implant before I go to bed, which means those 30 minutes (or hours) before I fall asleep consist of total. darkness. and. silence. Yes, that can be perfect sometimes: when you’re exhausted or you’re feeling sick and you just want to tune everything out. However, on all other nights, it’s a little bewildering. In fact, when I was a baby (before we knew I was hearing impaired) I slept right smack on my mom’s chest. If she even moved an inch, I would wake up screaming and crying. We have since realized that this was because I was scared: I couldn’t see or hear, and if I didn’t have the anchor of the rise and fall of my mom’s chest or the vibration of her heartbeat, I had no idea where I was in time or space.


I’m older now, and I know where I am in time and space when I go to sleep, but that doesn’t mean it feels awesome. I think my brain overcompensates for the lack of sensory input that I am used to during the day. My mind races to fill the silence to sort of root me down so I don’t feel like I’m floating away into the void. You see, this is where the conflict is: falling asleep is kind of like floating away into the void. Void is a scary word. Let’s use the word dreamland instead. If my brain is working overtime to ensure that I don’t feel like I’m drifting away into a dreamland, how can I fall asleep? Observe: actual footage of me trying to get my brain to sleep.


By now you might be wondering how I ever fall asleep. Obviously it happens, right? It does. It usually happens when my brain tires itself out. Some nights that is sooner than others, but occasionally, it takes hours. The better rested I am, the harder it is to fall asleep!

You may be asking, “have you ever tried to just make your brain fall asleep?” Why yes, yes I have. I have subjected my unwieldy brain to mindfulness, hot baths, dim lighting, reading dreadfully boring books before bed, and bedtime rituals. Some things do work better than others. Mindfulness is always a good tactic, and it usually works if I can summon the energy to put it into practice.


The one thing that mindfulness cannot do, though, is get rid of the weird feeling of total silence and darkness. I get it, you guys think I’m crazy and that these are ideal conditions for falling asleep. But if feels weird. It is true that I can still use my other senses to ground myself, but after a while, we stop feeling our sheets and our pillows as our body accommodates to the bed. So at that point, I really feel detached from the physical earth. Any attempt I make to recover sensation keeps me awake. If I move, I’m awake. If my mind is racing, I’m awake. If I open my eyes, I am, undoubtedly, awake.

Has anyone been in those sensory deprivation chambers? That are supposed to be relaxing? Maybe I need to try it. Maybe I’ll figure out how to manage the weird feelings and loss of sensation so it makes me feel sleepy. Until then, who wants to hear how well I can count backwards from 1,000?




Nyle DiMarco: Hey, wassup, hello

So imagine my mama, who is becoming more adept at social media/using the internet than I am (embarrassing) saying, “Shayna. Have you heard about the newest winner of America’s Next Top Model? He’s deaf, dark haired, blue-eyed, and handsome.” Since I have been living under a ROCK for the past month (finals finals finals), my answer was no. Since I have no intentions of emerging out from under said rock to interact with the world just yet, I spent the past two days watching an entire season of America’s Next Top Model (with closed captions) like it was going out of style (lol never).


Sure, cycle 22 may have been the most dramatic season I’ve ever seen, but it was also the most intriguing, and that is because of Nyle. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on a T.V. show, especially considering my deafness. However, Nyle’s task is one that even I cannot pretend to comprehend.


Nyle is a member of the Deaf community, which means he uses nonverbal communication and sign language as his means of expressing himself. The other 21 contestants were hearing individuals. No matter what kind of drama those other people got up to, if Nyle was in the shot, I was focused on him.


And not just ’cause he’s cute, okay? Okay.

It was so inspiring to see Nyle keep up with the others. His reasons for doing the show (proving that deaf/Deaf people can do anything) and his method of going about it just blew my mind. He was so composed and so patient, and while I can’t say I fully understand what it is like to be in his shoes, I feel that I understand more so than the average person.

When Nyle’s phone, which was one of his primary forms of communication with the other contestants (via various talk-to-text and sign-to-speech technologies) was taken from him so another contestant could take selfies, I felt his anger and his frustration. Obviously, what that contestant did was not cool and it should not have happened. At the same time, I understand Nyle’s desire to keep peace and not disrupt the vibe, choosing instead to internalize the frustration rather than express it. Many times, I have been in social situations where my hearing impairment was either forgotten or just completely disregarded, sometimes maliciously. Still, I wanted to give others the benefit of the doubt, to allow them the naiveté of not having to adopt another person’s perspective or burden.


When Nyle was a cast member on Tyra Banks’ music video, I was so stoked to see him keep time with the music (with some help from the crew and Tyra). He even did better than some hearing individuals!

When Nyle had to do a photoshoot in the pitch black of night (no sight AND no sound?!) I felt that bewilderment and desperation to succeed, in spite of a so-called “disability.” I was reminded of various nighttime talks I would have with my friends, around campfires, on buses, or just because. I remember feeling lost, like I had no anchor to hold on to, no visual cues, no facial expressions — just sound, which for me, and most other deaf individuals, is not always enough.


When Nyle had to walk the final runway to the sound of violins (no bass? Really, people, really?) I was taken back to my days as a songleader in high school, where I was able to perform in front of large crowds despite the fact that I couldn’t always hear the music. I had a job to do and an image to sell, and deafness didn’t really have a place in that description.


When Nyle won, I could not comprehend how he must have felt. Yes, I understand pretty much every step of his story. I feel his pain, confusion, frustration, excitement, determination, and enthusiasm. He handled feeling invisible (because no one else spoke his language) with absolute poise and maturity. He kept his wit and humor despite the difficulty on many fronts — social, modeling, and beyond. Yes, I too, have been in similar shoes. But Nyle DiMarco did it without spoken language. As a result, I was positively mind-boggled. I once heard a person say, “blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from other people.” Watching Nyle DiMarco, and keeping in mind my own experiences, I just know this isn’t true.


We are all bound by the human condition, and we all have different battles. A deaf/Deaf individual can connect to another person just as well as the next person. But other people have different obstacles to face and overcome. The fact of the matter is, it isn’t any one type of minority group keeping up with a majority. I think it is high time we all understood that life is the story of individuals not only keeping up with each other, but also holding each other up.


Seeing how Nyle found ways to reach his fellow contestants and seeing how they, Tyra, the judges, and the crew reached out to him was something special. As a deaf individual, it is reinforcing to see someone similar to me go out on a limb like that and succeed. Not necessarily because I feel like I can’t do it too, but simply because it is beautiful. It is progress. It is not a solution, it is not a clear announcement that okay, now being deaf is totally mainstreamed and normal, but I’d say it’s a start. A fierce one, at that.


Nyle DiMarco is helping amplify the voices (and signs) of so many deaf/Deaf people coming out of their shells and sharing their stories. His journey has been awe-inspiring from the get-go, and there is nowhere for him to go but up. Many thanks to Nyle, to America’s Next Top Model, and to the viewers who had open minds for helping to redefine what beauty is in the 21st century.

Nyle has an InstagramTwitter, and Facebook page. Follow him, like him, spread the love.



Wake me up when September ends?

Would you look at that . . .  One whole fall semester has (basically) gone by. Just like that. I have somehow managed to remain radio silent for almost three months.

I suppose I could blame my cyberslumber on my continual procrastination — repeatedly pressing the snooze button on my good intentions to post another blog. I could also blame my absence on every student’s go-to excuse: “school is just soooo crazy right now.”


But let’s be honest, here folks. I kind of . . . forgot? In my every day routine of close-t0-normalcy, it sort of slipped my mind that I had a blog about what made me farther-from-normalcy. I also maaaayyyy have forgotten my username and password. The result? My first blog post in an embarrassingly long time.


As if I wasn’t already shamefully logging in for the first time in months like a student showing up to classes for the first time in the final weeks of the semester, wordpress has decided to add insult to injury. With new formats and fonts and a slightly updated layout, I can almost hear wordpress taunting me: “oh, thereeee you are.”

Okay, rant aside, let’s talk about what brought me back here.

Recently, I had a sibling of a friend reach out to me to ask if I could be in her student documentary project on the Deaf/deaf debate. I got to spend a whole hour babbling in front of a camera about the same stuff I talked about in A Word. The whole time, there was a little voice in the back of mind saying “wow, this is really fun — I should talk about this more often in a public forum for all to read as they please!”

Oh wait.


So yeah, that’s kind of embarrassing. Another reason that brings me back is a recent conversation I had with a fellow USC friend. We were talking about what it takes to stay positive in what feels like a constant whirlwind of negativity. At school, it gets easy to stress out and enter this cycle of negativity that won’t relent. We were remarking that while it seems that positive, happy people just seem to have it made, remaining positive is a constant battle. It is a choice we must make on a daily basis even if we don’t feeeeeel like being positive on that day. Positivity and success require hard work and diligence, but the pay-offs are immense. Unfortunately, the pay-offs are often what people see, not the battle.


We were exchanging stories and reasons behind our continual decisions to choose positivity, and I kept thinking that positivity was a decision I made long ago. When faced with the prospect of deafness, it can be extremely easy to choose negativity. But I didn’t really like that option, so I didn’t choose it. Compared to that decision, choosing to remain positive about things like school, extracurricular activities, and friends (while important), are much simpler decisions. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but my journey with deafness has been a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to have perspective and clarity about what is important and what is perhaps more fleeting. That worked out well!


Okay, second rant over.

Thanks for listening! Hope you all have a wonderful, positive, perspective-filled Thanksgiving with your loved ones, I know I will!


(This is me at the dinner table on Thursday)