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Mental Health

Autism Awareness vs Acceptance: The Difference And Why It Matters

[image source]

As many people know, April is Autism Awareness Month. There many days and months strewn about the calendar year with “awareness” tacked onto them. It’s supposed to raise awareness for these often life-crippling conditions.

There’s a bit of an inherent problem with this philosophy, though.

Most people are aware of these things. People are aware Autism exists. People are aware breast cancer exists. People know these things exist. They don’t need to be “aware” of them. 

Some people will say that this is still a good thing. The more people that are aware of these things, the better! We should do all that we can to bring about more awareness. People being aware helps those with the conditions.  And the more people are aware, the better we can make society or look for cures for some of these things.

The main problem with this is that most people stop at that. 

“Oh my friend has Autism. I donated to Autism Speaks to help look for a cure!”

Those are the sorts of statements most people do. They’ll donate to “help.” They know somebody that has it. They feel good about themselves for doing that much and leave it at that.

That’s the problem with “awareness.” Most people don’t stop to think about the deeper problems those people face or even the charities they donate to. They just do something that seems like it’ll help somehow, then just move onto the next thing. 

In my mind, “acceptance” moves beyond just “awareness.” Acceptance is actually trying to understand Autistic people and the challenges they face. It’s about trying to understand symptoms and the ways Autistic people think. It’s actually listening to the voices of Autistic people for those with the capacity to understand. It’s moving beyond stereotypes shown in media and creating more nuanced portrayals. It’s about creating environments that are friendly to Autistic people. 

Before I get into this, I do just want to say I know not everybody has the time or ability to look deeply into everything they do. It’s just unrealistic to expect that. The point of this article is mostly just to get you to think a bit more. People legitimately want to help. Donating to charities is a good way to do it. Sometimes it’s all people can do. Some people can only donate $20 dollars or something to help. And that’s fine. But there are bad charities out there. Some are exploitative and don’t actually care about their cause. 

I also just want to talk about some of the issues Autistic individuals face. The point of “awareness” months shouldn’t be to just make people “aware” the thing exists. Most people already know. I’m just advocating for people that do want to educate themselves more on places they can start.

And in order to help, one of the biggest things to be aware of in the Autistic community is Autism Speaks. It’s the largest and most well-known Autistic charity. It seems like it should be a good, reputable organisation to donate to, right?

Wrong.

Autism Speaks is one of the absolute worst organisations that can be donated to. I’ve seen this comparison thrown around a fair few times in the Autistic community and I have to agree. They’re basically like PETA. Autism Speaks hates Autistic people in the same way PETA hates animals. 

I could do a deep-dive into all of this, but I’ll keep it pretty short. I think there’s one thing that speaks loudly enough about AS’ stance toward Autistic people that it can suffice on its own. 

There’s a “school” (I can barely call it one) called the Judge Rotenberg Center that AS supports and sent much higher-support needs to. They used literal shock backpacks as a form of aversive behavior. iilluminaughtii covers this in pretty great depth here. Needless to say, trigger warning for violence toward those that can’t advocate for themselves and especially toward children. 

Something like this is absolutely barbaric and I have to agree. It doesn’t seem like it’d be happening this far into the 21st century, right? 

I wish I could say that was the truth, but it’s not. The FDA only banned the use of shock devices on special-needs individuals in March 2020. It’s only been a little over a year since that ban. 

Something else tied heavily into AS and the Autistic community is the use of puzzle piece imagery and the color blue. It was the organisation that pushed both of these things. 

“Light it up blue” and “wear blue” are common motifs for AS they created. Most Autistics go “red instead” to remove themselves from association with AS. Unfortunately, it’s lesser known among the general public, but we’re trying to raise awareness for it. 

The puzzle piece is really the most iconic imagery associated with Autism. You see it really everywhere: awareness ribbons, shirts, logos, and even nail art. But it really shouldn’t be used due to it having several problems. 

One of the main reasons is because it associates Autism as a childhood disease. It infantilises every Autistic person. People aren’t really aware of Autistic adults. By keeping it associated with young children, it drowns out the voices of people like me. It ignores those adults who might need support finding a job or something else. It denies services to adults and keeps things focused only on intervention. Most normal people and even Autistic adults aren’t aware there are thriving communities of Autistic adults. There are a lot of issues adult Autistics face but I’ll come back to that a bit later. 

Another reason Autism Speaks is considered controversial in the Autistic community is the use of ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy. I was personally never exposed to ABA as I was only diagnosed as an adult (18-20 years old). I only learned about its existence after entering the Autistic community, so I can’t speak to it with any authority. But it’s generally considered unacceptable and does more harm than good. At its base, it’s an aversive therapy. Basically, when unacceptable behaviors are shown, it’s punished somehow. 

The controversy is that all it does is teach Autistic children how to do something called “masking.” Masking is the practice of making oneself appear neurotypical to be more accepted by society. Yes, that is as exhausting as it sounds. It can lead to something called “autistic burnout.” Basically, that’s when someone reaches a point when they just can’t cope with life anymore. It leads to mental and emotional exhaustion and it can often be accompanied by the loss of certain life skills. Spectrum News has a good article on it.

Needless to say, being punished for natural behaviors has been proven to lead to extremely high PTSD rates for those exposed to ABA and ABA-adjacent therapies. It doesn’t help ABA has heavy ties to the creator of gay conversion therapy. Suicide is already the #2 leading cause of death among LGBT people ages 10-24. People exposed to conversion therapy are twice as likely to attempt suicide.

There are a ton more issues Autistic individuals face that I’ll rattle off in a bullet point list.

These statistics and more are why Autism Awareness Month should be Autism Acceptance Month instead. We need to move beyond awareness. We need to move to create a society that is more friendly to Autistic people.

How do we do that? 

Well, there are small ways you can help.

You can donate to charities like ASAN, the Autism Self-Advocacy Network. Charities like this and others are run by Autistic people. They actually understand what being Autistic is like. They know where to put the money they get. 

Try using identity-first language instead of person-first language. All that means is instead of saying “people with Autism” is use “Autistic people” like I’ve been doing through this article. Many of us see Autism as an irrevocable part of our identity. Yes, it is a disability, but just like LGBT people, many of us are proud to be Autistic. That doesn’t mean we don’t see the negatives that come with it. But many of us do embrace the positives it can bring. 

For example, I’m proud to be Autistic. Yes it does severely hamper me socially. It hampers my ability to hold a job. There are a lot of other negatives. But there are a lot of positives. My ability to analyse and understand different topics is because I’m Autistic. I want to know everything, so I dig and dig and dig into whatever topic I want to know. I’ve spent over $700 on books on the Ainu just so I can be sure I get every bit of information I can. I dig into characters so much I can literally write a 10,000 word analysis on just one of them. It makes me learn the lore of whatever fandom I love inside and out. I can create systems from scratch. 

There can be positives to being Autistic. The negatives do often outweigh the positives; I won’t even deny it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace what positives it does bring. 

Granted, if language should be person- or identity-first is a bit of a debate in the Autistic community. Some people have strong opinions. Others don’t care. Still others don’t even know there’s a debate. Another way to approach it is just to say that somebody is “on the spectrum.” I haven’t seen this come up too much in the debate personally, but it might be a good middle-of-the-road agreement.

Stop the use of functioning labels. I’ll go into this more in later articles this month, so I’ll keep the explanation brief. They are generally seen as incredibly harmful. The main reasoning is that it denies services to “high-functioning” individuals and denies independence to “low-functioning” individuals. 

Most of all… Listen to #actuallyautistic voices. This can mean supporting Autistic creators be it through commission Autistic artists, watching Autistic creators on YouTube, buying from Autistic-owned small business, and more. Mostly, though, this means listening to the voices of Autistic adults. We’re the ones trying to fight for better services. We’re the one trying to win accommodations. 

We know what it’s like. We know what we’re talking about.

But most people ignore us. Thankfully, that is slowly changing, but it’s gonna be a long, hard battle. 

So, please, support us in any way you can. 

Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Need coverage? Please send an email to Allagesofhr@gmail.com

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 8

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

All right, so we can’t go into this next stretch of this series especially this article without at least acknowledging the controversy about Adam and Blake’s past. I’m admittedly on the periphery of the fandom. However, I am very aware that people claim Adam isn’t abusive, there was no grooming or somehow Blake groomed Adam, etcetera. I’ve seen a lot of the arguments, and I’ll admit I’ll be taking a stance here. I’m not trying to incite arguments and anger; I’m simply presenting my own view based upon my knowledge of psychology. 

And I will address my source for this particular article. Yes, I know that using a site that unironically uses “Radfem” is…not the best source. However, in digging, it was the most in-depth exploration of gaslighting tactics I could find. I am focusing solely on the descriptions given and not any of the “societal gaslighting” presented in the article. Basically all other articles are “Signs you’re a victim of gaslighting” or something along those lines. None of them really focused on the tactics like this.

With those additional disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin.

— 

So the first bit of evidence I’m gonna personally pull up for there being abuse between Blake and Adam is actually their ages. While we do not know Adam’s age at any point in time, he’s clearly a fair bit older than Blake. This is especially evidenced in his character short. We never really see him change in age, only his outfits change. Granted, that…is not exactly the best example as it seems like the writers/animators didn’t entirely think that short through. I mean, we see Ilia fighting with the White Fang at her V4/V5 age when she should obviously be much younger. 

And, yes, I will acknowledge that me bringing up this point weakens my own arguments for when we delve into part of that short later. A lot of us (including me) acknowledge that the writers often do not pay attention period, so I think it’s fine. Anyway, I’m digressing from my main point.

I would like to direct everyone’s attention to V1 C16, “Black and White,” while Blake is giving the spiel about the White Fang’s history. 

[Image description: A burgundy and black mottled background. The White Fang symbol of a white lion’s head surrounded by a circle on a flat blue flag is shown in the center of the frame. A black flagpole is on the right. Subtitle says, “Blake: And then, five years ago”.]
(Also yes, I had to add the subtitle because this episode doesn’t have any on the RT site)

The leadership and philosophy of the White Fang changed “five years ago” as evidenced by the quote. While we do not know exactly when Blake and Adam met, we know that it was even before five years ago. 

[Image description: Adam takes up most of the foreground in his V1-3 attire. Ghira stands in the background in his attire from the Adam short.]

The short clearly shows that Ghira is still the leader of the White Fang in the second scene of the short. That means this is at least five years ago.

Why am I harping on this particular point?

Seventeen minus five is thirteen. That means, at a minimum, Blake was thirteen when she met Adam. Again, I know we don’t know Adam’s age specifically which does make this argument somewhat wobbly. His vague age could put him minimum 3-4 years older than Blake which isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be. But just from the way he moves, acts, and the strategies he uses, to me, implies he’s a fair bit older. However, that is bringing headcanon into this which isn’t any grounding for the arguments I’m making.

However, I want to move onto my second argument which I feel is much stronger.

It’s the scene between Blake and Adam in his short which seems to be fairly clear gaslighting. 

A quick note, I know there’s a post floating around on tumblr that does the same thing what I’m about to do with this scene. I have read it a couple times, but it’s been a long while. I’m mainly just pointing this out because there probably will be unintentional similarities. I am not plagarising, though. 

So getting into it…

[Image description: Blake to the left of the frame in her V1-3 attire minus her bow. Her head is bowed, eyes narrow, and her arms are folded. Her back is to Adam who’s approaching from the background. Subtitle says, “I told you it was an accident.”]

The first bit we see in scene takes place after Blake has called Adam out on killing humans.

And we are already getting into manipulation with the gaslighting tactics.

Adam is trivialising Blake’s worries. She’s rightly voicing her opinion that he shouldn’t be killing those that don’t really deserve it, but he’s trying to downplay it as simply “an accident.”

She continues to hold her ground despite it.

[Image description: Blake on the left of the screen in the background with Adam in the foreground, though he’s from the back. Subtitle says, “This wasn’t the first time humans have died on missions you’ve led.”]

She then questions him.

[Image description: Basically same shot as before. However, Blake’s ears are folding down, her expression is uncomfortable, and she’s folding her arms. Subtitle says, “How many more ‘accidents’ are there going to be?”]

He then brings up the fact that he doesn’t know and that people get hurt when they’re fighting. Granted, this is obviously wrong as we know, but within the logic of the scene, it makes sense.

But then—

[Image description: Single shot of Adam from the shoulders up. Red trees are in the background with pink and purple mountains above that in the distance. Subtitle says, “What do you want me to just abandon our cause like your parents?”]

Here we see countering and diversion

Countering is when one draws the victim’s attention to their memory and can use past incidents of gaslighting. It’s often done in the form of questions. We see him making Blake draw on her memory of her parents leaving and, no doubt, what she said to them. While we don’t know how that scene played out, we know she at least called them cowards. V4 V8 “A Much Needed Talk” shows us that much.

[Image description: Ghira and Blake are sitting on a couch in their V4 attire. Ghira has his arm around Blake. Subtitle says, “I called you cowards!”]

The diversion is pretty clear. He’s pulling her attention away from the topic at hand. 

This isn’t a gaslighting tactic (at least as listed in the article) but this particular question is driving Blake into a serious corner. It’s forcing her to make a decision about her parents as well as foster a black-and-white, us-versus-them mentality. She has to acknowledge either Adam or her parents are right. He’s questioning her loyalty to him and he’s stopping critical thinking. 

This multi-layered question makes her question herself and her thinking.

[Image descriptions: Two images.
First image: Shot of Blake facing Adam with her ears down but the insides still visible. Her expression is uncomfortable. Subtitle says, “I’m not saying that, I…”
Second image: Blake’s head is down much more, eyes completely obscured by her bangs. Her ears are much closer to her head too. Subtitle says, “I don’t know.”]

The next bit we see is diverting yet again.

[Image descriptions: Two images.
First image: Blake on the left in the foreground with Adam on the right. Subtitle says, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought them up.”
Second image: More or less the same shot. Only difference is Adam is bringing his hand to rest up on his chest. Subtitle says, “I just get scared when it feels like you don’t believe in me anymore.”]

Another point of diverting is the fact the gaslighter is making the situation all about them and that they’re the victim. 

The scene caps off with Blake apologising and Adam “accepting” it.

[Image descriptions: Two images.
First image: Adam in the foreground on the right of the scene with his back to the camera. Blake is below him, head bowed and eyes covered by her bangs due to her head being bowed. Subtitle says, “I never said that.”
Second image: Closeup of Adam and he’s smiling with teeth visible. Subtitle says, “Glad to know I’ve still got you.”]

Okay, so let’s take a very quick recap of the scene. Blake brings up the very real concern that people are literally dying while Adam’s leading missions. However, he dodges the enormity of it by saying that people die when they’re fighting. He then brings up her parents and makes her question why she’s asking in the first place. He then makes it look like he’s the victim and she apologises.

While I try to provide a fact-based view in these articles, in this case, I’ll break that and say this is clearly manipulation. Adam is making Blake question her perception of reality and why she’s criticising him. He makes her feel guilty. This is not how this sort of thing should be playing out. She shouldn’t be feeling guilty over the fact he is allowing people to die on his missions.

This is so clearly gaslighting. 

And then we have the end of Volume 6 with him attempting to use some of these tactics against her even if they ultimately fail. They happen numerous times so I’m not going to hit every example.

He uses countering to try to make her question why she left and how she treated him.

[Image description: Adam in his V4+ attire with a blindfold. He’s getting up from the snowy ground. Subtitle says, “Just forget it all? Is that what you did with me? You just threw all our memories away!”]

He trivialises her very valid desire to be safe from him.

[Image description: Shot of mostly Adam’s face with a blindfold, though he can be seen holding Blame’s wrist on the left side of the screen. Her head with her ear can just barely be seen in the lower right-hand corner. Subtitle says, “I wouldn’t have to be doing this if you’d just behave!”]

He tries to divert the issue of her fighting for her life due to play the victim card when we finally see his face.

[Image description: Shot of Blake on the ground with her ears drooped over slightly. Subtitle says, “People hurt me long before we met.”]

There is so, so much more I could do to break down even just the V6 fight scene, but I think I’ve made my point. I know many, many people will disagree with this take on things, but this is what I’m basing the rest of this article series on. 

Sources:

Anonymy. (2018, April 7). SYSTEMIC SOCIETAL GASLIGHTING Part 1. A Radfem Types. https://aradfemtypes.wordpress.com/2018/04/07/systemic-societal-gaslighting-part-1/

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 7

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

All right, we’re out of Set D and into Set E now. Thankfully, these ones are much more straightforward than most of the other sets. Plus, I’m also drawing on examples I’ve already used, so I don’t feel the need to go into too much depth. That’s at least with the first two.

E. Marked change in awareness and reactivity associated with the trauma, beginning or worsening after the trauma occurred as evidenced by two more more of the following:

    1. Irritable behavior and angry outbursts (with little or no provocation) typically ex­pressed as verbal or physical aggression toward people or objects.

2. Reckless or self-destructive behavior.

3. Hypervigilance.

4. Exaggerated startle response.

5. Problems with concentration.

6. Sleep disturbance (e.g., difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep).

The main ones I can point to are E1, E4, and E6.

I’m gonna breeze through E6 as I’ve already covered it fairly exhaustively in Part 2. She has the nightmare revolving around Adam. That qualifies as “sleep disturbance.” 

[Image source]
[Image description: Yang has a nightmare about the events of the Fall, centering around Adam. Adam is on the left, looming over Yang on the right who has a terrified expression on her face]

E4 is fairly similar, going over it in Parts 2 and 3. She has an extremely exaggerated startle response when she drops the glass in “Of Runaways and Stowaways.”

[Image source]
[Image description: Yang in the kitchen, leaning up against the counter. She’s off center to the left and in a small perspective. She has a panicked look and is gripping the counter. A shattered glass sits on the floor slightly off center and more in the foreground.]

E1 is where I will get into greater detail to examine a couple of scenes. 

The first one is, again, the one I keep drawing on where she throws the book. That’s an irritable, angry outburst. I won’t harp on those panels any further so let’s just look at the next couple.

[Image descriptions: Two panels from the DC comics.
Panel 1: Taiyang dodging a book. He’s off to the left of the panel while the book flies through the air in the bottom right hand corner. His speech balloon says, “That bad, huh? What happened—did the dog die?”
Panel 2: Yang sits on her bed in brown pants with an orange shirt off to left. Her expression is extremely grim and angry. Taiyang is in the bottom right of the panel with only his hair in shadow. Both have speech balloons that just read with an ellipsis.]

There isn’t a whole lot more to explain here since it’s clearly just leaving her pretty angry. 

I do, however, want to breakdown the scene from “Alone Together” a bit more.

Honestly, this scene’s a bit hard to watch the more I do as I’m writing this.

It starts off pleasant enough with Yang, Weiss, and Ruby chatting over coffee. They’re all relaxed and just having fun being together with each other after thinking they might never see each other again. It’s calm and tranquil until Ruby says the nail in the coffin.

[Image description: Weiss sits on the left side of the screen, Ruby sits on the right. Both are holding white mugs of coffee. Subtitle says, “I just wish Blake could be here with us.”]

The mood just suddenly grows tense in the scene and what makes it hard for me to watch is this next bit in particular.

You can just see Yang’s walls go up in an instant with how she responds. 

[Imag description: Back shot of Yang, Ruby, and Weiss (left to right). Subtitle says, “[Yang] Yeah, well, she made her choice.”]

Honestly, it just hit me as I was writing this article this is it’s actually a good example of how many different symptoms can intersect at once.

Going back to Part 3, we have Criteria B4:

B. Presence of one (or more) of intrusive thought patterns related to the trauma starting after the event:

4. Intense or prolonged mental distress at anything that resembles part of the traumatic event

From Part 4, we have Criteria C2:

C. Avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma after the event occurred (one needed):

2. Attempting to or avoiding external reminders (people, places, conversations, objects, situations, etc) that create distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings closely associated with the trauma

This might seem like it’s stretching, but honestly, it’s not to me. This is something I can personally experience fairly regularly especially when talking with my therapist. When we start to touch on my trauma, I get defensive. I get irritated in nearly an instant. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to ignore it and leave it alone. By getting angry and irritable, I can maybe change the topic. My brain is just telling me to ignore the trauma. So I’m avoiding external reminder (Criteria C2) which is causing some pretty intense feelings of emotional distress (Criteria B1) by getting angry and irritable (Criteria E1).

However, Weiss and Ruby don’t quite understand that as they keep pressing Yang.

Granted…I don’t blame or really fault them for doing so.

They’re worried about her. She was so close to Blake but she’s telling them she just doesn’t want to talk about it. They probably also have the sense Yang’s not really being truthful which the talk with Weiss reveals.

However, it does end the scene with her going full red eyes— 

[Image description: Close shot of Yang’s face, her eyes glowing red.]

—though Ruby pointing it out leaves her pretty upset.

[Image description: A less up close shot of Yang, she’s slightly off center to the right. Her eyes are still red but her expression is clearly upset.]

And then…her hand shakes. 

[Image description: Up-close shot of Yang’s body that focuses on her left hand holding the white mug of coffee. Image is still, but in the episode, it shakes.]

We can go back to Part 3 and Criteria B4 and B5 to see this.

B. Presence of one (or more) of intrusive thought patterns related to the trauma starting after the event:

4. Intense or prolonged mental distress at anything that resembles part of the traumatic event

5. Noticeable physiological reactions to something resembling part of the trauma

I think this scene can have multiple interpretations that could all be right. We don’t exactly know what’s going on in her head, so we can only speculate. One immediately jumps to mind that falls in line with my PTSD reading of this scene.

My gut reaction is that she’s thinking about how she so strongly activated her Semblance during the fight with Adam and flew off the handle. She flew off the handle here and it freaked her out.

Tied in is probably one of the main reasons: she just doesn’t want to flip out on Weiss and Ruby. They just got back together and, here she is, part of her Semblance activating. 

She might also be recognising they just want to help her and are concerned.

After that, she gets up and walks away.

[Image description: Weiss on the left of the frame, Ruby in the center. Both are sitting down, holding cups of coffee. Yang on the right, storming off into the house, back to the screen]

Here, I think it’s a few things. 

First is just her not wanting to get any angrier at them. They don’t deserve it especially since they were just concerned.

Second is that it’s likely also C2 for avoidance again. 

And that’s what I wanted to analyse about that particular scene. It…was a lot more than I expected. I honestly write these articles relatively on the fly, knowing only what criteria I’m gonna hit with general examples. As I dig in, I find more and more like I did here. It’s usually not a big deal. But this actually had me in tears because of how hard it hit me. It was way too close to home.

This is normally the point I’d wrap up, but there are three more criteria to hit on. Don’t worry; they aren’t that long. 

Criteria F just states that Sets B through E have occurred for more than one month. I think we can check that off. 

Criteria G says that the symptoms seriously affect how a person lives socially, in their job, and other areas of functioning. We can see a good example above of that. We can also extrapolate that it effects her on seeing her at the beginning of V4. She’s not herself. She’s not really interacting with Taiyang like she probably should be.

Criteria H just exists to rule out it being connected with the effects of a substance like alcohol or medication or another medical condition. I…think we can safely rule those out.

So that’s a wrap…for Yang’s part. Join me next time as we dive into the real controversial bit of this: Blake.

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 6

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

I’d just like to tack on a preliminary “I’m sorry” if I missed any scenes of Yang opening up. I haven’t had the time to rewatch all seven volumes from the beginning recently. I also remember V1-5 better than 6 and 7 since I haven’t watched them as many times.

That said, let’s roll into our last criteria for Set D.

6. Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others 

This is probably the hardest one to make an argument for as it’s not plainly obvious and, admittedly, a fair bit more interpretation than the others. But I think it’s a potentially valid one.

Honestly, this entire topic with Yang is rather interesting. For as friendly and open as she is, she’s never really one to open up to others. One of the only times we see her do this willingly is V2 C6 “Burning the Candle.” This is when we see Blake driving herself into the ground due to trying to put a stop to the White Fang after the ending of V1 at the docks.

She tells Blake the story of how she almost got her and Ruby killed due to looking for Raven. 

[Image description: Blake and Yang are in an empty classroom. Blake standing off to the left of the frame. Yang to the right sitting on a desk with her legs crossed. Both are in their V2 outfits.]

Even then, this entire session is really just to try to get Blake to slow down, take care of herself, and have some fun. It’s not really about how it effects her now and how she’s still looking for Raven. It’s just a lesson and message for Blake. 

Two of the most major occurrences I can recall had to have people push her to talk and those are:

V5 C8 “Alone Together” where she talks to Weiss about how she feels about Blake— 

[Image source]
[Image description: Weiss on the left sitting next to Yang, Yang crying into her hands, both in their V4 to 6 outfits.]

—and V4 C4 “Family.”

[Image description: Taiyang’s kitchen. Port and Oobleck sit at the table in the foreground with Port close on the left, Oobleck a little further in on the right. Taiyang is toward the center leaning against the counter. Yang in the center in her V4 attire. Subtitle says “Yang: I’m…scared.”]

This may come across as meandering, but it has a point. This does establish a pattern in Yang’s behavior in general which might seem to weaken the point. She’s someone that doesn’t like to talk and burden others with her problems. 

But the point is that I think what happened to her only strengthened this pattern of behavior. She lost one of the people she was closest to after Blake bolted. She literally lost an arm for her.

Only for Blake to leave and, for all Yang knew, with no intention to ever return.

The fact of the matter is she doesn’t even talk about these things with her father.

She seems extremely close with Taiyang if “Family” is anything to go off of. The way they joke around and laugh… It seems like Tai’s done everything he can to create an environment where he can communicate with his girls. 

I mean, there’s this joke that she responds to positively.

[Image description: Taiyang pointing at his head in the kitchen. He’s the only one in frame, but he’s still speaking to Yang. Subtitle says “[seems you lost] some brain cells along with that arm.”]

Taiyang seemed to know just what Yang needed to hear.

And, yet, she doesn’t actually talk without prodding from Port.

Looking at “Alone Together” is also interesting. If we step back to look at the scene that led up to her and Weiss, we see her continuing anger toward Blake. When pushed too hard, she gets angry, but then she gets up and walks away. (We’ll get more into this particular scene in the next criteria set…)

[Image description: Weiss on the left of the frame, Ruby in the center. Both are sitting down, holding cups of coffee. Yang on the right, storming off into the house, back to the screen]

She gets up to go deal with it on her own. She possibly is just removing herself so that way she doesn’t continue to get angry, but following that… 

[Image description: Yang sitting alone in a room with her head bowed. Subtitle says, “Look Ruby, I don’t really want to talk about it, okay?”]

…the way she talks makes it clear she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about it, but Ruby least of all. 

But she does start talking once she realises it’s Weiss. 

She loves her family, but she feels like she can’t talk openly to them. A lot of that is likely tied into exactly what she says about having to pick up the pieces and having to hold everything together. But even so, she’s closed off so much to them she just can’t talk to them. Not even her father who clearly knows her so well. She’s extremely estranged from them in an emotional sense, likely just further exacerbated by losing Blake. 

This is best exemplified in the V5 finale “Haven’s Fate.”

[Image source]
[Image description: Image shows the inside of the Haven vault, a huge desert. Yang is small in the frame, slightly off center to the right. She’s holding the lamp and on her knees, sobbing.]

She just breaks down sobbing after confronting Raven. She’s alone and so she finally feels like she can let everything out. She just bottles everything up, only letting it out in moments like “Alone Together.” Even then, she generally needs prodding.

Underneath everything, Yang is someone that’s hurting alone, suffering in silence, just like so many other mentally ill people. 

This one was a bit shorter, but I didn’t want to start getting into Set E at the tail end of this. So see you next time when we start there!

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 5

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

Let me just throw the criteria up and then talk about what all of it means first.

D. Negative changes in perceptions and mood associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning or worsening after the trauma occurred (two or more needed):

    1. Inability to remember important aspect(s) of the event(s), typically associated with dissociative amnesia and not related to drugs, alcohol, or head injury

    2. Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” ‘The world is completely dangerous,” “My whole nervous system is permanently ruined”).

3. Persistent and distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event(s) that lead to the individual to blame themselves or others

4. Persistent negative emotional state (eg, fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame)

5. Noticeable decreased interest or participation in significant activities (ie, socialising, hobbies, etc)

6. Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others 

7. Consistently unable to experience positive emotions (ie, happiness, satisfaction, or love)

So now we’re starting on the changes PTSD makes to one’s perception of reality and mood and we’re moving into the more subtle stuff. This is where many portrayals of PTSD fall apart due to failing to understand these.

As I stated in the primer article, PTSD twists your perception of reality and isn’t just “LOUD NOISE = FLASHBACK.” It’s this set of criteria as well as the next one that really showcase it. 

However, I will admit that this is where things will also get…tricky to try to point to. These are all internal changes in thought process and perceptions. In a visual series like RWBY, it makes it difficult to see these internal changes.

I feel like the three I can point to for pretty sure are D4/D7 and D6. 

So persistent negative emotional state is…very straightforward and we see it pretty well in V4 C3 “Of Runaways and Stowaways.”

The entire beginning of her introduction is literally nothing but a negative mood.

[Image source]
[Image description: Yang watching TV in the center of the frame on the couch. This is the first time we see her after the 6-8 month time skip in V4]

She’s completely impassive while watching the news.

[Image source]
[Image description: Close up on Yang’s face while she’s sitting on the couch but she has her head tilted over the back to look at Taiyang upside down.]

The greeting she gives Taiyang is extremely listless and not at all what you’d expect from her. She just tilts her head back and says “Hi Dad” in a relative monotone. 

The fact of the matter is that’s also implied to have been her mood basically since she did start to feel “better.” 

The end of V3 had Team RNJR leaving during the winter. 

[Image source]
[Image description: End of Volume 3. Ruby is off to the extreme left of the frame to look over her shoulder, taking up about a fourth of the screen in the foreground. From left to right: Ren, Jaune, Nora wait for her in the background in a snowy forest scene]

When Yang goes outside to get the mail, it’s obviously well into spring, if not into summer.

[Image source]
[Image description: Yang at the beginning of V4 getting the mail. She checks the mailbox with her left hand while tucking the letters under the remains of her right arm.]

I’m gonna combine D7 with this because they’re pretty related with one major example.

[Image description: Taiyang’s kitchen. Port and Oobleck sit at the table in the foreground with Port close on the left, Oobleck a little further in on the right. Taiyang is toward the center leaning against the counter. Yang in the center in her V4 attire. Subtitle says, “But…this is normal now.”]

In V4 C4, “Family,” Yang admits to her arm missing as being normal now, but there can also be deeper implications. 

This is how people with mental illness often talk. Once they’ve been in a low enough state, they’ll often just accept the fact there’s no such thing as ‘getting better.’ They’re willing to just accept the fact that their new circumstances are how things will always be from then on. A lot of people aren’t willing to fight or make efforts to get better.

Don’t think I’m talking down to people with mental illness. As I’ve said before, I have PTSD and C-PTSD. I also have severe anxiety and depression which is a pretty ugly cocktail. It’s not the fault of the people who have mental illness as it’s simply their brain’s reaction to the environment. 

What I’m getting at is that people just see it as safer to stay where they are. They’ve come to know the darkness of their mind and they’re afraid to leave.

Yang herself admits to it just a few seconds before.

[Image description: Taiyang’s kitchen. Port and Oobleck sit at the table in the foreground with Port close on the left, Oobleck a little further in on the right. Taiyang is toward the center leaning against the counter. Yang in the center in her V4 attire. Subtitle says, “Yang: I’m…scared.”]

She’s gotten used to the feeling of just being flat and not doing much in life now. Her world has become a lot smaller, relegated mainly to the house on Patch. It’s no longer the entire city of Vale, let alone her ambitions of becoming a Huntress. When things have become routine and predictable without much upheaval, it just feels better. 

That’s honestly what the entire dream sequence earlier in the episode was about.

It honestly wasn’t so much about Adam and being unable to defend herself; it was more about her fear of what will happen if she tries again. By putting on the arm, she’s saying she’s willing to take the first step toward leaving what has become safe for her. 

This is what these two criteria are getting at especially when combined. 

As this scene shows on its own, Yang is capable of experiencing positive emotions. She’s laughing and teasing with her dad. She’s able to joke around, laugh, and have fun.

[Image source]
[Image description: Taiyang sats on the far left, Yang stands to his right with both leaning against the counter., Oobleck sits near her at the table and Port sits across the table from him. Taiyang and Yang are laughing.]

People with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD can have good days and bad days. They can still have fun and act like neurotypical people. Just because they don’t “look” like they’re suffering from their conditions doesn’t mean they don’t still have them. And they can go into periods of remission before it comes crashing down over them again.

You can still experience good feelings, but it’s difficult to do so and especially sustain them. 

Well, join me next time when we tackle D6 and (probably) move onto Set E.

Sources: 

Ciccarelli, S. K., & Noland, J. (2014). Psychology : DSM 5. Pearson.

What It’s Like To Be Burnt Out and Have Writer’s Block

This is probably an article I never thought I’d write given I’ve been launching articles in a never ending barrage, but in late May, I put out my last article and spent the entire month of June on break from article writing. I went from having a lot of ideas to write, to having too many ideas, only for it to culminate into an accidental burn out. Have you ever seen the meme of Patrick where he has a burnt hole in the back of his head after “Chum is Fum” and “Fum is Chum”? That was basically me in a nutshell. Now I do have a bunch of ideas in the woodworks, but I need to slow it down by a lot so this doesn’t happen again.

But for some people who don’t know what writer’s block is, I’ll explain.

If you’ve done an essay of some kind in school whether it be for class as a standard essay, had to do an essay on the fly on a test, or had to work on a 3-5 page essay project and you got suddenly stuck, that’s writer’s block. It’s when you know what you want to write, but you don’t know how to write it. Similar to me, I knew what to write, but I really didn’t know, since I had too many ideas. As of this article, there’s about five or six unfinished projects I’m working on, one that has been in the works since last month. And I know that there’s probably gonna be people who are gonna say that I should’ve taken a break after finishing up the Console Wars article series, and I’ll admit, I probably should’ve taken that break. Having writer’s block isn’t the most fun thing in the world, especially when you have to have ideas on what to write on within a weekly basis. While all my focus was on Console Wars from the end of January to around the beginning of May when it ended, I noticed that I was having trouble doing other articles that I would normally focus on, since I usually tend to do articles that are a bit different than the norm. And after I did my most recent article, my brain completely shut down. I had and still have no idea what to write, what article to start with and which ones to finish, and unfortunately while it’s a good thing to have a lot of ideas, it can also be a bad thing because you don’t know where to start and which idea to write about. While I’m glad I had a bunch of ideas to write about, having too many ideas unfortunately crippled me to the point where I pretty much ended up having an existential crisis.

Being burnt out as well, isn’t a good feeling either. We’ve all been through that moment where we worked really hard, and we need that break but we keep pushing ourselves to do more. This eventually leads to growing tired of working and taking time off to recuperate after a long amount of time of working, or working intensely on a consistent basis. I’ve always been someone who loves to work even if it’s for free. It’s a character trait I developed from my dad who keeps on working no matter what because he loves to work. But unfortunately I developed the similar habit he has. When we get burnt out, it gets so bad, it leads to quitting. I luckily broke out of this habit after only one job back in January, granted it was a job I wasn’t fond of after only two weeks, and the burn out was a whole lot faster, and a lot more uglier. But having writer’s block and being burnt out while having the urge to write at the same time, is like downing a bottle of Adderall while drinking a bottle of Jack, it’s gonna get super ugly when you crash, and the hangover is going to be hospital inducing. 

I’m glad I stopped and took a break when I did, because I pretty much turned into a runaway freight train and nearly collided with a wall which probably had the word “SELF-DESTRUCT” written all over it. This whole thing reminded me of when Kat reacted to Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared a few years ago and how she brought up how being too creative could make you go insane. Looking back at it, I pretty much did go insane given after Console Wars, I was about to drill myself head first into a brick wall with little time to figure things out, resulting in pressing my luck only to get a double whammy. That’s an old TV Game Show reference if no one gets it, 10 bucks to the first person who does get it.

I don’t really have any advice on how to prevent burn out and writer’s block, other than saying that it’s okay to take a break. And this isn’t just for the AAOG writers, this is for everyone who’s dealing with a gap with no bridge or an obstacle that’s hard to get over. That includes the guest writers, fan fiction writers, people writing books, comics, content creators, musicians, artists, even the people who are working on an essay project. It’s alright to take a break every once in a while when you feel that your brain can’t take it anymore and you feel the need to give up. We’re humans at the end of the day, not robots who can keep going without rest. But even robots need to rest before they start falling apart. You’d never want to overexert yourself to the point where you don’t love your passion anymore, because when it gets to that point, it’s gonna be a lot harder to recover from a burn out or even writer’s block.

Stay safe, and take care of yourselves.

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 5

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in-depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

Let me just throw the criteria up and then talk about what all of it means first.

D. Negative changes in perceptions and mood associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning or worsening after the trauma occurred (two or more needed):

1. Inability to remember important aspect(s) of the event(s), typically associated with dissociative amnesia and not related to drugs, alcohol, or head injury

2. Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” ‘The world is completely dangerous,” “My whole nervous system is permanently ruined”).

3. Persistent and distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the traumatic event(s) that lead to the individual to blame themselves or others

4. Persistent negative emotional state (eg, fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame)

5. Noticeable decreased interest or participation in significant activities (ie, socialising, hobbies, etc)

6. Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others 

7. Consistently unable to experience positive emotions (ie, happiness, satisfaction, or love)

So now we’re starting on the changes PTSD makes to one’s perception of reality and mood and we’re moving into the more subtle stuff. This is where many portrayals of PTSD fall apart due to failing to understand these.

As I stated in the primer article, PTSD twists your perception of reality and isn’t just “LOUD NOISE = FLASHBACK.” It’s this set of criteria as well as the next one that really showcases it. 

However, I will admit that this is where things will also get…tricky to try to point to. These are all internal changes in thought processes and perceptions. In a visual series like RWBY, it makes it difficult to see these internal changes.

I feel like the three I can point to for pretty sure are D4/D7 and D6. 

So persistent negative emotional state is…very straightforward and we see it pretty well in V4 C3 “Of Runaways and Stowaways.”

The entire beginning of her introduction is literally nothing but a negative mood.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang watching TV in the center of the frame on the couch. This is the first time we see her after the 6-8 month time skip in V4]

She’s completely impassive while watching the news.

[Image source]

[Image description: Close up on Yang’s face while she’s sitting on the couch but she has her head tilted over the back to look at Taiyang upside down.]

The greeting she gives Taiyang is extremely listless and not at all what you’d expect from her. She just tilts her head back and says “Hi Dad” in a relative monotone. 

The fact of the matter is that’s also implied to have been her mood basically since she did start to feel “better.” 

The end of V3 had Team RNJR leaving during the winter. 

[Image source]

[Image description: End of Volume 3. Ruby is off to the extreme left of the frame to look over her shoulder, taking up about a fourth of the screen in the foreground. From left to right: Ren, Jaune, Nora wait for her in the background in a snowy forest scene]

When Yang goes outside to get the mail, it’s obviously well into spring, if not into summer.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang at the beginning of V4 getting the mail. She checks the mailbox with her left hand while tucking the letters under the remains of her right arm.]

I’m gonna combine D7 with this because they’re pretty related with one major example.

[Image description: Taiyang’s kitchen. Port and Oobleck sit at the table in the foreground with Port close on the left, Oobleck a little further in on the right. Taiyang is toward the center leaning against the counter. Yang in the center in her V4 attire. Subtitle says, “But…this is normal now.”]

In V4 C4, “Family,” Yang admits to her arm missing as being normal now, but there can also be deeper implications. 

This is how people with mental illness often talk. Once they’ve been in a low enough state, they’ll often just accept the fact there’s no such thing as ‘getting better.’ They’re willing to just accept the fact that their new circumstances are how things will always be from then on. A lot of people aren’t willing to fight or make efforts to get better.

Don’t think I’m talking down to people with mental illness. As I’ve said before, I have PTSD and C-PTSD. I also have severe anxiety and depression which is a pretty ugly cocktail. It’s not the fault of the people who have mental illness as it’s simply their brain’s reaction to the environment. 

What I’m getting at is that people just see it as safer to stay where they are. They’ve come to know the darkness of their mind and they’re afraid to leave.

Yang herself admits to it just a few seconds before.

[Image description: Taiyang’s kitchen. Port and Oobleck sit at the table in the foreground with Port close on the left, Oobleck a little further in on the right. Taiyang is toward the center leaning against the counter. Yang in the center in her V4 attire. Subtitle says, “Yang: I’m…scared.”] 

She’s gotten used to the feeling of just being flat and not doing much in life now. Her world has become a lot smaller, relegated mainly to the house on Patch. It’s no longer the entire city of Vale, let alone her ambitions of becoming a Huntress. When things have become routine and predictable without much upheaval, it just feels better. 

That’s honestly what the entire dream sequence earlier in the episode was about.

It honestly wasn’t so much about Adam and being unable to defend herself; it was more about her fear of what will happen if she tries again. By putting on the arm, she’s saying she’s willing to take the first step toward leaving what has become safe for her. 

This is what these two criteria are getting at especially when combined. 

As this scene shows on its own, Yang is capable of experiencing positive emotions. She’s laughing and teasing with her dad. She’s able to joke around, laugh, and have fun.

[Image source]

[Image description: Taiyang sats on the far left, Yang stands to his right with both leaning against the counter. Oobleck sits near her at the table and Port sits across the table from him. Taiyang and Yang are laughing.] 

People with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD can have good days and bad days. They can still have fun and act like neurotypical people. Just because they don’t “look” like they’re suffering from their conditions doesn’t mean they don’t still have them. And they can go into periods of remission before it comes crashing down over them again.

You can still experience good feelings, but it’s difficult to do so and especially sustain them. 

Well, join me next time when we tackle D6 and (probably) move onto Set E.

Sources: 

Ciccarelli, S. K., & Noland, J. (2014). Psychology : DSM 5. Pearson.

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY P2

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.

The writing of Yang’s PTSD from Volume 4 onward has been a point of major contention among many fans, especially whom don’t have a good grasp of the psychology behind it. It can be difficult to tell if some things do apply to Yang or not. However, she does show enough symptoms overall that match up with the official list to constitute a diagnosis. 

Before starting, there is one term I would like to address that will probably come up a fair bit and that is the word “trigger.” Online, it’s used as “Oh that triggered me” when you see something that’s mildly upsetting. 

The APA Dictionary online simply defines triggers as “a stimulus that elicits a reaction.” 

In the context of this article and series, however, the use will be far more specific. Whenever it’s used, it will specifically mean “an external reminder of the trauma that generally causes a negative reaction.” 

The first set of criteria listed is under fairly straightforward and don’t require too much explanation.

A. Exposure to trauma in one or more ways: 

1. Experiencing the trauma directly

2. Witnessing the events as they occur to somebody else

3. Learning that the events happened to somebody that one is close with. In cases of death, it must have been violent or accidental.

4. Experiencing extreme, repeated details of traumatic events, ie first responders collecting human remains, officers learning the details of abuse.

Considering this… 

[Image source]

[Image description: Whole scene is crimson and black due to Adam using Moonslice. He’s off to the side while Yang is up in the air, her arm detached and floating in the air. Blake is on the ground. All figures are in shadow aside from the red highlights on Adam’s outfit and his hair, Yang’s bright yellow hair and her Ember Celica.]

…she obviously experienced the trauma herself. 

There’s also a potential argument for A2 as she did see Adam attacking Blake, albeit it very briefly. 

She tends to focus mainly on losing her arm (rightly so) but she’s generally afraid of Adam until the end of V6. Seeing him attack Blake could have had a hand on this. Admittedly this is more speculation on my part than anything; it just could be a contributing factor to her fear of Adam. 

[Image source

[Image description: Blake laying on the ground with Adam standing over her, Wilt’s blade stabbed into her near her hip]

A3 and A4 have no bearing on the trauma Yang experienced, so we can move onto the next set of criteria.

B. Presence of one (or more) of intrusive thought patterns related to the trauma starting after the event:

1. Recurring, distressing memories of the events

2. Recurring, distressing dreams with content related to the trauma

3. Dissociative reactions (ie flashbacks) where the trauma feels like it’s happening again

4. Intense or prolonged mental distress at anything that resembles part of the traumatic event

5. Noticeable physiological reactions to something resembling part of the trauma

Personally, I’d argue that Yang shows four of the symptoms, those being B2-B5. l’ll admit I haven’t done a full canon review recently, so I may be missing points for B1. There are some implications of it, but I’ll touch on those when I get to B3. The points seem very similar, but there is nuance that separates them from each other.

Getting into B2, we have a very obvious example of that in V4 C4 “Family.” 

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang has a nightmare about the events of the Fall, centering around Adam. Adam is on the left, looming over Yang on the right who has a terrified expression on her face]

The context of this particular vision of Adam is after she receives the prosthetic and is struggling with the choice of whether or not to start working with it. The thought of it alone is enough to trigger pretty severe nightmare in her about losing it. 

Admittedly, there is difficulty in establishing the fact that the nightmares are “recurring.” We see only this one isolated incident which does get at the core issue of why some people may have issues with PTSD diagnosis for Yang on some criteria. PTSD is about a recurring pattern of behaviors. We see only isolated incidents of these things which makes some of these very hard to make a definitive answer on. However, in my own research and writing experience, I’ve found that if one nightmare is caused by a trigger, it’s pretty common for them to be recurring. 

Moving on, B3 is straight forward except for one word in there: dissociation. This is one of those pieces of technical jargon that can’t be swapped out for everyday speech as it addresses very specific phenomena. At its base, dissociation is a mental break, in reality, usually to avoid negative thoughts. Everyone experiences it lightly in their lifetimes whether they know it or not. Whenever you daydream, you’re dissociating. If you get in your car and go from your house to work and don’t remember the drive, that’s another form of it. 

And that exactly what flashbacks are. It’s a very specific type of dissociation, often brought on by some sort of external trigger. 

We do see one very good example of this in V4 C “Of Runaways and Stowaways.” She drops the glass and it triggers her into a quick flashback of Adam. 

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang in the kitchen, leaning up against the counter. She’s off center to the left and in a small perspective. She has a panicked look and is gripping the counter. A shattered glass sits on the floor slightly off center and more in the foreground.]

Let me quickly circle back to Criteria B1 and the “recurring” part. We do see the glass as an isolated incident as far as canon goes which makes it difficult to pull on anything else to establish that. However, these sorts of things are rarely (if ever) simple, isolated incidents. 

Going back to the stereotype of veterans with (say) fireworks as a trigger, it wouldn’t just be one and done. They wouldn’t hear it once on New Year’s Even and never react again; it’d be every time they heard them. (This isn’t taking into the effects of specific types of therapy and actively working on it.)

The same would be true for Yang.

One thing to note with flashbacks is that they occur on a spectrum and can take many forms. The stereotype of the veteran is the most extreme example. Flashbacks can be auditory or the person reexperiencing certain physical sensations. I’m sure there are more types that I’m not aware of too. The main point is that the person doesn’t have to be fully seeing the events to feel like they’re recurring.

Let me just finish off this part by touching on the nuance between B1 and B3. Both deal with memories and how they intrude on a person’s everyday life. B1 is much more generalised than B3. B3 is about a very specific event, usually caused by a trigger. 

B1, however, is just generalised thoughts and it happens to everybody at times. Everyone has small moments of trauma in their lives where they might have been humiliated in front of others, bullied, or something similar. It’s remembering these times as unwanted moments that B1 is talking about. 

There’s a lot more to keep digging into with Yang, so join me next time where we’ll continue our exploration of the next two criteria. 

Sources:

APA Dictionary of Psychology. (2014). APA Dictionary of Psychology. Apa.Org. https://dictionary.apa.org/trigger

Ciccarelli, S. K., & Noland, J. (2014). Psychology : DSM 5. Pearson.

The Power to Shine: Practical Goal Setting Tools

This article is a bit of a combination of my previous article on RWBY’s music and Jasper’s about goal setting and the Binding of Isaac. You don’t necessarily have to have read my previous article but I’d really recommend reading Jasper’s. I touch on some of the same concepts here, but I’ll be more focused on a few concrete tools that people may find helpful.

I can sum the part of mine that I want to focus on here: I fractured my wrist in 2018 and fell off writing fanfic for nearly two years. The song Indomitable from the RWBY V6 soundtrack saved me from myself and inspired me to get back into writing. 

Jasper’s article honestly inspired me to go a bit more in-depth with that part and to go into the how of overcoming my own anxiety and perfectionism. 

Honestly, it was this part of the song:

Don’t be afraid! 

Get up, get going, a step everyday

I’ll meet you there

When we strive, we transcend”

It was really that one little verse that helped me the most when it came to getting back into doing anything related to fanfiction writing. It reminded me that, above all, you are often your own greatest enemy. Your fears and insecurities are often your greatest chains.

In my other article, I mentioned the fact that I started focusing on research for a huge AU I’m working on first. And, recently, I started writing again. It was really two simple tools as well as a mindset that helped me get on the path again. 

I have to touch on the fact that I study martial arts (namely bujinkan ninjutsu, headed by Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi). We have a leadership program that I’ve been in for four years and it teaches us practical tools for life and being a good leader. We also focus on making sure people understand the philosophy behind what we do and why. It was there that I learned all of these things.

The first of the tools was SMART goals. It’s an acronym for setting the best types of goals possible. It stands for 

Specific

Measurable 

Achievable 

Realistic

Time-sensitive

Of course, there are other variations, but they all essentially boil down to this: setting goals that are extremely specific and on a deadline. 

Here’s a neat little infographic to help outline what each means:

[Image source]

[Image description: A 5-column chart, purple, red, light blue, goldenrod, and dark green. Text across top reads “SMART” in capital letters.

First column: Specific. Do: set real numbers with real deadlines. Don’t: Say, “I want more visitors.”

Second column: Measurable. Do: Make sure your goal is trackable. Don’t: Hide behind buzzwords like, “brand engagement” or “social influence.”

Third: Attainable. Do: Work towards a goal that is challenging but possible. Don’t: Try to take over the world in one night.

Fourth: Realistic. Do: Be honest with yourself—you know what you and your team are capable of. Don’t: Forget any hurdles you may have to overcome.

Fifth: Time-bound. Do: Give yourself a deadline. Don’t: Keep pushing towards a goal you might hit “someday.”]

The reason a lot of people fail at their goals is that they’re too vague. “I want to be more social!” “I want to lose weight!” “I want to write a book!” These are the types of things people strive for but never meet because they lose focus and direction.

Let’s go back to my goal of finishing my research. It might not sound like a lot, but let me show you what I’m up against:

[Image descriptions: Two images, both are badly lit.

First image: Four columns of yellow, light blue, and purple sticky notes against a dark beige wall.

Second image: The same dark beige wall with three distinct columns, marked by blue painter’s tape. Columns and columns of yellow and light blue sticky notes are in the designated areas, in their own columns.]

This is my research scrum board. A scrum board is another tool I learned at my dojo. Basically it’s just a board that helps you keep track of where you are in a specific project. I made one for my research so I know what I’ve done and where I am with each section. 

The first photo is everything of what I haven’t even touched in terms of reading. 

The left section of the first photo is what I’ve simply read. The middle section is what I’ve outlined and annotated. The right section is everything I’ve taken notes on—meaning done to completion.  

That’s 280 sticky notes exactly which means 280 sections of research.

My initial goal was a bad one: “I want to finish my research.” When you look at it laid out like this and think of it that way, it seems impossible to accomplish. 

However, I decided to start using SMART goals in two ways. 

Back in December of last year, I decided I really wanted to start getting this done. So I set the goal that I wanted to finish maybe about 10-15 sections of the research by time the semester started. So that was one SMART goal in and of itself, but I still felt like I was drowning. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere

Then I had a huge breakthrough. 

I was reminded that the book I was working in had double-columned text. So I thought “What if I timed how long it takes me to do one column?” 

And, from there, everything about my approach changed.

What felt like a slog had suddenly turned into a pretty easy, breezy process. I now had a time estimate of how long everything took me which made it feel so, so much more manageable. I could give myself a rough estimate of how long it’d take me to complete any one section. 

The crazy thing is that’s the actual psychology behind goal setting. It’s a bit much to go into in full here, so I’d suggest looking at the article on Positive Psychology about it, listed at the bottom. It’s a long read but a good one if you’re interested in the mechanics in full. But to sum at least some of it up: the more achievable goals we set, the more fulfilled we feel, and the more positive an outlook we can obtain. It becomes a self-rewarding system that makes us push and nudge ourselves into making our invisible dreams into tangible rewards.

To bring this back to my research, my goal is still “to finish it.” I admittedly have no set date for when I want it done. So it’s not a good goal and I acknowledge that. However, my scrum board allows me to determine what I’m going to tackle next. Each sticky note is a tinier sub goal that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and Realistic. My scheduling is when I get to the Time-sensitive part of the goal.

[Image description: A schedule showing Monday to Sunday at the top. Down the left side are times listed in half-hour increments, ranging from 8:00 AM to 11:30 PM. Various blocks are colored in times, each labelled.]

The other major tool I’ve been using are 50-minute work blocks. The idea here is to work for about 50 minutes, take a 10-minute break, then start working again. I think I remember them saying that the main point is that for the first and last ten minutes of the session, you tend to be a little unfocused, so you get a solid 30 minutes of focused work.

Obviously, this isn’t something I adhere to 100%. There are some things I’ll set aside about 15-30 minutes for rather than a full 50.

I’m also not advocating anybody keep as rigid a schedule as I do; this is just what I do that helps me

And, honestly, that’s an important thing to mention: SMART goals, scrum boards, the 50-minute work blocks are simply tools. They’re pretty flexible things that you can make and adapt to your own needs. I’ve figured out how to make them work for me and they’ve put my life in a very positive direction. 

They may also not work for everybody either and that’s okay. I’ve found they work for me and they might work for others to varying degrees of success.

To bring this back to the Indomitable lyrics, all of that above stuff was mainly the “Get up, get going, a step every day” part. By laying out all of these tools, I help myself take steps toward my goal each day. 

The other major components of this is “Don’t be afraid” even though I was. I was so afraid. I didn’t want to prove to myself that I had fallen from grace and was now a bad writer. Whenever I sat down, my heart would race and I’d feel an aversion to putting stylus to tablet.

I decided earlier this year to try to get into writing. I had no excuses to not be writing since I was managing to fit so much into my schedule even with writing for AAOG and school. I got like one chapter up and it was horrible! 

I stopped writing.

I didn’t post again for like two months.

That was when I decided to really recommit myself.

And so I set aside 45 minutes per day to write…and it still didn’t go well. 

Oh, I could write but for maybe about 10-15 minutes before the anxiety got too much. 

I decided to work with it. 

Instead of setting aside 45 minutes in one time block, I set aside 15 minutes of prose then wrote for another 15 for the purpose of character development. 

My writing was still horrible but that actually did the trick. Through those shorter sessions, I’ve learned to just enjoy the act of creation again. I’ve had to let go of the worries, doubt, and desire for perfection in my writing. And I’ve been able to write longer and longer because of it. I also crave just sitting down and putting a pencil to paper.

I literally needed to give myself permission to suck again, to literally be a beginner

Yes, I’m a skilled writer of 20 years. I understand character development, plotting, worldbuilding, and all of these other things that make me hold myself to this high standard. But, sometimes, you just have to let all of that go and be a beginner again.

Which brings me to shoshin.

[Image description: Two purple kanji. Sorry to TTS users; I don’t know how to describe these.]

Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind.” It’s the ability to allow yourself to look at things through the eyes of a beginner even if you’re studying something at a high level. This is exactly what I’m having to do right now. I have to just let go of my desires for myself, my thoughts of how ‘good’ I am at writing, and just write. I simply have to enjoy the act of creation again and my prose will return in time.

Admittedly, I am no scholar or expert on Zen Buddhism so my limited knowledge comes from what the head instructor at my dojo has told me. But, even so, this has been such a powerful lesson before.

In my first article, I mentioned I had a breakdown about being so bad with the actual prose and it was because I forgot about this. I just wanted (and frankly still do) to be back where I was. But I was starting from scratch more or less. You have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run.

Going back to square one is sometimes not a bad thing. Who knows what I’ll discover as I begin my journey as a writer anew.

Right now, all I know is that I shouldn’t be afraid and just need to take a step each day. The power to keep moving onward is mine and mine alone even if I’m not there yet. 

Sources:

A Look at the Psychology of Goal Setting (Incl. 3 Research Findings). (2019, May 2). PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/goal-setting-psychology 

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 4

Disclaimer: These articles contain in-depth discussion on the topics of mental health/illness and topics such as abuse. 

The writer is also not a trained nor certified therapist. However, they have been writing for twenty years with a heavy focus on correct, realistic portrayals of mental health. They have studied PTSD and C-PTSD in depth and speak from personal experience. Of course, they only speak from one point of view as PTSD symptoms and experiences are unique to each and every person. This is done from a clinical viewpoint, using sourced academic literature.

More technical jargon (namely the actual list of symptoms) will be given in more everyday language when and where possible.


So we’re finally moving onto a new set of criteria today that deals with avoidance.

C. Avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma after the event occurred (one needed):

1. Attempting to or avoiding distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the trauma

2. Attempting to or avoiding external reminders (people, places, conversations, objects, situations, etc) that create distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings closely associated with the trauma

If you’re a bit confused about how these are different, it’s okay; these two, in particular, are very similar, but they are different. However, in my own personal writing, I’ve found that they tend to go hand in hand. In tracking about twenty-some characters and their PTSD symptoms, I’ve found all of one case of them not going together. They do tend to feed into each other which is why.

These are both about avoiding reminders of the event, but the main difference is internal versus external. The first one is basically just trying to avoid any sort of thoughts or feelings related to the trauma. The second one is about trying to avoid external reminders or triggers. External triggers can feed into distressing thoughts and feelings about the trauma, hence why they can feed into each other.

In this particular case, I think I can make an argument for Yang displaying at least C2, so that’s the one I’ll focus on. C1 would be much more difficult to try to make a case for as it deals with just avoiding thinking about the trauma. As we never really get inside of her head and hear her internal monologue, it’s much more difficult to make a case for.

She does display C2 very strongly through on multiple occasions.

Two of the best examples happen in rather a quick succession in V4 C3. “Of Runaways and Stowaways.” 

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang sits on the couch off the right of the frame in the background. Three books sit on the left in the foreground. The bottom one has a burgundy cover. The middle one has a green cover. The top one has a brown cover.]

The first one is when Yang glances at the stack of books then looks away rather quickly. It’s a subtle thing, but she associates books with Blake, so by looking away, she’s avoiding the trauma. 

Issue 3 of the DC Comics, “Rebuilding,” illustrates this point pretty well.

[Image descriptions: Two panels from the DC comics.

The first one has a back shot of Yang holding “The Man With Two Souls.” However, only the text “The Man” on the first line and “Two Soul” on the second line is visible. 

The second shows Yang throwing the book with a “FLING” sound effect. The bottom of her right arm is still covered in bandages. Text bos says “Just sad.”]

Admittedly, this particular instance is correlated directly to a book that Blake gave her. It still goes to show her reacting negatively to something that reminds her of the trauma. She tosses the book because she doesn’t want to think about Blake leaving. 

The second occurrence is when she’s watching TV. 

[Image descriptions: Three images.

Top: Yang sits on the couch in her V4 attire in the middle of the frame. Subtitle says. “Multiple rumors continue to circulate as to who was behind the attack at the Vytal festival tournament…”

Middle: Focus shifts to the news screen which is projected. Lisa Lavender is the news anchor. Title on the TV screen says, “White Fang member, Adam Taurus, present during Beacon Grimm attack.” Dialogue subtitle says, “officials have confirmed that high ranking White Fang member, Adam Taurus,”

Bottom: Yang sitting on the couch, slightly off-center to the left of the frame, holding the remote to turn the TV off.]

Honestly, the first shot of this particular is very interesting and something I didn’t think of when originally writing the previous part.

If we go back to the previous set of criteria, we can see a minor incarnation of B5 and perhaps even B4 along with what we’re currently talking about. 

Just for reference, here are B4 and B5 again.  

4. Intense or prolonged mental distress at anything that resembles part of the traumatic event

5. Noticeable physiological reactions to something resembling part of the trauma

That little expression on her face shows that she is clearly thinking about the Fall of Beacon in general even if not necessarily losing her arm. 

The scene does go on for a little while longer, but after the White Fang segment ends, she simply turns the TV off. Basically everything on the news was a reminder of the Fall of Beacon and the state of the city. It’s just a general reminder of what happens, so she chooses to simply not expose herself to it any longer.

The last occurrence we’ll touch on is still in the same episode and, again, rather close to these two scenes. It’s the one with Taiyang bringing in Yang’s prosthetic. It’s a rather interesting one that honestly does a lot of showing while being subtle about it.

[Image descriptions: Two images.

Top: View from the kitchen looking into the living room. Taiyang is in the foreground off-centered left, carrying three boxes in his arms and two bags dangle off them. Yang in the background on the couch, off-centered right.

Bottom: Yang slightly off center-right, looking down at her missing right arm.]

This is the first bit of the scene I’d like to pick apart. Yang watches Taiyang bring in all the packages and mail and then glances at her arm. From the way Taiyang talks and the way Yang acts, it seems like they knew it was coming. Taiyang’s speech, later on, seems to prove it since he’s (somehow) been in contact with General Ironwood. 

But the part I want to focus on is Yang’s little glance at her arm. Without really saying anything, you can just sort of see the thoughts in her head. It seems like it basically boils down to “but I lost a part of me. How can you expect me to just replace it so easily…?” 

Moving on, we have her opening it.

[Image descriptions: Three images.

Top: Yang sitting on the couch, off center-right. A long white box sits on the table in front of her.

Middle: Close up of Yang’s face with her expression looking distant. Subtitle from Taiyang says, “But you earned this one all on your own, kiddo.”

Bottom: Almost the exact same shot as above with Yang. Subtitle says, “Yang: Huh?”]

This is a pretty interesting little bit of showing as her expression and body language speak volumes as you can see the continuing thoughts.

However, what’s most interesting to me is her reaction while Taiyang’s talking. 

I don’t know anything about camera work, framing, or anything of the like, so this is kind of just speculation and personal interpretation on my part.

I feel like this small scene maybe another small example of criteria B3 (Dissociative reactions (ie flashbacks) where the trauma feels like it’s happening again) though much less severe than the example where she drops the glass.

I bring this up is because dissociation occurs on a spectrum from minor, momentary lapses to full-blown flashbacks of some sort. Looking at this scene, it feels like she’s dissociating a little bit. The framing is focused upon her face and her expression looks rather distant. We have Taiyang talking in the background which is used in a lot of animation to indicate someone’s not listening. And then you have a slight pause before her “Huh?” which means she wasn’t really listening.

As someone that literally lives their entire life dissociated, this really feels like a subtle way of showing a small lapse into it. She’s spacing out, but it’s because she’s remembering everything she went through. She doesn’t seem to quite know how to cope with what’s in front of her, so she just lapses out for a moment.

And then comes the last bit. 

Image description: Yang sitting on the couch, center frame. Her gaze is down and to the right and hair covering her eyes. Subtitle says, “Maybe later?”]

Here’s the avoidance. 

This scene is very short without much said, but it’s expertly shown. As somebody with PTSD, honestly, this is a fantastic representation of how much more subtle it can be and almost always is. As I said in the primer, PTSD isn’t just about loud noises and flashbacks; it a subtle thing that changes your behavior. You do things like this. Even if something would be beneficial for you, it makes you avoid it because you don’t want to experience those thoughts and feelings again. 

With this covered, we can move onto Set D: alterations to the mood and perception of the world.

Sources: 

Ciccarelli, S. K., & Noland, J. (2014). Psychology : DSM 5. Pearson.