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blake belladonna

RWBY: The Bond Between Blake and Ruby

At All Ages of Geek, we love to hear the communities views on characters in shows we cover. With the finish of RWBY Vol 8 one of our community members Angelique tells us what they think about Ruby and Blake’s friendship.

“I always thought Blake Belladonna admired Ruby Rose and thought highly of her. Ever since they first met in volume 1 episode 3 when Ruby said she wants to be like the heroes in books. I always sense Blake saw a girl with pure heart and intentions. This was further proved by Blake telling Sun in volume 4 how Ruby’s word description was Pure.

Now, in the last episode of volume 8, Blake finally tells Ruby how she always admired her and thought highly of her. Blake said to Ruby that at one time in her life she was like Ruby but things got in the way. We all know what those things are, Adam and the White Fang. She explained to Ruby that she always does something to make things right even if she doesn’t know if it will work or not. She keeps moving forward and tries to do what’s best for everyone or the given situation.

I think having this moment between Blake and Ruby is so important. it’s important for Ruby Rose to hear what her teammate Blake views of her. They have a bond and this conversation showed it. I absolutely loved this moment between them and it solidified my views of Blake having a high regard of Ruby. I truly hope these two have more moments together their friendship is unique and sweet and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them.”

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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 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.

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.

Shadowed Flames: PTSD in RWBY Part 3

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, last time, we talked about exposure to the trauma and the first three patterns of intrusive thought patterns. Let’s pick up where we left off last time with the last symptoms of intrusive thoughts.

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

Honestly, I’m kind of glad I stopped where I did last time for this. Looking at these two symptoms together, we can see them manifest in Yang together in one very noticeable way that pervades mostly through Volume 5, but also in Volume 6.

The subtle hand shaking.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang in her V5-6 attire off to the right and taking up most of that part. She’s gripping her shaking left hand with her right, looking upset. A water bottle sits off to the left more in the foreground.]

[Image source]

[Image description: V5 C4 “Lighting the Fire”: Yang’s fighting the Branwen bandits when her hands shake, reminding her of the night that Adam took her arm. She’s holding her left arm with her right, eyes closed.]

[Image source]

Image description: Scene from V6 C11 “The Lady in the Shoe”: Adam taunting and trying to purposely trigger her. She stands off to the right of the frame, a back shot with her left hand and the fully extended Ember Celica. Adam stands in the background, just slightly left of the center in the background. He has his hands on Wilt and Blush, ready to draw them.]

Obviously, these aren’t all of the examples of her handshaking, but it gives enough of a good picture to draw on. The reason she’s shaking is that, even though she’s somewhat better, PTSD isn’t something that just goes away. She still has issues to sort through, ones that cause her severe emotional distress due to how she’s reminded of the night of the Fall.

I am going to make a bit of a digression here, but there are a few more things I’d like to analyze especially in regards to triggers.

The scene with Adam is horrible and speaks to his character. This isn’t an in-depth analysis of it, but this scene does speak to how quickly he can think on his feet at times even if it’s obvious. He did say he’d destroy everything Blake loved and so he goes straight for the jugular with her. It’s a devious move to gain any advantage he can get. He can tell she’s mentally weakened by what happened, and so he goes to purposely trigger her to elicit the reaction he wants.

The following scene also does bring up a good point about PTSD and mental illness in general.

[Image source]

[Image description: Yang and Blake in the frame, Yang to the left, Blake to the right. It’s focused on just their hands. Blake has hers over Yang’s which is a balled fist. The Ember Celica is fully extended.]

Sometimes just being there for somebody is one of the best things you can do for somebody with a mental illness. Yang is obviously triggered by what Adam is saying, so Blake steps in to support her and help disrupt those thought patterns which are being intrusive.

If you know a person well enough or they ask you, if they’re triggered, sometimes helping redirect the intrusive thought patterns can be a very welcome thing. I know when my depressive episodes get triggered by whatever, I definitely appreciate it when my friends help distract me. This is a highly individual thing, though. Each person is unique in their reactions and perceptions. It’s something that needs to be discussed with the person beforehand or permission given at the moment to do so.  

Getting back to the actual symptom listing, there is something I’d like to touch on specific to B4 as shown in the DC comics from Issue 3, “Rebuilding.”

[Image descriptions: Three 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 one shows Blake handing Yang the Book. Blake’s fingers don’t cover the text “With” on the first line and “l s” on the second line.

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

This is another pretty good example of a trigger in action, but in a different way.

In this case, the trigger isn’t about her arm or the Fall of Beacon, but the much more subtle abandonment issues Yang has. Blake leaving exacerbated the issues that had popped up long ago from learning about Raven. Here, seeing the book, a physical manifestation of Blake, causes those issues to surface.

I’m not sure if this ties in with the PTSD or not, but the little detail of Yang only seeing the part of the title where Blake’s hand was is a nice one. It might be a metaphor for how she can only see a small part of the situation rather than the whole thing.

I dunno.

It’s just a neat little detail regardless.

The glass incident “Of Runaways and Stowaways” can also count under both of these. It can count as another very good example of both B4 and B5.

[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.]

For these two, the sound triggers the sound of Adam drawing his sword as is seen in the momentary flash immediately following the scene. Fairly simple and straightforward, but still a very good example of these particular symptoms.

[Image descriptions:

Top image: The bottom part of Adam’s symbol from the back of his shirt glows red against a black background. A white slash is at the bottom.

Bottom image: Adam stands in the center of the frame in the ruined Beacon cafeteria. He has Wilt’s crimson blade drawn, ready to attack. Blake lays on the ground behind him, barely visible and looking toward the camera.]

Next time, we’ll head into Set C which covers the topic of avoidance and possibly Set D which deal with alterations in mood and perception of the world.

Sources:

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

Shadowed Flames: PTSD In RWBY Part 1

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.

— 

[Image source]

RWBY V5 C4 “Lighting the Fire”: Yang’s fighting the Branwen bandits when her hands shake, reminding her of the night that Adam took her arm.

RWBY, as a series, is one that has been met with much criticism when it comes to its writing. As a long-time writer myself, I can definitely see where the criticisms come from. However, as a writer focused in and around mental illness, one thing I do find to be surprisingly well written is the portrayal of mental illness, namely Blake’s C-PTSD and Yang’s PTSD in primarily Volumes 4-6. 

So what are these terms I keep throwing around?

Most people are fairly familiar with the concept of normal PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In popular culture, it’s portrayed as a veteran hearing something loud similar to gunshots then being sent into flashbacks of whatever combat zone they experienced. It’s also commonly known as shellshock from way back in World War I when it was first noticed among those who fought in the trenches. C-PTSD is short for Complex-PTSD but that’s explained more below.

However, PTSD is more than just loud noises and flashbacks. It’s a series of complex, subtle behaviors that affect daily living. Like many mental illnesses, it’s the brain’s reaction to trauma. Many of the behaviors are a way of creating avoidance at winding up in situations that resemble the event(s) that caused the trauma. It occurs on a large spectrum with patterning being unique to each individual. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM), psychology’s standardized guidelines for diagnosing mental illnesses, list 24 criteria for PTSD which allows for a lot of different patterns. 

Some of these can include recurring nightmares of the events— 

[Image source]

V4 C4 “Family”: Yang has a nightmare about the events of the Fall, centering around Adam. It’s implied these are recurrent from her reaction.

—persistent, distorted thoughts about the cause and/or consequences of the traumatic events that lead one to blame themselves or others— 

RWBY DC Comics #4 “Intoxication”: Blake reflecting on her past while going to Menagerie. She feels that she’ll only ever bring harm to those around her because of her past. 

—persistent negative mood— 

[Image source]

RWBY V4 C3 “Of Runaways and Stowaways”: Yang watching TV. This is the first time we see her after the 6-8 month time skip in V4. Her mood is very flat, implied to be like this much of the time since losing her arm.

—and feelings of estrangement from others.

RWBY DC Comics #4 “Intoxication”: Blake continuing to reflect on her past, feeling she can’t get close to anybody because of it. She feared people would get hurt because of it. It manifested when Yang lost her arm. 

These aren’t all of the symptoms of PTSD, but it shows you how PTSD can impact daily functioning in life and why it can be such a struggle for those trying to help.

So what the heck is C-PTSD then?

C-PTSD is short for Complex PTSD. There are two main manuals used to diagnose mental illness. PTSD is listed in the main one and has been for years. C-PTSD is not recognized by the main manual but it was under consideration for the last two editions that came out in 1994 and 2013. It was, however, put into a secondary manual in May 2019 organized by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Basically, C-PTSD is a subtype of PTSD for individuals that suffered prolonged periods of ongoing trauma. As it stands at the moment, C-PTSD is a more vaguely defined cluster of ongoing behaviors.

Individuals suffering from C-PTSD can include difficulty regulating emotions such as persistent fear and sadness— 

RWBY V2 C10 “Mountain Glenn”: The team talking about the reasons they want to be Huntresses. Yang initially brought up that Blake’s not one to back down from a challenge. Her response was, “But I am! I do it all the time… When you learned I was a Faunus, I didn’t now what to do so I ran… When I learned my oldest partner had become a monster, I ran…”

—feelings of helplessness, stigma, and being different from others— 

[Image source]

RWBY V1 C15 “The Stray”: Blake taking her bow off after she accidentally outs herself as former White Fang. She hides a major part of herself to avoid being stigmatized and discriminated against. 

—and distorted perceptions of the perpetrator including (but not limited to) becoming hyper-focused on the relationship.

[Image source]

RWBY V2 C6 “Burning the Candle”: Blake is hellbent on tracking down the White Fang, running herself ragged in the process. 

There are more for this as well, but this article is really just a primer. 

So what is the difference?

I think this visual works to show the difference rather well on a basic level.

Put into words, at its most basic form, PTSD is about somebody constantly re-experiencing trauma which makes the person feel threatened and, thus, they go to avoid it.

C-PTSD is that as well as a complete warping of self and reality (not to say normal PTSD isn’t but…). People may end up feeling as if they’ve lost their personality, can’t regulate their emotions, and often tend to shut out interpersonal relationships due to the nature of the abuse they sustained. 

PTSD seems to also have many of C-PTSD symptoms which makes it…difficult to try to show how they contrast in a primer article like this. The following articles will go more in-depth to explain through examples. 

Sources:

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

Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. (2013). Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria. Trauma Dissociation. http://traumadissociation.com/complexptsd

Complex PTSD – PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2014). Va.Gov. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/complex_ptsd.asp

ICD-11 – Mortality and Morbidity Statistics. (2019). Who.Int. https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/2070699808

RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 9 Analysis

RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 9 was a real tear-jerker. The thing that stuck out most to me was Juane coping with Pyrrha’s death. I think it was pretty clear throughout the first 3 volumes that they loved each other and if it wasn’t clear then, it was certainly made clear that Juane loved her in this episode.

He spends most of the episode deeply saddened and thinking about her and even visits a statue of her made in memory of her, placed where she trained before coming to Beacon no less and he’s seemingly inconsolable for the time being. How many of us can relate to Juane’s struggle with coping with the loss of someone he loved? Most if not all of us have suffered a loss of love at one point or another and no matter how many we lose it never gets easy. Things like:

“She should be standing here!”

“Why was it her that had to die?”

I’m sure many more questions cross his mind. Just as we all do, he goes through the all too human process of doubting, questioning why, feeling despaired and all that loss entails. But when we lose those we love it doesn’t truly have to be the end of them. Sure, they aren’t physically with us anymore but their memory, what they stood for, what they believed in and the impact that had on all they met stay with us.

On top of all these things, since they’re gone any memory of their legacy and the changes they tried to make must come from those they knew, it must come from us. Physical loss doesn’t have to be the end of a bond, all the things mentioned above are what make a bond live on beyond death but we have to choose to face the pain and continue clinging to those memories. And who knows, perhaps there’s a life beyond this one we will meet them in again one day. Will you allow their legacy to be forgotten in time or cling to their memories and build onto that legacy?

RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 8 Analysis

RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 8 is a great mix of comedy and drama despite the fact that it starts off with Team RWBY and crew in prison. Qrow keeps his sarcastic and joking demeanor despite being locked up, the Grimm Reaper comically and casually says these people are her enemies despite the fact that she clearly cares at least somewhat for them. The guards are comically aloof. I felt this was nice change of pace from the constant tension of the last few episodes.

We also get a great bonding moment between Reaper and Ruby as Reaper teaches her how to increase her power and tells her the importance of her eyes. Finding good in bad situations was a major theme in this episode I felt. Despite the revelation of Ozpin and Salem being lovers, Salem possibly being justified in her want to bring destruction and being imprisoned they still find the time to learn, joke around and strengthen their bond.

This episode really reiterated that there’s almost always a silver lining, another joke to be made, another important lesson to be learned, another to teach and much more. If there isn’t a clear silver lining to be seen then we can draw one ourselves and if there isn’t any relief to be found, we can rely on the strength of our bonds to be our relief even if the person isn’t physically there.

The bad and stressful situations in our lives can make this silver lining all the more clear and give us perspective. Whether it be that things might not be as bad as we think, or that they are but we can overcome them, the bad parts of our lives shouldn’t be dismissed or hidden but instead learned from. Like how Reaper learned to thrive despite the loss of her eyes, like how Yang learned to live again despite her PTSD and Qrow learned how to be a better leader despite his struggles. You can grow but the question, will you let the pain help you grow?

RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 7 Analysis

In RWBY Volume 6 Chapter episode 7 we come to the end of a rather legendary revelation, Maria who’s been helping team RWBY is the legendary and almost mythical Grimm Reaper. I’ll let you guess what her previous occupation probably was.

We start the episode by seeing the Grimm aren’t the only thing she’s good at battling, she also holds her own against quite a few enemies at once. However, this fight ends with her losing her eyes and we learn that the only reason people desire her is for the power of her eyes. This is something I can resonate with deeply and I’m sure many of you can as well.

Many of us have gone through the pain of only being wanted for what we can give at one point or another. For others it’s the opposite, we’re outcasted for what we lack. We can see that the Grimm Reaper hasn’t lived an easy life not only due to her eyes being the cause of a lot of struggle but also losing them and losing presumed fame and possibly fortune she had due to her feats. However, by the time of her appearance in the series we see that not only has she found a way to deal with the loss of her eyes but she starts to form a bond with Team RWBY.

The scars of her past and the pain of her losses start to mend due to this newfound bond, I find that the Grimm Reaper is a shining example of what can happen if we decide to continue on despite our pain and loss. Those things do not have to be the end for us or define us, pain can go away and the void that loss leaves behind can be filled. We can find friendship and bonds but like the Grimm Reaper it’s up to us to make the decision to not give up, no one can make that decision for us. Will we let our circumstances define us or will keep moving forward and find a new definition? Only we as individuals can answer this, what’s your answer?

RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 6 Analysis

In RWBY Volume 6 Chapter 6 we see that team RWBY isn’t coping well with recent events, Qrow’s drinking has gotten worse and he’s gotten even more pessimistic than usual, calling everything stupid. Ruby is so tired she can hardly stand and on top of that there are Grimm hidden right under the well beneath them which they later end up having to confront despite how tired they are and their dire circumstances.

Such is life very often for us as well isn’t it? Problem after problem just seems to arise and we can’t catch a break even when we’re already down? The phrase “kicking someone while they’re down” is expressed very vividly in this episode. The unfortunate truth is that often, life doesn’t wait for us to recover from one tragic event before throwing another and another at us but there’s something the Grimm Reaper said that I believe is a great solution to dealing with this. It’s when Ruby is on the ground and she tells her to think about her loved ones instead of her fear of the Grimm in front of her which has the power to drain people’s will to go on.

There’s a profound truth expressed in this statement that thinking about our loved ones, our blessings and the good things in our life can help us continue on when life seems to have drained every ounce of willpower within us. The ultimate force in this world is love and nothing can overpower it if we allow ourselves to be overcome by it. However, in order to be overcome by love and be given strength by it, we have to choose it.

You see love is not just a feeling, it’s a daily choice we must make and choose to cling to so that the misfortunes of this life don’t overcome us in its place. Every day is a choice to let love in or keep it out and let ourselves be void of it and therefore void of the most vital thing to humanity. Some of us always have to fight to get by just as Team RWBY has to do but they have shown us that just as there’s no end to the circumstances life throws at us. There is also no limit to the power of love and if it’s true, no end to the influence of it. So will you choose to overpower the darkness of life with love as Ruby did or will you let life overpower you?