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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.

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