Sega's prequel to the iconic Yakuza franchise is incredible.
Set in the criminal underbelly of Japan in the 1980s, Yakuza 0 pulls no punches, neither with its combat nor its bittersweet tale. I was ready for fistfights in a clinic, helicopter crashes, and high-speed car chases.
But nothing prepared me for the harrowing unease I felt when it taught me about stress-induced blindness. It hit me in the gut.
Known in medical terms as psychogenic blindness, I first encountered the term when one of the game's main characters entered a clinic with a walking stick. Without heading into spoiler territory, a violent past of physical and sexual abuse took away this character's ability to see.
Their eyes were not physically damaged. But those eyes still refused to see.
I was aware of panic attacks causing acute physical pain. But blindness?
At first, I was skeptical. A bit of research confirmed my fears.
A report by The Guardian only made things worse. One patient went blind, another couldn’t walk, and a third person could no longer use their hand. Neurologists were baffled, struggling to connect the dots. A psychological cause for serious illness didn't go well with most doctors. It betrayed "reason."
This game challenged that very perspective.
Yakuza 0 knows that anxiety is a powerful foe
Anxiety and I aren't on great terms. Well, who is?
I've held hands that believed scars were the answer.
It has taken both family and friends from me. Seeing people turn into a shadow of their former selves was difficult. Their refusal to share their burdens sinks one's conscience even further. Sometimes I win, and sometimes anxiety does.
It's no surprise that this newfound awareness led to shivers followed by contemplation.
Anxiety and stress are threats far bigger than I thought they were.
Burdened with this knowledge, "being there for someone" took on a whole new meaning. I wondered if my actions could change anything. But after several calls of catching up with those I hold dear, I figured that some things were worth fighting for. And it made walking away even harder.
Especially from those who pulled away to deal with their demons.
Some might argue that there are bigger things to fight for.
Systemic prejudice and the unfair treatment dealt to marginalized communities certainly warrant your attention. But we tend to gloss over the smaller problems, the ones that gnaw away at our lifespans like termites. While stress and anxiety have been treated as silent killers whose effects compound with time, a videogame showed me that these problems have effects both instant and devastating.
But there's still hope.
In one case of psychogenic blindness, a medical examination revealed no abnormality of visual pathways. Psychoeducation and reassurance lead to complete visual recovery in 12 hours. The patients from The Guardian's report recovered once their treatment was switched from medical to psychological.
Stress-induced blindness made me reassess how I viewed anxiety.
It taught me to place mental health on an even higher pedestal than before. And that ignoring one's state of mind could manifest in the physical world in full force.
I hope this spurs you to be a better friend. A better lover. A better human.
Both to those around you and to yourself.
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