To Write Love on Her Arm (affectionately known on the internet as TWLOHA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and hope to people struggling with depression, self-injury and suicide. March 30 is the day the first TWLOHA shirt was worn. It’s a strange anniversary, but it works.
On this anniversary, I want to give a tribute to my “Sam.” Her name is Elspeth and she’s my best friend.
One of my (exceedingly) charming qualities is that I like to reference pop culture–specifically film and TV. One night, I really missed my best friend, Elspeth. On my former blog, I wrote a post about her and our relationship, because it made the 3,000 miles that stretch between us feel a little smaller. I told her that she was the Marshall to my Ted, the Buffy to my Willow, the James to my Sirius, the Frodo to my Sam. In response she said something I’ll never forget.
It’s funny that you say I’m the Frodo to your Sam, because… I’ve always likened being the close friend of a depressed person to being the Sam in the relationship. You’re there to support them through a journey that they can’t go on alone and they’re carrying a burden that’s turning them into someone else.
I’m not naïve. I know that I’m a seriously, unbelievably difficult person to be around when I’m in the throes of a depressive episode. I get angry at everything, I cry constantly, I withdraw from everyone who loves me and the first time it happened to me I absolutely refused to talk about what’s wrong, because I had no idea what was wrong. I felt lost and alone and even when my best friend was sitting beside me, telling me that she loved me, I couldn’t feel it.
After Elspeth told me her thoughts about Sam and Frodo, I re-watched The Lord of the Rings movies from a completely different perspective. Very few members of the Fellowship really, truly understood how difficult Frodo’s life had become. Gandalf did, of course, and Bilbo, but not the others.
Not even Sam, not really. But Sam’s lack of understanding was transcended by his sheer devotion and capacity for love. Every character had a motive for joining the Fellowship: Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli wanted to destroy the ring for the good of the world. Boromir wanted power. Merry and Pippin wanted adventure.
Sam wanted to look after his best friend. I’m sure he loved the adventure (though it would probably pain him to admit it) and of course he supported the quest to destroy the Ring, but I honestly believe that all of his actions were to help Frodo first–everything else came in second.
The members of the Fellowship cared about Frodo, of course, but Sam was the only one who never lost focus. His job was to stand beside Frodo and give him strength. Sam never abandoned his best friend, even when Frodo was cruel. Even when he was angry and lashed out. Sam stood by him because he loved Frodo in the most selfless, unconditional way I have ever seen. In some ways, Sam is like Christ. After all, Christ is the only One who can love unconditionally. But some days the spiritual comfort God provides has to be combined with the physical comfort of a hug. And that’s where Sam came in. That’s where Elspeth came in. When she held me, I could feel God pouring His strength into my body.
Depression is a horrible burden and a long (often life-long) journey. But like Elspeth said–you can’t walk it alone. Even when you walk with God, it helps to have a sister (or brother) in Christ to walk beside you. It helps to have a Sam.
I have a Sam. Do you?