Samwise Gamgee has long been one of my favorite characters. A stalwart and faithful friend, he travels with and fights alongside Frodo to the end of all things and beyond. Throughout my journey of mental illness, I have grown to love this humble hero of Middle Earth more and more. His relationship with Frodo, and his compassion, support, and understanding for Frodo’s burden of carrying the ring are exemplary of the truest and deepest of friendships.
During the darkest times of my battle with depression, I felt like Frodo—drained, worn, too weak to press on under the crushing weight of my burden. Some people turned their backs on me, said and did hurtful things, and broke my trust. Yet in the midst of that darkness, I discovered that not every Samwise Gamgee is fictional. I found that some of my closest friends were truly there for me no matter what. I want to encourage you that despite all of the stigma still in the world, there is still goodness and hope. And my hope for each of you reading this is that you will not only find, but also be, a friend like Samwise Gamgee.
- The friend who will walk with you into Mordor. This friend does not abandon you after learning of your illness, but stands by you and fights alongside you no matter what. Although some “friendships” failed the test of learning my struggle, others only grew stronger. For these friendships, being genuine and carrying one another’s burdens brought us closer together.
Frodo: “I am going to Mordor.”
Sam: “I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”
- The friend who will carry you when you can no longer carry on. As Frodo and Sam near their destination of Mount Doom, the ring around Frodo’s neck becomes an increasingly heavy and terrible burden to bear. When Frodo collapses under its weight, Sam is there beside him with words that have stuck with me since I first read them, “Come, Mr. Frodo! I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.” Sam picks up Frodo, who no longer has the strength to fight forward, and carries him despite his own hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. This friend knows she cannot fight your depression for you, but is prepared to be there for you in real, tangible ways throughout the war, even to carry you when the fight is too much for you.
- The friend who stands beside you in your darkest hour. Frodo: “I’m glad you’re with me, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.” For me, these were the friends who walked me back to the dorm from the crisis counselor’s office at odd hours of the night, let me cry freely, bandaged my wounds, visited me in the hospital regularly, and did my accumulated weeks of laundry while I was in the hospital.
- The friend who reminds you of your reasons to fight. When everything seems dark and it is hard to hold on to hope and all of your reasons to keep going, this friend is there beside you, pointing to the light. At a point in my life when I could not see the value in myself, a friend told me how I had been a lighthouse to her through her storm. This recollection became a lighthouse for me, too, a beacon of hope in the darkness of depression.
Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”
Sam: “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
- The friend who reminds you of the beauty and good in the world that is waiting for you on the other side. Sam: “Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon, and the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields. And they’ll be eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?” Even when you can’t remember all the things that once brought you joy, this friend remembers and safeguards them for you, reminding you of them when you can no longer see them. She is there when the voice of depression tries to tell you there is nothing left for you and that the battle is not worth it, to give you hope.
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” ~Gandalf