N is getting ready to have a special blessing in the next few days. Several months ago, he decided that he wanted it and that he was ready. This blessing is similar to the ones that Jacob gave to his sons. [You can read about these blessings in Genesis 48 and 49.] It is similar to a blessing of health or a father's blessing, but this type you receive only once from a specially-ordained patriarch with the priesthood. The blessing is recorded and you get a copy. Think of it as having your own personal guidance from God. It has been a wonderful few weeks as N has been thinking ahead and looking forward to this blessing.
Talking about the blessing has opened up a very productive discussion between us. N has been so cynical lately. He has been letting himself become defined by the discouragement and depression that he often experiences. He has been exploring some edginess and darkness that I have been concerned about. It's that part that could easily descend into drugs or alcohol if he let himself go.
Anyway, I mentioned that I thought he was letting his struggles define him. I talked about two different people with cancer - both experiencing horrible pain and trials. Yet each person still able to decide (even if in only small ways) how they will respond. I reminded him that he is not anorexia - he is not depression. Yes, these are real and painful illnesses that he has - but they don't have to define him. We contrasted that with this blessing that he is getting. This blessing is all about who N is and who he can become. It is about hope and looking forward to the future.
In midst of this conversation, I saw N's eyes open wide. It was amazing to see him realize that he could choose hope instead of despair. In fact, he even said, "but I've been doing this (despairing) for so long, I'm not sure I know how." It was a huge turning point. I could see a new enthusiasm about the future, which was so wonderful. We did remind him that hope doesn't eliminate trials or pain, but that it can change the way that you look at each day.
Now - to help him implement hope into his life instead of despair. I realize that change isn't easy and will be hard to conquer when depression is constantly trying to deprive him of any hope. He already prays regularly. I know that gives him peace and comfort. We're going to try a gratitude journal, where we list things we are thankful for every night. It won't solve the problems of the world, but I hope it can help him change the way he looks at things.