Having been disabled from a car accident for sixteen years both mentally and physically, I feel that going to Alternatives 2001 was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I was house bound for months and years, not out in the real world, so to speak, alone completely, due to mental illness.  I feel like after years of therapy I have tools to move forward.  Going to Alternatives 2001 and all the help I received from Computer Connection is putting the puzzle together.  Both have inspired me to go to a higher level somewhere in the direction of my old self.  I wanted to go back to work and pick up where I left off sixteen years ago before I lost everything from a teenager running a stop light and totaling me out.  From January l, l985 until now my support was Almighty God, my unshakable family who always was there for me, no questions asked, Susie Petis, Specialized Physical Therapy, who fixed my body and is the sole reason I survived physically, Southcentral Counseling, who treated me for fourteen years, never let me think I would not survive this and Dr. Hunt, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic.  I still count on them for my continuous recovery and know they will be there for me.  That is the most important thing to me since everything else in my life disappeared.  Each has shown me and told me “you will survive this Karen, this you can do.  I believed them then and now.  It’s impossible to go back but I am starting a powerful time in my life due to this trip I want to live each day not crying or feeling hurt but I want to help others and myself to be healthy both in body and soul.  I am working on a computer for the first time.  Nine months ago I would have never considered it.  I’m asking to learn more new things, going to conferences, classes, meetings, and volunteering. I would like to be a role model to someone before I die.  The big thing at the conference was “STIGMA” A scar left by a hot iron, a “brand”.  A Mark of Shame or discredit, a scar or brand left by a hot iron on the face of a evildoer, misconception, internal/external, lack of education, stereotype, ignorance, weapon, not relating to a person’s problem, hatred, defect/genocide, a crutch, hurt, less than, anger, prejudice, misunderstanding, label, sign, generalization, label. Generalization, negative, exploitation, limiting, exclusionary, BAD, sad, violated, disempowering, picked on, mad, victim, unconscious label, accepted human nature and uncontrolled thinking.  These were some of the names consumers said were attached to being mentally ill.  How does it make me feel as a consumer?  Unintentional, offended, insulted, trapped, demoralized, degraded, humiliated, pigeon holed, indicative, frustrated, and malicious.  Consumers want to get rid of the stigmatism attached to them, like a scar across their faces for life.  They feel they have to carry this with them, it’s in concrete and even if they change or try to change it, it will still be theirs...  We are on the grassroots foundation of big changes for consumers; they (I) have had enough.  Who made it a permanent brand for us?  So help change this!  We want to be counted as a valuable person in the real world and intend to!


I went to talk to Mr. Rogers, President/CEO of Mental Health Association of Southeastern, PA, Philadelphia on getting information on having one of the ten consumer run organizations the government is giving six million dollars to fund.  I spent almost six hours at his two classes and we waited up until 10PM for him to talk more about it but he didn’t show up.  I was on a nation-wide conference and decided he was the man to see.  I would like to see the computer Connection get that money open up a second organization and get the ball rolling for Computer Connections all over Alaska.  I feel we can set the pace for all the other states to follow since we already have a successful one going for Alaska consumers.  It is totally run by consumers and offers everything to set the pace.  Computers, training, classes, clubhouse, thrift store, support always, help with all the needs of the consumer and even bus tokens.  The big picture is a bigger one with a coffee shop, consumers have proven to be huge coffee drinkers and will get a cup of coffee, settle down and relax, which is sometimes the only time they can take a time out.  Put in a shower, washer and dryers so they can have clean clothes, solarium for a quiet moment of meditation, TV, cable, reading room maybe a medical place for temporary help in case of an accident or some legal help immediately.  Consumers need legal counseling now because they have no one to turn to when problems arise and believe me if they don’t get help right away the problem gets worse quickly. Without legal help, a consumer could get stopped by police, go into a anxiety attach, not be able to speak about what is wrong properly, get arrested if they get extremely upset and act what appears to be violent when in fact only an stress related problem,  Go to court, talk to a lawyer maybe only five minutes, still  unable to talk about what happen due to their illness, then of course lose the case, go to jail, and the worst part is now they have a police record which cannot be reversed.  So the next time something happens they have a police record and the next step of jail takes place and on and on.  So please give the consumers legal help now.  These connections all over Alaska could save money all the way around for everyone.  Consumers talked to me from all over the United States and these problems are with them as well as with Alaska.  They have no place to go to for help  Please support --------------------bill in the senate now and try to get Alaska this money.  When I asked Mr Rogers what was the best way to get this money he said”Well Alaska you have one of the most powerful Senators in the United States,ask him and he can get it for you.  Of course he is referring to Senator Ted Stevens and I am  doing just that.  Please ask him too.  Mr. Rogers would like to have all of these in his name, but we already have a completely consumer run organization right here so please let Computer Connection use there foundation to jump start this grass roots project.  It’s a vision I personally would like very much to fly and cover all of Alaska and tell everyone else, this is how it’s done and you       can do it too.  I attended “Cross Cultural Leadership Training for Alaskans with Mental Illness Moving from Your head to your heart. This presentation will describe NAMI Alaska’s project leadership training to Alaskan Adults with mental illness.  It will highlight the project’s special focus on Alaska Natives, its success in three geographically and culturally diverse regions of the state and the lesson in human compassion that emerged.  My family cane to Alaska in 1935, my brother, sister and myself all born in Anchorage and live here now and as an Alaskan was extremely proud of our exhibit.  Augusta M. Reimer M.D.H Project Coordinator, NAMI  Alaska, Anchorage was informative, colorful, heart warming, sincere, funny, historical, factual, presented slides of old Alaska and her family and had a beautiful elegant native outfit on, complete with jewelry. I was delighted to listen to her. She took great pride in herself, Alaska and her presentation.  At other meetings I was shocked at all the information available for taking your life into your own hands and how to do it.  Having only been able to get myself out of the house so to speak, I am new to this.  Eight Months is all I feel that I have had out in the real world, I have found between Computer Connection and Alternatives 2001, I have been inspired by people here and there to constantly stay on track, don’t burn out, pace myself, don’t be so hard on myself, everything will come to me at its own pace and if it doesn’t God has a better plan for me.  I believe all non-profit organizations need to work together and unite if consumers are going to get the very best treatment possible in this state which constantly has to struggle to get things.  This is the case that seems to appear everywhere.  I am a consumer to and will be the rest of my life and am through apologizing for it. Part of the STIGMATISM that has to go at Alternatives 2001, I think it was unanimous feeling, Get rid of the name and replace it with something that fits the consumer of 2001.  I see people everyday ready to explode and say they need to be on Prozac and need counseling but the stigma is not on them.  Why?  I always wanted to empower women but now feel I want to be a leader in a small or big way for consumers and anyone who crosses my path.  Be productive, creative, educated, respected and most of all, to someone and not taking up dead space.  My goals, dreams, fantasies are now something I see happening and not just a passing through before wanting to die.  My past six months have blended together so I cannot give credit to any one thing. But it’s an amazing miracle that God has put before me on this earth by blessing all the wonderful people that have come into my life.  I will be attending a Workforce Investment Act Conference, Oct 2, 3, 4, another step for me to recover.  Alternatives 2001 made my road so much clearer. It was like college on the highest level.  The people were disabled in every way possible but managed to talk to me and tell me their stories.  The courage was electric.  Consumers are ready to get their lives together and be accounted for.  The movement has started for consumers to be leaders and not followers. My goals are clear, even if I have a step backwards two or ten more times.  I am a powerful force and I don’t intend to give up my power any more.  My support system is in tact so I can only move forward and hopefully take consumers with me.  They are ready and so am I.  I was proud and honored that the Computer Connection and the State of Alaska sent me to Alternatives 2001 in PA. To represent them in this magnificent conference of mentally ill people trying to be healthy Americans.  I tried to represent Alaska and the Computer Connection with pride, confidence and dignity the entire time.  I thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime and I hope I did not let you down. My new goals are to completely try to get healthy, do something new every day, stay active and involved, strive to a greater level of life, continuously keep myself focused on the rest of my life being a adventure of learning, accepting myself as valuable, be a role model especially to women because they seem to have a hard time as being worth what they truly are worth and getting computer connections all over Alaska.  I want to help consumers and anyone else learn from my tragedy.  They too can rise out of the ashes and become exactly what they want.  I can be an example of a person who lost sixteen years and is still moving upward and onward. I have always said “You can’t drown if you’re meant to be shot.  So just go out and do it.  For years that were hard to do because of depression but now I have taken off all the limits for myself. Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity, I had a wonderful time and all the delegates represented Alaska in a powerful way. 


Karen Sue Hodge