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Navigating A World That Doesn’t Understand

“The intersection of racism and ableism is a high collision zone”- Ingrid Palmer

Ingrid Palmer’s life was filled with unexpected twists and turns. From a young age, she had to navigate a world that never seemed to understand her. Despite experiencing racism, ableism, and sexual abuse, Ingrid remained resilient and resourceful. But it wasn’t until she was 14 that she received a proper diagnosis for her rare visual condition, retinitis pigmentosa. This unexpected twist opened doors for Ingrid, allowing her to prove her naysayers wrong and discover her own strength. But as she faced new challenges and obstacles, Ingrid had to adapt and find new ways to cope. Her story is a powerful reminder that even in the face of adversity, there is always room for growth and resilience.

Discussed In this episode:

  • The importance of inclusion for people with disabilities.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
  • Resilience and adaptation as vital skills to effectively manage hardships and adapt to unexpected changes.
  • The complex relationship between ableism and racism to confront deep-rooted biases and promote inclusivity.
  • The roll of self-love and self-acceptance for maintaining a positive outlook in life.

Guest Spotlight: Ingrid Palmer

Podcast Guest Ingrid Palmer wearing a black sweater and orange print shirt with a big smile on her face.

Ingrid Palmer is an award-winning speaker, a diversity and inclusion consultant, and the founder and CEO of Focus On Ability – a campaign designed to encourage individuals to triumph over adversity, combat discrimination, and promote universal belonging. 

As a partially sighted sexual abuse survivor, and former foster kid; Ingrid uses storytelling to highlight traditionally unheard perspectives of social and systematic inequity within an intersectional lens.

Her stories bring the interests of voices pushed to the margins, back to the forefront and build community and connection between diverse groups. 

Connect with Ingrid Palmer and hear her award winning speech, Aman-Ishwoman

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Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Ingrid Palmer

I was so excited when I heard this week's guest accepted my invitation to be on the podcast. She's an award-winning speaker and storyteller. Her personal story is full of highs and lows and valuable insights on both that I feel like everyone needs to hear. In her words, she says that she's had to overcome adversity directly linked to the intersection of race.
Gender ability, socioeconomic status and perceived orientation. Her story does include sexual abuse living in the child welfare system. And a physical attack from a stranger. But she is a survivor in every sense of the word. Not dwelling on these stories, but growing from them and earning the title of her powerful award-winning speech. Verago a female warrior.
Please enjoy this week's episode and visit Andrea Hanson for more on Ingrid Palmer. Resources we talk about in the show and transcripts from today's episode. And you can find those links and more in this episode description.
[00:01:08] Andrea: Welcome to the Live Your Life, not Your Diagnosis podcast. I'm Andrea hanson, author, motivational speaker and master certified coach. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was told I would never reach my goals, but I did and I'm on a mission to prove that life with a chronic illness can still be expansive and quite remarkable.
Everyone has their own unique path. I'm talking to people living with a chronic illness that come from different backgrounds, have different points of view, and are achieving amazing life goals of all kinds to inspire you to achieve what you thought was impossible. These stories are raw, uncensored, and judgment free listener discretion is advised.
Hello, I'm here with Ingrid Palmer. She is an award-winning speaker, a diversity and inclusion consultant, and the founder and c e o of Focus On Ability, a campaign designed to encourage individuals to triumph over adversity, combat discrimination, and promote universal belonging. As a partially sighted sexual abuse survivor and former foster kid, Ingrid uses storytelling to highlight traditionally unheard perspectives of social and systemic inequity within intersectional lens.
Her stories bring the interests of voices pushed to the margins, back to the forefront, and build community and connection between diverse groups. Thank you so much for joining me, Ingrid.
[00:02:41] Ingrid: Such a pleasure to be here.
[00:02:43] Andrea: I am so excited to talk with you. I have been all over your website and looking at all of your speeches that you have online, and you are a fantastic storyteller.
I don't have to tell you because you're award-winning, but Oh my goodness.
[00:02:59] Ingrid: Thank you. You know, telling stories and reading stories has been like a lifelong. Passion of mine. I was a really avid reader as a kid. Like the teachers at school would call home and ask my mom to stop me from reading. Like that's how bad it was.
[00:03:15] Andrea: Oh my gosh. Stop you from reading.
[00:03:17] Ingrid: Yeah, because I would always have a book hidden and be doing that instead of whatever work I was supposed to be doing.
[00:03:24] Andrea: Oh my God. I mean, I'd see no problem with that, but
[00:03:29] Ingrid: yeah, when I tell people that, they're like, wow, that's such an odd request from a school. Stop your child from reading.
I was like, yeah, yeah.
[00:03:38] Andrea: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I remember my school had to like bribe us to read like, you'll get a, you'll get a sticker.
[00:03:46] Ingrid: Yeah. It was the total opposite with me. People were always trying to dig my nose out a book,
[00:03:51] Andrea: oh my gosh. Well, I am so excited. To talk to you about your story because it is so layered.
There's so many aspects to it, but I would say that the overarching theme of your story is resilience. As you say, you've been fighting systems and barriers your entire life, and it started when you were very, very young.
[00:04:16] Ingrid: Yeah. So as a child, I had no idea that my vision was different from everyone else's.
So I would constantly get asked, like, can you see? And I'd be like, yeah, because I could see, I just had no idea that I saw differently. And so I, I would. Walk into things a lot, really, rather large things and obvious things. And even when people would open the door for me to go through, like I'd walk into the door that they opened instead of going the doorway, or I'd walk into the wall when I had to come indoors from outdoors.
I could momentarily be, it wasn't like my vision went dark, but something happened to it and I wouldn't be able to see for a bit. And then dim lighting, like if you went into like the shade or something, that would be difficult for me. And you know, I'd be bumping my head. And finally in grade three, my grade three teacher really insisted that to my mom.
He was like, no, something's going on here. And she was like, no. She says, she could see, and all the other teachers said the same thing, but she says she could see. And he was the only one who was like, no, I don't care what she says. Something is off here. And so I did get glasses, but all the behavior continued and then it was like, oh fine.
You definitely are just seeking attention. You're just trying to be a clown and. Either that, or you just have your head up in the clouds all the time, pay attention to where you're going and what you're doing. And I kept trying to insist that it, it wasn't that at all. I and I, I couldn't explain it, but not being believed was really, really hard.
And then not having an explanation was even harder because I couldn't, I couldn't adequately defend myself. Cause I really literally had no explanation or answer as to why these things would happen. And. People would complain to my mom that I saw your daughter on the street, and she looked at me and didn't say hello.
And I'd be like, but I never saw them. And they'd be like, you looked right at me. What do you mean you didn't see me? So it was all those things. And I didn't get diagnosed until I was 14, so it was quite a long time that I had to kind of figure out my own way around these things because I literally was not believed for 14 years.
[00:06:32] Andrea: That's amazing. Especially as a kid, it's like you don't know what other people see. Right? A lot of times when people are born with disabilities, it's like you don't know that other people's minds aren't working this way, or other people's ears aren't like this or eyes aren't like this. You have no idea.
[00:06:47] Ingrid: That's it. Exactly. And so it would always amaze me that other people could navigate the landscape so smoothly and so well, I didn't, I was like, how? How are they doing this? And I remember sometimes I would like squeeze my eyes because I thought if I could just exercise these muscles, you know, maybe they're weaker or there's a so switch I need to turn on somewhere or something.
And because I just thought I wasn't using my eyes right. I didn't think that anything was wrong with my eyes. I literally thought. It's you. You're just not seeing, right. Like you're not doing seeing. Right.
[00:07:19] Andrea: Well, and when everybody else is telling you this, except for that one teacher, why wouldn't you believe them?
[00:07:24] Ingrid: Yeah. Yeah. And so I did have some adverse childhood experiences. I did experience childhood sexual abuse, which. Knowing the stats that we know now is not too surprising because many people with disabilities unfortunately, are also, you know, become victims of violence in a lot of ways, including sexual violence, physical violence.
And so I ended up in foster care when I was 13 years old, and the same attitudes followed me, oh, you're just pretending from foster home to foster home, and even my social worker. But eventually they took me to a specialist, and that was when I finally got that diagnosis.
[00:08:02] Andrea: I was watching you talk about a mindset that you had adapted of no excuses, no choices, and how that came from actually not having a diagnosis for so long.
[00:08:16] Ingrid: Yeah. Isn't that interesting? Because I didn't have any allowances made for me as a kid, right? I wasn't believed that I needed anything. Everything was considered to be behavioral. There wasn't any consideration that there could be a disability or something else causing this. It was me. It was me choosing to behave in certain ways.
And so, because I wasn't given any allowances, Or modifications on expectations like doing chores or going on errands or getting my schoolwork done. I had to find my own workarounds. I had to because the expectation was there, and then also because there were consequences for not getting it done. So I learned that mistakes I had to learn from them.
I had to figure out. So, you know, after getting in trouble for something, my mind would just be like, what went wrong? Did you reach too far? Okay, you bumped into something, so there's something on the left, so next time you gotta stick more to the right or, you know what I mean? Whatever it was, I'd have to analyze that and figure out what I was going to do next time.
Cause it was always going to be a next time. Mm-hmm. Cause the same expectation was there and you'd have to do it again. And you better not make that same mistake, right? And so I learned to figure things out because there wasn't any choice and there was always going to be a consequence. So there wasn't any choice but to figure things out and to try things.
And slowly you'd get better at certain things, but there was always another challenge. There was always something else. So it was just this constant having to learn to adapt. And one of the things I figured out was completely accidentally was that when I followed other people, It was easier for me to navigate the landscape because I would just look at what they did and then when I got to that spot, I'd do it too.
So if they went down that I knew, oh, there's a step or a ledge or something there, I've got to go down. At that point, if they turned a corner, and for some people this sounds ludicrous because you can see a step, but I, I couldn't tell. I didn't get it set yet. Yeah. But I couldn't tell that there were steps cause I didn't have depth perception.
So following behind other people and. Imitating their movements helped me. And so my attitude growing up was always, you gotta figure it out. Even through tears of frustration, of sadness, of feeling desolate, my mind would be like, what are you going to do differently next time? How are you going to figure this out?
And so for me, yeah, most of my life, there was no choice. You always had to figure things out and there was no asking for help. I wasn't allowed to ask for help, so that wasn't an option either. So being self-reliant was something that was just kind of built into me, not happily, but it was because I just didn't have those options available and my only option was to think of something new to try because I didn't want to have to feel endure.
The negative consequences of failure.
[00:11:13] Andrea: So you, in response to being in a system that was failing you, you created your own system?
[00:11:22] Ingrid: Yes. Absolutely. And, and that's what we all do. Yeah, we all do that. Cause you have a, a disability, like there's no perfect system out. They've never heard of one anywhere worldwide.
They all suck. They're all not built with us in mind. And it's something that we have to do in every aspect of our lives. Be creative. Figure things out or let it go. That's another thing that we've learned to do. Like if we can't do it certain times, we just have to say, forget it. It's not going to work. And either do something else or do without.
Or some other thing. So when the pandemic came along, I remember telling, you know, and people were calling me certain experts in fields, and I was saying, well, we're probably the best equipped for this time because not much has changed for us. This is what we live like daily. It's new for you and for all of you, welcome to our world.
We've been doing this forever and doing this all the time, having to pivot on a dime, not knowing what's going to come up next. So you know, when some aspect of our disability is going to flare up and just throw us a curve ball. Like we, we just don't know. Like we're living in this unsure reality all the time.
[00:12:34] Andrea: no, I mean, that's a really good point. That's a really good point. It's one thing that. Having a chronic illness, having a disability really helps us to have, is being able to think quickly, being able to be creative with our solutions. Like you said, pivot on a dime and create a new system that works for us.
Mm-hmm. It's something that, that unfortunately is kind of baked in, but I think it's, it's definitely a strength for us to have.
[00:13:01] Ingrid: It is. And even that letting go because sometimes we have no choice but just say, shit, this is not going to happen today. You know? And it's don't want it, but we've to know we're either going to.
Exhaust ourself with no point, or we can just call it and try again tomorrow maybe, or something. Mm-hmm. Right. So,
[00:13:21] Andrea: yeah. Yeah. No, I think that's really interesting and, and as I'm reading your story and seeing your story, I feel like this really played a role, especially since. You had mentioned at the time of getting your diagnosis for it was retinitis pigmentosa.
Is that right? Yes. Yes. What you were living with, you also entered the child foster system, and it sounds like you had to create your own system within that as well, because yet again, you were faced with unjust labels and a system that was not working for you.
[00:13:54] Ingrid: Yeah, absolutely. So I, you know, I had to create the system before I got into that, even at home, because it wasn't believed.
And then even within that system, there was no support. So when I went to SickKids Hospital to receive the diagnosis, I was sent alone. I was 14 years old. The foster parents refused to go. My social worker said he's too busy. So here I am at the hospital. The doctor is aghast. Because he knows what he's about to tell me.
I don't know. I'm just like, Hey, I'm here for my appointment. So he made me wait an extra hour and a half till the social worker from the hospital could sit with me. And then he explained to me that you have this rare disorder. And I was like, yeah. And I was like, I knew it. I knew I wasn't crazy. Like I actually felt happy because it took this blame that I.
You didn't belong to me off of me for real. And I just felt like I can't wait to shove this in everyone's faces who were always calling me names, saying I'm a liar. You know that I just want attention. And then, you know, he explained to me that I had tunnel vision. And so that was why I bumped into things and tripped over things.
Cause I literally didn't see them. When I said I didn't see it, I wasn't lying, I didn't. And he explained to me that my pupils don't dilate and constrict the same way in varying light like most pupils do. So when you go into dim lighting your, your eyes eventually adjust. Mine don't. Or they, you know, and so I'm not pretending when I'm in lighting or I move from shade to sunlight or at nighttime, I literally.
Could not see. And people always say, I can't see either. And I'm like, well you are not being able to see, you still navigate my not being able to see I'm standing still cause I can't go anywhere. So it's not the same. Yeah. And then he also explained to me that I lack, because of the severity of. The tunnel vision that it affected my depth perception.
So I couldn't see levels, everything. My world is extremely flat and that's why I'd walk into doors and not through the doorway, because I literally couldn't tell where the opening was. And I mean, I was a really young child then. So of course as I grew, your knowledge grows about your landscape and things. So I started to learn that.
No. There's an opening there, even if it doesn't look like it to me. You know what I mean? And I would learn that things on a table weren't embedded in the table. They literally were on top. But this is something that I had to teach myself mentally, because the way I saw it wasn't that way. A pen on a table looked like a design within the table.
So when I was sent to go get objects off tables, and I'd say I couldn't see it, and they'd say, but you're looking right at it. You liar. I was, but for me, it was literally in the table. It looked to me like some type of abstract design in the table. People sitting on couches. I didn't always recognize them as people because they were literally, In the couch, it looked like maybe layers of fabric that somebody had maybe thrown their laundry.
And then when they would move, I would freak because it would seem as if they were coming out of the furniture. Then people would get mad at me for being frightened at them and they would be thinking like I was insulting them, like, you know what I mean? Like they were, oh my God. But it wasn't that. It was literally that.
My reality was just so different from everyone else's, and I couldn't explain that. And people walking around, you would just pop into existence. I didn't see you coming. You'd just be there. And so I would be like this all the time. So, you know, people labeled me as weird and just dumb and crazy and I couldn't this, I didn't have the words at that time for what?
I was literally seeing and experiencing and not even understanding that this doesn't happen to everybody. Yeah. So it was just such a, a really difficult period. And then you're growing, you're a kid, you know, or you're going through adolescence and you have all those quote unquote normal stressors. And then on top of this, this rare disease that of course, presents in these weird ways.
So it was, it was definitely, growing up was definitely really tough emotionally for me on so many levels. Uh, being in care, surviving sexual violence, being in foster care, dealing with ableism, dealing with racism. Like it was, it was a lot and it was so layered and intertwined. And. It really affected me socially cause I just never knew what I was going to come up against and it was all so negative.
To this day, I don't know if I'm introverted because I am or because of what I experienced growing up. Right, right,
[00:18:19] Andrea: right. Yeah. I heard something that you said, which is the intersection of racism and ableism is a high collision zone.
[00:18:29] Ingrid: Wow. Absolutely is because you just get a double whammy like I did experience a a lot of racism growing up.
But it was also even within my community, because within my community and within a lot of communities like society in general, disability is you're looked on as less than, you're less valuable as a person. Nobody wants to be your friend. You're easy to throw off and dismiss and. No one's going to correct you because the adults are doing it themselves, you know, so they're certainly not going to correct the kids from doing it.
Or if they do, it's not really enforced. It's just like, oh, you shouldn't say that. But you know, it's not that big a deal. You know what I mean? And then if you're among persons with disabilities, Then you can feel racism there too. So the white kids with disabilities are going to get picked first or get the first things at something.
Like you're made to feel less than in certain ways, even if it's not verbalized. Like there's just certain actions that happen that tell you that you're still less than. So it, it kind of doesn't matter where you are, you're being subjected to some type of discrimination and it's really, really hard to always feel at the bottom of the barrel in every community or group.
There's something about you that's wrong. You know, if you're with the boys, you're a girl, you suck. You know, if you're, you know, with the disability community, it could be. Because of your race. If you're in your own community, well you're disabled, you know? And then the foster being in foster care on top of it, oh no, she's a foster kid, must be bad, must have done something wrong.
Why wouldn't her parent family want her? That was always the first thing people thought. They never imagined that you had suffered something wrong. It was that you must be a bad kid. Why doesn't your family want you? So it was always some reason to be excluded and to be stigmatized really hard.
[00:20:18] Andrea: Yeah, that must have been really, really hard.
I saw something that you did while you were in foster care, I thought was so, so smart. It's that you saw that the group home you were in was getting a new employee and you said like, oh, this is my chance. To me, it's like the perfect strategy of like, let's sit down with her and maybe help to get some of these labels off of you.
Explain yourself and kind of help her, help you with what you knew that you needed.
[00:20:48] Ingrid: You know, I told you that I've always been this incredibly voracious reader. Like I was seriously addicted to reading. And I really credit that with just gaining knowledge, right? Because you just learn everything in books.
Mm-hmm. And so when I was in grade eight and in foster care, I was actually assessed and assessed to be at a college level. So I was a little smart cookie, but I was always being downgraded because I had a disability, right? So always undervalued and stuff. So, That's my only explanation of how I came up with this, because I have no idea.
But yes, there was a new staff coming and I lived in this group home and the staff were always trying to figure out what to do with anger. They considered me to be a little smart ass, you know, always had something to say cause I was always pushing back. Because the things that adults would tell kids, I'd be like, you know, that's dumb.
Yes and no. And I'd say, you know, I'd call them on it. And they didn't like that because most of the kids would be quiet. You know what I mean? Or they'd take it because, but I, I, you know, I would always have something to say and, and I'd challenged them. And so they always had these meetings about what to do with Ingrid.
And when new staff came on or volunteers or students, they would always counsel them that what they had to do was to be hard, that everybody had to do it as a group, right? Nobody be kind and soft, angered, no. What she needs is tough love, tough punishment, no allowances, blah, blah, blah, which never worked.
And so this new staff was starting and the staff who was on duty that day was running late and she said she had to run in the shower. And she said to me, Ingrid, will you answer the door and let her in? And I said, sure. She came and I let her in and I, and I made her tea and we sat in the office and I don't know, it just came to me that, oh my God, I have a golden opportunity here.
She hasn't been tainted yet. They haven't had the opportunity to tell her what to do, but I can. Because I used to try to tell the staff, you know, if you want me to comply, I could actually tell you how to do it. And they would just dismiss me and say I was being impertinent and insolent. So I said to her, I said, you know what?
You're going to hear so much stuff about me and they're all bad and they're true, but you and I could have a different relationship that maybe I won't swear and curse at you all the time and act up and refuse to do what you tell me to do. If you just do these things. I said one when I'm really upset, I just need some space.
I might walk off a bit, but I swear I'm not going to take off. I'm visually impaired, like I'm not running anywhere. Seriously. I could just, I'm just going to move off a bit and I need time to calm down and then you can come and talk to me. If you want me to do something, don't use the words, have to or must, or anything like that.
When I hear those words, I'm not doing it. Mm-hmm. I'm seriously not doing it. But if you just asked me to do it nicely, I will. But people were always ordering me to do things, and I felt like compliance was what got me molested, right? Mm-hmm. So I had determined that I would no longer just simply be compliant.
So that was really why I rebelled, and I was trying to explain that to them, but they wouldn't listen. So I told this new staff that, and I had no idea she was going to actually listen to me or she was just going to blow me off like everybody else did. But she did. She actually really, and I don't know why, but she, she really took into account what I said, and I'm positive that she was given the same rundown of what to do with Ingrid.
But she chose to give my solutions a try and they work. And because she actually did that, I trusted her and because I trusted her, I allowed her to help me. And sometimes service providers get surprised when I said I allowed. I said, yes. Guess what? Somebody who needs your help doesn't have to actually let you help them.
We can resist, we can refuse. And we do. You know, so when you build trust, and because she did that, I listened to advice she gave me, and I learned how to advocate differently. Because of her, I learned that I didn't have to yell and scream and cuss all the time. And use dirty words through stuff because that's how I, I just wanted to defend myself.
But she was able to show me that I could stand up for myself without using that language and still be strong and still take care of myself. And so that was where I started to develop the ability to advocate for my myself, where I actually got what I wanted. Because before that all, I never got what I wanted.
All I got was grounded in trouble, consequence, suspended from school. But after that, I started seeing, oh my God, I got what I wanted and I didn't get in trouble, and I stood up for myself. So it was my language, it was my approach. But before I couldn't hear that because I wasn't being respected or valued.
And a lot of times, Adults think, well, I don't have to respect a kid. The kid always has to respect me first. Mm-hmm. And you know, and that's not true. And especially when you're coming from trauma, it's really important to build that relationship before you decide that you're going to save somebody. Cause somebody has to let you save them.
Yeah. You know? So, yeah, that was a really pivotal time in my life. And she was a special person, Lynn Levine. Yeah.
[00:25:52] Andrea: I think you're right. I think you have to let people help you. You can't help somebody who doesn't want to be helped.
[00:25:58] Ingrid: Yep. Yeah. And you have to build that relationship. You have to build some type of connection first.
But sometimes people just expect, you need my help, I can do it. You should just let this happen. And it's like, no, no. Yeah. You know, because people use our needs against us as well, and that's what sometimes people don't understand. Like people take advantage of our vulnerability. There's a lot of predators out there.
And even if you're not a predator, a lot of people have this attitude that we should just be grateful for any scrap they throw our way because we need it. And so we're made to feel less than because we need help. And so it's really important your approach and building that relationship and that trust with somebody that you actually genuinely want to help.
[00:26:44] Andrea: And I think it goes double, triple for when you want to help a child.
[00:26:48] Ingrid: Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:26:51] Andrea: So is this where in creating these systems for yourself and seeing that they work and trying them in different areas, is this where you developed a passion of like, Hey, I want to do this or for the rest of my life, like, is this what you went to school for when you went to college?
[00:27:07] Ingrid: I did not. And the funny thing was like in the group home I would. Help other kids a lot and try to build up their resilience and teach them about what their rights were and what you didn't have to. The staff would get so upset with me because I would undermine them, because I would empower the kids.
But when I went to school, I think I, I did so much of that in my youth and needed that so much that even though people were like, oh, you should get into social work, and I was like, hell no. I want to get away from this. I do not want to do any type of social work, any type of thing like this, which is so funny because it's exactly what I'm doing.
But I resisted that for so long because, I just wanted a totally different life than what I'd been experiencing. If you can understand that. Like I, I wanted something that was totally different and exotic. I wanted to travel, I wanted to work for the United Nations. I studied four languages in school, like, so I didn't want to work with anything.
Sad, you know, but I was destined for this life and my passion is completely in it. And even though I tried to get away from it, like nothing in my education, I took travel and tourism, hospitality. I studied French, Italian, Spanish, and German. You know, like there was nothing in my studies. I didn't take social work.
Not one, not one, not one at all. But all my work experience has to do with working with people finally enough, and so I was destined for this life anyways. Yeah.
[00:28:42] Andrea: Yeah. I mean, even when you're looking at it from the hospitality and multiple languages, it still has that common theme of service and inclusion.
[00:28:51] Ingrid: Yes. Yes, yes, and, and, and funny, when I graduated from university and I faced that wall of ableism and was un unable to become employed, nobody would, would touch me at all. They just only saw liability risk, and were really concerned about me getting injured on the job and suing them. That was it, and it didn't matter.
My academic achievements like. The able attitudes, uh, my achievements could not overcome that in any sense of the word. And so I was unemployed for like 10, well actually for 20 years, but 10, 12 years into it. Then I was able, because of this amazing principal to start volunteering and in the school system, cause I'd always wanted to be a part of school council.
But whenever any other principal had ask me and I would say, you know, it's really hard for me to get to the school at night because it's dark. Cause I still had usable vision, but my children were young. My husband didn't have set hours, so I couldn't count on him to be home, to be able to take me. And I, I couldn't expect my children to lead me in the dark.
That was very uncomfortable. So I'd always say, I can't come to school counsel. And most the principals just like, oh, I'm sorry. That's so sad. And you know, that was it. So when this new principal asked, I just expected the same, oh, that's so sad. And they'd move on. But instead she was like, oh, I'll give you taxi chips then so that you can take a cab back and forth.
And I swear, I literally said to her, what did you just say? I was shocked. Literally because nobody had ever, ever suggested helping me at all. And I'd always wondered, I always thought like, why can't, maybe they facilitate another parent, you know? Because I couldn't ask. I just couldn't have it in me to ask somebody else to do that for me.
But I thought a principal could facilitate that. But nobody ever tried to make a bridge for me. But this principal did. And because of that, I actually ended up being nominated to be school council chair. I made this really impassioned speech, how it had always been my dream and the days of watching Harper Valley PTA as a kid.
And so, I don't know, they guess they felt. They're like, wow, she really wants this. So they nominated me and then when I got it, I was like, holy shit, how am I going to do this? Like, you can't even see, well, you know, but I ended up having this really small team, two or three parents who were like, oh my God, I love them to this.
They, they helped me. Whatever I envisioned, they helped me make it real, you know what I mean? And I did face a blows, but I had other parents who were laughing at posters I put up cause they were crooked, you know, and these little insignificant stupid things that they would mock and make fun of me of.
But I kept going. I made sure that every kid in a congregated classroom, all the kids with disabilities participated in everything I did for that two years. And the teachers and everybody said it was the first time it ever happened. I made sure that they were involved in everything Play day. I would get messages from the teachers, how, you know, parents were crying because it was the first time that certain things had happened and it just felt great and it lit this fire.
I felt so good. I was doing things, I was participating in serving others in the community and just doing things that were outside of me. And once I, that fire was lit, I couldn't stop. And I just kept volunteering in more and more and more and more stuff, and I was always dreaming of employment, but I always knew that even if I never got a paid job, that I would never stop serving because I, I realized that I needed it.
It wasn't just about being needed. I needed it. I needed to be doing stuff and to be a part of things that weren't just about me and not just about my family, but were about the larger community and society. So yeah, I'm deeply, deeply passionate about it.
[00:32:37] Andrea: Yeah. And to that point, something that I think a lot of us can have a problem with, and it's something that you have come to, I think through a very transformative moment, come to that realization of, I can't care what society thinks of me.
I do give a damn, but I can't give a damn about what they think of me. How is it, cause I know there's a lot of people listening. How is it that. You came to that and what are some steps that other people can take?
[00:33:09] Ingrid: Another component of my experience that we're just going to get into now is that when I was 16, I was further diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a, a condition that has to do with hormonal imbalance, right?
So the estrogen, the progesterone, and, and every woman, we have a little bit of test testosterone. That's what gives us our libido, right? But for me, the testosterone was too high, it overpowered. Both the estrogen and the progesterone. So I didn't menstruate and I also, you know, as a side effect, developed a condition called hersitism which is excessive hair growth on a woman.
And so I, I did start to grow a beard. I, I can grow a beard. I do, I, I shave, I choose to shave it. And then at that time I was, I was still young when this started, right? And I didn't know how to shave. I was in a group home. I didn't, you didn't have family and that care to help you figure things out. So any man listening will know the horror of this.
I used the same razor for like three or four days. I shaved in every single direction. Like, oh my God, my face was so inflamed. I had razor bumps, ingrown hairs. This really incredibly. Dark five o'clock shadow. Cause I just have that skin. You know how, just like you know men, some men have a shadow, some don't.
Mm-hmm. Right? And so I was a person who had a shadow and because of the poor technique of shaving, it was even more intensified. Like you could tell that I grew a beard even though I shaved it, right? And so because I was perceived now as being trans, I just added to the layers of oppression and stigma that I faced and.
The homophobia was like unreal. It was so incredibly violent. We're talking about late eighties, nineties especially. Those were really, really hard years. Going outside at all was just hell for me. So when I got dressed every day and put my clothes on, I actually also had to prepare myself mentally. I had to put this kind of armor over myself because I never knew what I was going to face.
People would call me names, they would jer at me, they would spit at me. I was surrounded by men on many occasions, threatening to beat me up. People wouldn't sit beside me. People would refuse me service or just fling things at me because they don't have to be nice about it, right? Cause of what they thought of me.
So this just added to the level of, of stuff that I faced and I was actually physically assaulted in a very public place in the daytime. And this person decided that he was going to grab me by my private area, very brutally. And he twisted and he squeezed. Like it was really harsh. And I know he thought he was going to be grabbing balls and penis, right?
And we, and I know that if this happened to a guy, he wouldn't have recovered as quickly as I did. I did go to the ground like it, it was bad. It hurt a lot, and I was in a lot of pain. But I also know that a man would've still been on the ground. I got up swearing. I was really embarrassed. Nobody came to my aid.
They all just stared at me blankly, like, who cares? You deserve it. You know what I mean? And it was a very pivotal moment for me. And I tell this in the speech that I have like online, I'll be honest. Like it happened instantly in that moment. Now I had like five minutes to give this speech, so I had to cut out a lot of stuff.
Sure. And
[00:36:24] Andrea: there will be, honestly, there will be a link to the speech so people can
[00:36:27] Ingrid: go and, yeah. I'll be totally honest that it did not happen exactly in that moment like that. It took time. Yeah. But it was a moment that caused me to reflect and to say that because I wa I was desperate for social approval.
I've been ex experience so much exclusion all the time. I wasn't invited anywhere. I didn't have a lot of friends. I just lived vicariously through books and media on what it was like to have friends and you know, and hang out and go here and there and have people care about you and have this group that you could count on.
I didn't have that, and so a part of me to get through my life, I had to suppress my emotions and be this wall and just press through everything, you know? And especially because I had a child.. But there was this other part of me that was so desperate for inclusion, so desperate to just be accepted. And that day after that, that just really showed me that girl.
You gotta stop looking outside for this love that you want. And it didn't just come from like having the beard, it came from everything. The sexual abuse, the being in the foster care, having the disability, and being excluded. It came from so many areas, but I learned that I had to learn to love myself. I had never loved myself.
I tried to protect myself, but it wasn't from love. It was kind of to not continue to be hurt. And so I, I knew that I had to, I had to love me. I had to set the standard for how I was going to be treated and stop waiting for somebody else to love me and for somebody else to like set these things in place. I realized that it had to come from me.
And that I had to refuse to accept treatment that I didn't deserve and stop putting up with things and silence and just to do things a different way. Cause I was battling, I would yell and scream at people, but I, I really learned that it had to come from a different way and a place of love. And that my inclusion actually began with myself.
That when I was willing to accept myself, how I was and everything that made me, me, which included being a woman who had a beard. That included that part too.. That, you know, I was going to find my tribe that I was going to find those people that loved me when I loved me, and that's what came about. And so I would really impress that to everyone else.
And trust me, I'm not saying this from a place of, oh, it's so easy. I know it can be very and incredibly difficult and incredibly lonely, but what I have learned. Is that when we love ourselves first and set that standard that we magnetize towards us other people who will too and when we don't, and it's not hidden because it's deep inside us, like we're sending that energy out as well.
And I really believe that we attract what we're putting out as well so I'm telling you, love yourself. Give the finger to the world. And be you authentically 100%. And you will find those people who love you as you are. And those are the people that you want. And you'll accept them too. because when we accept ourselves, we accept other people, right?
Because I used to reject people who wanted to be friends with me. Why? Because I was judging them like how I was being judged. Cause I wanted to be part with the cool kids. You know what I mean? Was the dream. But no, like when you start love and accepting yourself, you'll also love and accept others.
[00:39:54] Andrea: Love yourself and give the finger to the world. I think that's amazing words to live by, and I think you're right. It's not super easy. It's not that any of us are saying that it's a super easy thing to do, but sometimes it can be so necess and, and I think it's necessary, but it can also be done with love.
If possible, you can lovingly give the finger to the world and say, screw you. I don't need to take into account what you think of me, because it all starts with my own l self-love, my own inclusion and my own belonging.
[00:40:29] Ingrid: Absolutely. Absolutely. And yeah, you can say F you with a smile.
[00:40:34] Andrea: Yeah, I mean, that's how you should say it.
I feel like that gives it the most oomph is when you say it with a smile. So something you say is that it's necessary for people to be intentional to make the changes that they want to see instead of looking for those changes to just happen on their own. What do you mean by that? Yeah, how can you be intentional?
[00:41:01] Ingrid: By really thinking beyond the surface level of things. I find that a lot of people mix up kindness with inclusion. Like they think just because you're kind to someone that that's inclusion and that's the end of it. And I'm like, no, that's the beginning and I don't want to stop anyone from being kind. I love it when people, I'm on my own and people help me.
They open the door. They'll help me get to a table. They'll help me get food, you know, if I'm at an event. But I've been to places where people do that, and then all the conversation swirls around me. It's like they're done now. They're nice and it's like it's gotta go beyond that. How about ensuring that someone's part of the conversation?
In my case, that would include maybe describing what's going on or what I could be those visual cues that are important that I could be missing. If someone's showing pictures around or something on their phone. What is it? Somebody did something that made everybody laugh or that was quirky? What did they do?
Asking me a, a question pointedly to bring me into the conversation. There are ways that you can ensure inclusion and kindness is a part of it, but it doesn't just end there. And I find too many people end at the kindness part and we've got to go a bit deeper than saying hi and. Hey, come and sit with us.
But then you don't do anything. You know, you've brought the person to the table, but you haven't brought them in to the relationship with everyone else there. And that takes incredible intention. It takes you paying attention to what you can do, how you can help to bring them in, like little efforts you can do.
To just clear that way for somebody and for everyone, it'll look a bit differently depending on what your needs, right? Like mine can be really particular around things that you see because there's so many visual cues that are important to communication that I miss and that affect how I interpret what's going on.
I've been on the completely wrong track because I've missed something visually, right? So that's where the intention comes in and, and also just looking for how you build capacity. And people too, especially in the workplace. I find that people with disabilities are sometimes regulated to certain jobs because people are looking at their disability and not looking at what their capacity is.
And that takes intention and it takes intention to ensure that things are accessible and places are accessible, and that when you're having a get together, a gathering where you're going out, can everybody come? Can everybody enjoy themselves in that environment? And I mean, we can't cater to everybody all the time, but are you ensuring that people are included A lot of the times?
I don't want to just say some of the times cause that could equal only once or twice, but can you do your best majority of the time? I mean, we should do our best all the time. You know what I mean? Like we're not perfect beings and everything is not perfect and none of us are going to be necessarily included in everything a hundred percent of the time, but it should be.
Very close to the top right? Mm-hmm. And we should do our best to aim, at least be aiming for that and not like it's not happening because we're not even really trying that hard. So we've got to have that intention there, and that takes conscious thinking. Planning consideration, asking questions, learning from what went wrong or what you forgot last time.
because like I said, we're not perfect. We don't get it all right all the time, and we drop balls and that's okay. But how can you ensure next time that they're not? Could it be getting more help, having more eyes on something, asking more questions? Mm-hmm. That's where the intention comes in. It's really important that it be there.
But it's also, on the other hand, important because intention is a word that we use a lot, and too many words become buzzwords. But when people talk about, but that's not what I intended. Well, hmm. Results are more important than intention in that case. Yeah. You know, like how, what was the impact? What was the outcome?
And like, it's great that you intended to do A, B, C, but if what ended up happening. Was the total opposite, then you have to own that as well, right? And that, that, I don't want people to be afraid of trying something because you'll make mistakes. It's not that we won't make mistakes or drop balls, it's how are we going to go forward afterwards?
Are you just going to be like, oh, well, or are you going to say, Hm, how are we going to ensure that this doesn't happen again?
[00:45:24] Andrea: Yeah, and I'm always a big fan, obviously, of asking questions and don't be afraid to communicate with people and ask questions. How can I help you? How can I make this best for you? So you feel included and you feel yes, like you're yes, among the conversation and the crowd and whatever's going on.
[00:45:45] Ingrid: But also to be aware, because sometimes people don't know. Mm-hmm. Sometimes we can ask a person what, sometimes people ask me, well, what will you need? And I'm like, I don't know. I'm like, we'll figure it out as we go along because I can't necessarily think of something. So to be aware too, like you are absolutely right that you need to ask questions and give that opportunity.
But to be okay if, if you don't get all the answers, because I don't like it when people don't want to do anything because they don't have it all perfect or they feel like they don't have all the answers because then we get stuck never doing anything and that drives me crazy. Do something and learn from the fallout.
And I'm not saying be careless with that. Like I'm not saying, you know, cause that'll come back on me again, I'm not saying be careless, but I am saying that we have to try things and learn it, and we also have to give people that space and that love to be able to make mistakes too, right? Mm-hmm. We don't have to.
Jump on everybody for everything that doesn't go right, and the way that my accessibility wasn't a hundred percent met. If that's on a continuous basis, I can understand that. But when we're trying to improve, we're not going to get it right all the time either. It's important to give the feedback on what was missed, but also to give the allowance to improve and to try again.
To try again. Yeah. I
[00:47:00] Andrea: love that the allowance to improve and to me this just sounds like a beautiful, you know, I mean I think connection with another human is one of our basic needs, right? As humans, I think it's a really beautiful thing. And this sounds like a great chance to connect with somebody because you're not saying, solve this for me so I can make sure everything's correct.
You're saying, Hey, Let's do this together. Let's do a trial and error. Let's give feedback. Let's both be okay with maybe having it not work out so much, and let's communicate and talk about how mm-hmm. How we can improve next time. It's, it's just such a beautiful way to connect with somebody.
[00:47:37] Ingrid: Yeah. And if it can't be me, if I don't have the energy or capacity, involve other people from the community.
Do your research. There's so much available now. Look it up. Read, have discussions. Say, Hey, I researched this and it says this and this. Do you agree with this? Like, do you think that this will work? But don't put that load on the community for sure, for sure. But it, it, we have to work together still.
[00:48:05] Andrea: I think it's a really good reminder and I think it's giving people permission, I think, which can take a weight off. Just in general, giving people permission of saying like, Hey, you can look at your resources. You can try things. You can figure things out on your own. You can communicate. It's an open dialogue.
[00:48:22] Ingrid: Absolutely. It's got be, it's got to be ongoing, it's got to be fluid. Things change. So we've always got to be willing, and actually we should be intentional about revisiting. Is this still working? How is it working? What could be changed? Tweaked. We've got to check in on the pulse of things because things change and what was working before can not be working so good anymore because of certain other conditions.
[00:48:51] Andrea: Yeah, and like we talked about before, it's you can't be afraid to pivot. You can't be afraid to think on your feet. You can't be afraid to be creative in your solutions or finding your solutions. Yeah. I think it's an interesting thing of this is how people with disabilities have grown up in navigating this world and hey, you know what?
When you're including people with disabilities, you can adapt those same things.
[00:49:14] Ingrid: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:49:16] Andrea: Well, Ingrid, I could talk to you for hours. I think this is amazing, but I don't want to monopolize your entire night as much as I want to. This has been fantastic. I'm going to have links to everything people can link to your website where that amazing award-winning speech is that we talked about earlier.
And if people want to connect with you or find you, how can they
[00:49:39] Ingrid: do it? Absolutely by that same website, which you're going to provide the link to, I'm on Facebook and LinkedIn under Ingrid Palmer, so you can definitely reach out that way. Fantastic.
[00:49:50] Andrea: Thank you so much for coming on and speaking to all of us.
[00:49:55] Ingrid: Thank you for having me. It's been a great, great conversation. Delightful to talk to you.
[00:50:00] Andrea: If you like the show, don't be shy. Please give us a five star rating and review. Follow us on Apple Podcast, Amazon music, or wherever you're listening right now to see complete show notes and resources mentioned in this episode.
Visit Andrea Hanson Thank you for joining me and until next time, take care.

About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.

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