Ep. 143 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. Today we are talking about the power of music to stay sober and to treat and heal addictions. My guest today is Tim Ringgold, a board certified music therapist and author of Sonic Recovery: Harness the Power of Music to Stay S.O.B.E.R. In addition to his practice, Tim is an award winning international speaker, columnist, podcast host and former regional president of the American Music Therapy Association. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music.

Tim Ringgold: [00:00:37] Thanks for having me. Mindy It’s great to be here.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:40] Well, Tim, you bring to the table not only your clinical experience and expertise but a recovery journey of your own. Can you share a little bit of your story with us?

Tim Ringgold: [00:00:50] It’s true, Yeah. Yeah. I gosh, there’s a you know, there’s a lot to share there. So let me think about how to keep it concise. Let’s just say that, you know, addiction is not theory for me. I’ve struggled with substances and behaviors. Going back to college is where I really can point to, you know, medicating and managing emotional regulation with alcohol and with sex and with video games. And I tell this story I don’t tell very often is that wing commander to Revenge of the Kill Ruthy video game got me on academic probation and Sega Genesis golf got me kicked out of college really because I liked the me in the game better than the ME in reality. Hmm. Wow. And so I just spent more and more time there because I could achieve a level of success and control inside the video games where my real life was spiraling out of control. So I had a knee injury. I was a very accomplished rugby player and had played internationally and was considering a career internationally, had been scouted, had played in Europe, had a knee injury and didn’t know how to deal with that. My parents were going through a breakup, didn’t know how to deal with that. My girlfriend graduated, my band broke up and this all happened over the same summer. And so I just didn’t know how to deal with all of the chaos that life can throw your way, because some of us like a certain amount of uncertainty. But that was too much uncertainty for me. So, you know, Tony Robbins talks about the six human needs, and two of them or four of them live in opposition of each other, and two of them are humans have a need for certainty, but humans also have a need for uncertainty.

Tim Ringgold: [00:02:45] And each human has like a different ratio of that. And so I spiraled into this massive chaos of uncertainty and I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I reached for anything that would come my nervous system down. Give me a sense of control, a sense of ability to predict. And that was that was my first journey. And then I recognized I had a problem with alcohol and I actually withdrew from college, came home and quit drinking cold turkey as I picked up the bong and and the pipe and started smoking weed chronically. But I was so proud of myself, Mindy, because I had quit drinking cold turkey. I had turned a corner. And then, you know, I’m filling my lungs later that evening, robbing Peter to pay Paul. And and then in terms of the different behaviors, like it’s it really the behaviors and the substances that people reach for when they are struggling with physical, emotional, social or spiritual pain are really not important because it’s just their nervous systems way of trying to self regulate and their nervous system has a little bit of we’ll use the phrase muscle memory, even though that’s not accurate. But people understand what that means, right? And it remembers what works in the moment. It remembers what relieves them. And so it’s a fascinating journey for a human being to be stressed and for their brain to start sending them signals to do things that cognitively and intellectually they know are a terrible idea.

Tim Ringgold: [00:04:22] And they’ve done them before and they’ve, you know, ran right into a wall. Right. And yet for some reason, their brain keeps telling them to do it again over and over. And that’s because, you know, the part of the brain that sends that craving signals very primitive. And I didn’t understand any of that, you know, when I was 22. So I really struggled all along the way and then found my way in the world of professional music as a recording artist in the genre of super like heavy industrial metal. And so think back to the late night. These, like Ozzfest, the Osborne’s, that era of music. And my band was an up and coming band and I was right in the thick of it. And so they say sex, drugs and rock and roll in that order for a reason. It’s not a coincidence, it’s a lifestyle. And and I realized that that had become the norm for me. And and I didn’t have, like, any sense of control. It was like kryptonite. It was like I could do so many things in my life where I could say no to one thing or say no to another. But in these very specific areas, I couldn’t say no. I just had this feeling of powerlessness. Like I had no suddenly I had no spine and I would engage in behaviors that I was not enjoying while I was engaging in them, wasn’t happy and still couldn’t not do it.

Tim Ringgold: [00:05:54] And it was the strangest phenomenon because there were so many other places in my life where I could just say, No, I don’t feel like doing that. And then I wouldn’t have a second thought. So I didn’t really know how to articulate much of that until I found my way into a 12 step meeting for sex addiction in February of 2003. It took like, I don’t know, like nine more years of really struggling with all these different behaviors before finally, I walked into a 12 step meeting and I heard other guys articulate these weird, like cognitive dissonances that they were experiencing, and I’d never heard anyone else talk about it with that detail. And I was like, Thank God I’m finally I’m not alone. And there’s language for this and there’s a way out. And that’s what started me on my own personal recovery journey. And then I found myself in school for music therapy the following year. Because what happens to many people when they get in recovery, they kind of put their life back together. So I decided to go back to school, but it wasn’t for another five years before I found myself in my internship. And now as a music therapy intern, I’m working in an addiction treatment center and I’m now getting to see how I can point music at addiction and help people find a new way to relieve the stress that their nervous system is under that isn’t going to cause them shame, guilt, regret in the future.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:34] Wow. There is so much in what you just said to unpack your one thing that you alluded to is that when we hear the term stay sober or get sober, we tend to automatically jump to drugs and alcohol. Those are not the only substances that are addictive. There’s also behaviors that are addictive. There’s other substances food, technology, absolution, sex. There’s gambling, there’s money. You know, there’s different things that people reach for work and yeah, yeah, yeah. The other thing that was just running through my mind as you were talking, there are a couple of things that I read in your book that just really hit me and I thought, Wow, that is really profound. And you alluded to these in what you were just saying, but one of the things that you said in your book is you said music and addiction seem to walk hand-in-hand throughout the human experience. Whether intentional or not, both are effective at relieving varying levels of pain or stress in the moment. In fact, both can activate the same reward system and the brain responsible for pleasure and motivation. There are many things a person who is beginning a journey of recovery hopes for. Among these different wishes are hope for pleasure and hope for reconnection. And then this next sentence just hit me between the eyes. You said addiction provides the first at the expense of the second. Music provides both. And I’m just going to repeat that because it just seems so profound to me. People hope for pleasure and reconnection. Addiction provides the first at the expense of the second. Music provides both. And you mentioned that when you’re playing those video games, you liked who you were in the video game more than who you were in reality. And that just makes me think of that reconnection. Can you just talk to us a little bit more about that reconnection piece? Because I think everybody understands what pleasure is and the hope for pleasure. But flesh out just briefly a little bit more of what you mean by the hope for reconnection.

Tim Ringgold: [00:09:41] Yeah. You know, if you are listening to this right now and you grew up in the United States, the United States has a culture of self determinism and individualism.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:53] Oh, yeah.

Tim Ringgold: [00:09:54] However, that being said, human beings are social pack. Animals. I mean, we dress up real nice, but we still are animals and we live in groups and we’re designed from cradle to grave to co operate in groups. We are not like bears that reach maturity and then go off as truly in living an independent individual life. That’s not the human design. So what happens in a culture of individualism is if you begin to believe this idea that your self sufficient, it’s easy to suddenly find yourself feeling separate from or other than. And that’s deeply distressing to a human being existentially, because existentially we come out of the womb dependent on each other for I think it’s by the numbers, like the longest ratio of lifespan in the mammal kingdom, like we’re the most dependent for the longest period of time. And so we are used to having a sense of connection physical. It starts out physically. We are physically connected to our moms and then it’s touch that physical connection of touch super important, right? And then it’s emotional connection and it’s social connection. And then as we begin to consider this idea that there might be something that actually like a common thread that’s non-physical that connects us, that’s this concept of being spiritual. And when you disconnect any of those, it’s like taking the air out of one of your tires. You just don’t move as well through time and space because you’re really designed as this four part being and you really need those connection points.

Tim Ringgold: [00:11:48] And so what happens is when people feel that disconnection, they might, they’ll feel discomfort and even pain, whether it’s physical, emotional, social or spiritual. And then when we feel pain, our nervous system wants to numb that or self soothe whatever that is. And so then we trigger this self soothing response. Now, babies do that, right? Babies automatically self soothe. That’s how they regulate their nervous system. So the human being’s nervous system is designed to self soothe. And so we reach out into the environment around us for things that help us to self soothe. But sometimes the things that work in the moment cause more problems down the road. And so when we disconnect and then we feel that pain and then we numb out for whatever reason, and then we feel more pain because of the damage that was done either to ourselves or to our loved ones or to inanimate objects around us. It creates this like feedback loop or this vicious cycle. And that feeling of disconnection really is really a rough experience for humans. So recovery is an act of reconnecting. It’s entering back into the shared experience of being human, because being human is a shared experience that we’re, again, social animals. We do this together. So one of the great things about the 12 steps, they’re all written in plural, and that’s not a coincidence.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:18] Yeah, Is that what you’re saying?

Tim Ringgold: [00:13:19] Yeah. Yeah. We our us all the language of the 12 steps is it’s a recovery is a we thing, it’s a shared thing. It’s a reconnection to other human beings. It’s a reconnection to parts of our self that we really love and want to honor, reconnection to some sort of relationship to something non-physical that gives us meaning and makes sense of the world. It’s a deeply ingrained thing this this idea of connection and that it’s a, you know, like I say, just an existential human need on all four, four fronts.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:54] Uh huh. Well, one thing is you’re talking that I’m thinking about is, is awful, as I’m sure it was to go through the cycle of addiction and then having to go through recovery that you did. The silver lining is, I’m sure, having to struggle through that yourself and suss it out and figure it out for yourself is what has made you so effective at helping other people. Because if it’s not something that is a challenge for us or it’s something that comes very intuitive to us, it can be hard to teach other people. I just relate this back to the music teaching world because that’s what I been in and growing up. I have always been a very visual person when it comes to reading music versus improv or playing by ear or for sure, memorizing music and playing without that score in front of me. And I had a an amazing piano teacher for a while who had perfect pitch and never really could understand why I had such a hard time memorizing music. And I. I realized afterward when I was a teacher and I was having to figure out for myself, okay, I’ve got to come up with some ways, some mechanisms for memorizing music and start doing more your training and analyzing the music so that you’re not just relying on kinesthetic memory, but you’re using the analytical memory and visual memory and some of those other methods. I thought, You know what? That’s why it was hard for him to teach. This is because it was so easy for him. It was just like, What’s there to get? Like, Why don’t you get it? And I just think about that with your practice. Like you’ve had to be in the trenches digging yourself out, trying to figure it out. And that’s, I’m sure, what makes you so effective. But tell us, why is music such a powerful, efficient, effective tool for treating and healing addictions?

Tim Ringgold: [00:15:49] Boy, there’s like, how much time do we have? You know, like, let me let me count the ways. You know, there’s there’s a lot of ways in which music ticks a lot of boxes for being useful as a recovery tool.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:02] Let’s see if we can. So let’s see.

Tim Ringgold: [00:16:04] I see if I can go through.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:06] Kind of like your top three or top five or something and keep it high level.

Tim Ringgold: [00:16:10] Yeah, totally. Totally. So just from like a physiological side, you know, music is the most complex stimulus in nature and it lights the brain up, requires every subregion of the brain in order to process the musical signal. Because music, as you know, is just a bunch of different elements that are put together that the brain has to kind of simultaneously unpack, analyze, compare, put back together, and then make meaning out of in order to predict what’s coming all in real time. So it’s just really heavy lifting for the human brain. And when you are listening to music you enjoy or making music, the motivation and reward circuits of the brain light up the same way as if we are having sex or eating chocolate, which is fascinating. And I’ll never forget Dr. Robert Zaatari kind of asking at a conference like, why do you suppose that is? And it’s why is it such a fundamental why does it tick these very, very specific signals in the trigger, these signals in the brain? And so for me, it’s always been music is social glue. If you look back through human history, music is it’s found in every known culture and every culture comes together and celebrates transitions, passings, rituals, milestones through communal music. And so it creates one out of many. So that feeling of oneness and connection as a human being, you feel that when you’re like you go to a drum circle, you don’t have to say hi to anybody in the drum circle, but you feel totally connected to everybody in the drum circle because the music is this conduit of connection.

Tim Ringgold: [00:17:50] And so it’s deeply satisfying and that reflects in the brain. So it’s not just psychologically, it’s physiologically satisfying. And what’s even more interesting is the louder you listen to music, the more dopamine your brain will release. So we actually prefer listening to loud music. It’s a physiological response. And I think that’s that’s very validating for a lot of people that there’s a real thing going on with their brains biochemistry that says yes to music. So we know that it has this immense reward capability physiologically, but more on a kind of a psychological side of it and psychosocial side of it. The acronym or the word sober in my book is an acronym, and it really stands for what I’ve found in the literature and in my own practice to be like the five most useful things music can do. And I used to use a lot of clinical terminology to describe them and no one would ever remember. So one day on a five hour road trip, I was like, I need an acronym because who doesn’t love an acronym when they’re trying to remember something? And so that’s how this began. And so, you know, one of the things music allows or helps us do when we make it is it helps us to stay present.

Tim Ringgold: [00:19:10] And that’s really important for the human brain because when you don’t give the brain something to focus on, it wanders by design. When your brain idles, the default mode network takes over and you daydream past or future. Now the challenge, it’s a blessing and a curse. The challenge of the demon is that you have no control over the past or the future. So if you ruminate in either of those states for a period of time, it becomes distressing for the brain because it knows at a certain level it’s powerless over. That brain doesn’t like to focus on situations where it has no power. It likes a sense of agency. It likes to know that it can do something in the situation. Now, the brain is also kind of the computer to the body. Now the body is always present. The mind is not. So any activity that requires focused use of the body pulls the. And into the present in order to operate the body. And since music is time based and it’s happening in the present moment, unfolding like a linear painting. If you activate your body to match the music you’re listening to or make music on your own, by default, your mind drops itself into the present moment. So it’s an easy tool for staying present without having to think about staying present.

Mindy Peterson: [00:20:25] Has that regulatory.

Tim Ringgold: [00:20:26] Effect. So say more about that.

Mindy Peterson: [00:20:28] Well, it regulates the brain. If your brain is just sort of unconsciously wandering to the past or in ruminating or thinking ahead, worrying about the future, and you feel like you can’t really control those thoughts, focusing on the music, even in such a basic way as playing the music and like you said, creating the music, making it or just tapping to the beat really forces your your brain to be in the present.

Tim Ringgold: [00:20:58] That’s right. That’s right. So that’s very helpful for people because the anxiety comes from trying to predict what’s unpredictable, which is the future. And for a lot of people struggling with depression, what they’re ruminating over is the past, which also they can’t do anything about the events of the past. Now you can teach them to reframe the meaning and their interpretations of the past, but most people don’t have that innate ability. They think about the events, like, if I could just go back and redo them, the could have, should have What is so great tool for helping you to stay present? The oh is for open up, which we might say is emotional expression, letting energy that’s in motion in your body, out of your body without having to formulate words to do so. Words are a great tool, but they’re not the only tool, and sometimes they’re the wrong tool because you need the right words. Otherwise language becomes a toll booth of expression, and then you need the right listener. And gosh, as therapists, therapists go through thousands of hours of training to not take things personally. That’s how hard it is for humans to not take things personally. So when you open up with words, it’s really easy and unfortunate tragedy that the person you’re opening up to is either going to get triggered, take it personally, start projecting, get offended, invalidate you, all kinds of stuff happens.

Tim Ringgold: [00:22:19] And so music allows us to let that energy out of our body without having to use words. Now, if you’re somebody who’s struggling with trauma, you can’t use words anyway. The literature is very clear that it requires nonverbal experiential modalities to express, which just means squeeze out that energy out of your body. The issues are in our tissues, so music gives us a tool to open up with no words required. And then the third one would be be creative. This is interesting in a recovery context, because recovery itself is an act of creativity. You are creating a new lifestyle that doesn’t include using so people forget their life itself is a medium, so your lifestyle is a medium. So how you organize your time, what you do with that time, how you live your life, how you treat your body, how you treat your friends, how you treat yourself, that’s all creative in nature. Now, the big myth is that people think that, like some people are creative and some people aren’t. All people are creative. Now, being artistic is a whole nother story. That’s an application of creativity. It’s very specific but creative. It’s main function is it’s a coping skill. It’s how you solve problems. And the more you engage in music or creative hobbies, you build the part of your brain that’s responsible for problem solving and even more importantly, frustration tolerance.

Tim Ringgold: [00:23:43] So you will stick with tough situations and relationships and issues without changing the subject. That’s a key like coping skill for someone, anybody, but particularly somebody in recovery, because recovery is a problem to solve. It’s like, how am I doing? I have been using to get by and now I can’t use. This is a problem to solve. So creativity helps them build that. It’s like going to the emotional, like the the gym for their mind is for escape stressors because when used correctly, music turns off the stress response. So we can turn off our nervous system in terms of what happens when we move from let’s just call it first gear to second gear, because there’s there’s really three gears in your autonomic nervous system. Your rest and digest gear would be goes by many names. People have probably heard parasympathetic nervous system or ventral vagal state. And then you perceive a threat. You go into DEFCON two, change gears. Now you’re in the fight or flight response, which people may have heard is the sympathetic nervous system. And that system is great for outrunning tigers and fighting off tribes. But it’s. Deeply detrimental physically to the body because you release a cocktail of chemicals that are very damaging to the human body and you’re not meant to be in that state chronically.

Tim Ringgold: [00:25:11] So if you are the brain issues a failsafe to calm you down, which is called a craving, a craving is your brain’s way of trying to self regulate. Hmm. Most people never conceive of a craving in that context. But it was Dr. Gabor mate who I first heard say that amazing author and expert and addiction doctor. And it blew my mind. And it he’s listen, the nervous system needs to regulate. And if it’s stuck on all the time, the brain is going to try to turn it off in whatever way it can. So music, when you’re listening to the music you enjoy or you’re making music, it regulates your autonomic nervous system. It turns it from that fight or flight response back to your parasympathetic system. Now, here’s the other thing that’s really important about that. That’s where your creativity lies. When you are switched on and you go into the sympathetic nervous system response, now you’re in reactive mode and you see the world through like black and white fight or flight. So everything looks like something to either fight or run from. So you lose your creativity when you’re stressed. That’s why you make your worst decisions when you’re stressed and you send the worst texts, the worst emails, the worst voicemails, like the 8 minutes collectively of my life that I would like to hit the undo switch on the most.

Tim Ringgold: [00:26:33] I guarantee you I was panicked or I was stressed in those moments, and I just made bad decisions because of the nervous system that was running the show in the moment. So for all of us, we want to be able to turn that off so that we have access to our creativity and make our best decisions. And then lastly, the hours for Reconnect, which we kind of talked about early on about, you know, recovery is reconnection. And because music is non-judgmental, like I can turn on a song and that song doesn’t care whether what I just thought or what I just felt or what I just said to somebody else or what I just did. It’s non-judgemental. And humans need that kind of psychological safety to just be. And the problem is that humans hate being judged, but we judge everything. That’s our nervous system, always judges the external environment and makes meaning out of everything. So it’s kind of this like Catch 22. So music provides kind of a judgment free space that we can reside in, at least to kind of calm down and feel connected to something outside of our self.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:35] Wow. I’m just going to go through that acronym again for listeners. So the word is sober, which is part of your book title, Harness the Power of Music to Stay Sober and Sober. That acronym stands for us. Stay present. Oh, Open up B B, Creative E, Escape Stressors and our reconnect. One of the other things that I read in your book that you’ve kind of alluded to in this conversation already, and I’ll just point out it was again, one of those things that just really impacted me and caught my attention. But you talk about how we often require relief before we can even think about trying to pursue pleasure reconnection. We just want relief first. We kind of move from that pain to relief to pleasure. We try to self-soothe. The brain has sort of that muscle memory that once it finds something that brings an experience of soothing, it’s like, Oh, let’s do that again. Totally. But you talk about how we think of pain as physical pain, but it’s not always physical pain. That’s right. It could be. And you mentioned this in our conversation, Emotional pain, social pain, spiritual pain. And as we’re talking about why music, why music is so effective, I was thinking, boy, music really engages us on a physical level, on an emotional level, a social level and a spiritual level. Yeah. So it is one of those few things that can really touch on all of those different playing fields and plains of our human existence.

Tim Ringgold: [00:29:18] Yep. And that’s one of the reasons that I say that it’s efficient because it ticks all four boxes at the same time. Right. And I think that’s really valuable, right? When you’re looking for an investment in behavior and time and energy, which, you know, listening to music or making music is you want to get some return on that. And so here’s a tool that fills all four tires of your vehicle. So that’s great. It’s one of the reasons I play pickleball. That’s my passion. When I’m not making music is because it fills all four tires at the same time. So it’s an incredible return on my investment. And I think that, you know, music making. Is definitely, when possible, engage your body with the music you’re already listening to and you’re going to tap into all four or all five of the benefits of the sober acronym. And so, you know, music becomes so even when you go from music, go to music making like we are a culture of music listeners and that’s great. And there’s tremendous value in music listening. But if you want to take the next step now, very important for a lot of people. I’m not talking about music performing that verb is not the verb I use.

Tim Ringgold: [00:30:36] So music making is simply engaging my body and making sound. So if you can tap, snap, clap, hum, rap, sing, strum, drum, scratch, even audio, which is just singing in your mind, you’re engaging your body in a way that’s distinct from music, listening, and kicks, kicks the whole experience up another notch. And I’ll share a quick story about that. So I was driving in my car on the way to play pickleball on Memorial Day weekend, which is the weekend my daughter who passed away was born. And so I was already a little raw because holidays and birthdays are make you a little extra tender. And sure enough, I’m driving down the freeway and I see a billboard and it’s a billboard for the hospital. One of the hospitals that my daughter was in. And within one second there’s this structural or environmental trigger. And now I’m in the past and I’m in a dark place and I’m like, Oh, and I’m no longer present. And because driving doesn’t take any focus on the freeway, we’ve all I’m 50, so I’ve been added a bit, right? So it’s easy to daydream when you’re driving. So I’m listening to some dance music and I was like, okay, I got to walk the walk here, so I’m going to figure out the dance beat.

Tim Ringgold: [00:31:52] You know, there’s always like a steady kick beat. So like my left foot starts doing the kick beat and then with my hands on the wheel at ten and two, I start to figure out, right, Like, there’s always like that. Just like an off time syncopated high hat, right? So my right index finger is now playing the high hat. And then when they want to add a little spice, they bring the snare in. Right? So that’s a. Pets, pets and pets. 6 seconds later, I have zero thoughts about my daughter because I’m just trying to figure out the drum line of the song that’s playing in the radio that that 6 seconds earlier was in the background. Right? Music listening in the background, music making in the foreground. And now I’m present. Now. I wasn’t performing for anybody. And if I didn’t tell that story, no one would know it ever happened. But in that moment, I used music as a tool to stay present and it worked within seconds. And so music making, I just want to really encourage listeners like, you don’t have to do it for anybody but you. It’s just for you. It’s a gift you give yourself.

Mindy Peterson: [00:33:04] Wow, Love that. That’s so powerful. That could almost be our coda right there.

Tim Ringgold: [00:33:09] I had half a thought as I was going into it. I was like looking at the clock. That might be a good coda, right?

Mindy Peterson: [00:33:16] Well, I know you and I could talk about this forever if we both had the time, but I will keep things moving along. I just want to mention to listeners that, of course I will have a ton of links in our show notes about ways where you can connect with Tim, connect with his work. He has a blog, he has a podcast. There will be a link, of course, to his book. One thing I notice about the book is 100% of the proceeds of the book are being donated to the Genius Recovery Foundation, and we don’t really have time to go into that, but I’ll include the link to that organization. Awesome in the show notes so people can discover more about that. Also, I do ask all my guests to close out our conversation with the musical ending. You brought up your daughter. Sure. Would you? And I know that was one of the stories you’re considering telling. Is it possible you just give us a little quick synopsis of that story that you had in mind about her.

Tim Ringgold: [00:34:08] Absolutely. So our daughter Bella was born in 2009 and passed away in 2010 from a rare, fatal childhood disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa or EB for short, which is a disease where your skin, well, your body fails to produce one single protein and that one protein happens to be the Velcro that holds your skin to your body. So that’s random and it’s rare. So when she was in the hospital, there were text books out on the tables in the nick you like. None of the docs had seen it. They had to read up on it. Super rare, Fatal in childhood. Kids die from infection because what happens is when your skin isn’t connected, if you bump it or you rub it, it separates and it turns into blisters or eventually open wounds. So she’s covered in wounds, covered in blisters, and you have to change the bandages that cover all these wounds. That can oftentimes be way more than 50% of their body. And the parents are responsible for doing the work. So suddenly mom and dad have to be trained in wound care and they have to do wound care on their infant as if it’s not their infant. Right. You have to somehow get into a headspace where you’re treating a human body clinically, that you’re observing and you’re assessing and you’re treating. That’s not your child. It’s a very strange, bizarre thing. Now, if anyone listening has ever gotten water on a cut, you know how painful that is.

Tim Ringgold: [00:35:41] Now, imagine having saline poured across more than 50% of your body. That’s an open cut. It’s an incredibly painful procedure for the person with the disease, and it’s an incredibly stressful procedure for the family. And when we first found out about the disease and that that’s what she had, we had read that. And I mean, I want to tell you, my blood ran cold. I was really, really like, oh, boy, we’re in over our head. But I was a music therapist, brand new, just had become board certified less than six months beforehand and had done my grand Rounds presentations on Nike music therapy and learned the power of music with neonates. And what I can tell you is that every bandage change. When we had to change all of our bandages, it was about a three hour procedure and it started out every day and then about a few months in, maybe a month, and we had an expert come who said you could alternate and it could be every other day, which gave us like half our life back. Mm hmm. And we had heard that those 3 hours were this immensely painful and stressful period. But we had a very different experience because of music. Because the music, first of all, Bella would listen to the music, and music blocks the pain signal. The neonatal brain prefers a music signal over external sound signals, so it’ll focus on that as early as 32 weeks gestational age. I was familiar with that research, so I knew and she was a full term infant.

Tim Ringgold: [00:37:12] I knew that if we played lullaby music that she would find that soothing and that that would help her. But then it would it would also calm down Mommy and daddy and calm parents mean calm kids, because you’ve got to remember, kids do as they see so stressed parents make for stress to kids, calm parents make for calm kids. So the best gift you can ever give your own kids is your ability to regulate your own emotions. And so managing your own emotions becomes a gift you give your kids. So a regulated nervous system of the parent becomes a regulated nervous system of the child, and that goes for anybody. So for us, our experience of bandage changes, whether we were listening to lullabies or Baby Einstein was absolute peace. And we used music every single time. And I had written a birth song for her that she was born to. And when she finally passed away, coincidentally, hahaha God incidentally, I’ll say when your heart rate went to zero, her birth song happened to come on the iPod in her hospital room and it was 45 minutes into the middle of a playlist. So I had the experience as not just as a music therapist, but as her daddy. I had the experience of getting to sing my daughter into life and then sing her into afterlife. And that’s the gift that music gave my family.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai