Content warning: long, introspective post ahead!
Before I moved to Mullumbimby, I’d no idea that the entire northern rivers area was a flood zone. But y’know… rivers. Lots of rivers.
I also didn’t know that it’s one of the wettest areas in Australia. With one of the highest rainfalls. When I moved out of Melbourne, that was NOT what I wanted!
I had known however, that summer was the wet season. But this year was extra wet.
It’d been raining heavily all week before the floods. But there were no warnings or alerts telling us to prepare.
Despite the downpour, I didn’t know it was happening until 6am that morning when it was already underway. I was woken by my neighbour knocking on my door telling me to get up (which I might’ve been grumpy about until I realised why!)
Floods = flow of emotion
The day before it went down felt dreamy. It was super rainy, so I’d lazed around much of the day.
Eventually I did some washing and then headed to the laundromat to use their dryer. I drifted into the supermarket and bought a bunch of food. Stuff I wouldn’t normally buy.
When I got home I found myself baking a very yummy zucchini slice. My intuition was on point: I had plenty of everything I needed for the coming onslaught.
Floods = unstoppable incoming change
My garage flooded fairly early. There was no way to stop it, despite my futile attempts.
I did manage to move a bunch of stuff into the house just in time. Eventually, the water line came within 2cm of being inside my home.
Mentally I’d prepared for the water flowing through. Full surrender was in play. The waters were in charge. Not the humans!
You’d better find your balance in the floods
All day, the rains continued. And all day, people with boats and canoes were in action, helping evacuate those who needed it. Checking in on each other.
Luckily, I had my neighbour to talk to, and his friend had a dinghy. Which meant we didn’t have to evacuate immediately, and we had access to a boat if the high tide pushed water inside.
Other than my neighbour, I was trapped with my furkids in my home watching the waters rise. Noticing the deep strangeness of seeing brown murky water instead of grass and space.
Putting furniture up on benches, and planning a go-bag. My stomach churning, despite myself. Washing the dishes and feeling weird about that.
After the danger was over, I still couldn’t go further than my driveway for two days.
Local tap water was compromised, so we had people bringing in water drums for us. Food. Asking what was needed. The immediate community support was swift and beautiful.
Floods redefine pathways
However things were before had changed irrevocably.
Throughout the day of the floods, internet was still running. But the week afterwards, we lost all phone and internet access. To get any reception I had to drive twenty minutes to Byron Bay. There was a lot of driving and walking around to see people.
I found myself thinking about what other people might need, and just getting those things for them because I couldn’t send a text or call them to confirm. Kitty litter. Water. Food.
No internet meant no ATMs. So it was cash only to pay for things. Sometimes people helped me pay for things, and sometimes I helped others.
The love and the giving was palpable and rich.
Flooding = connection without borders
Honestly, I met more people in the days and weeks after the floods than I did in the six months or so before. There were street parties, where people just came out and talked to each other, sharing food and hugs.
Which is how I began to hear some of the stories of my neighbours. Some people who had very little anyway, lost almost everything. Some people were in water up to their necks.
Word of mouth was everything. When I learned the Council was going to shut off the water supply to fix contamination issues, I drove around in my car telling as many people as I could.
Flooding = overwhelm
Even now months later, some people can’t return to their homes and are relying on friends for a place to stay.
Many are homeless, and living in emergency accommodation. Adapting to a new strangeness, far from normal life.
Animals drowned. Loved pets were surrendered because their families couldn’t keep them anymore, for various reasons.
Floods can’t easily be escaped
Once you’re in it, you’re in til it’s done.
There was a definite feeling of being trapped that activated in my nervous system. Which is true for most people here, whether their home flooded or not.
The fight or flight response is very real. Hardwired into our lizard brain. I’ll never forget the very visceral feeling of needing to RUN, even when the waters subsided.
To soothe myself, I did in fact take a road trip when I could. Just to assure my Self that not everywhere was flooded.
Flooding challenges your sense of safety
To be honest, I’m still processing the feelings of stress that course through my body whenever it’s rained heavily since then.
Then there were the follow up floods where Byron, Suffolk Park were hit, as well as Lismore for the second time. Mullum and surrounds were spared, but our hearts still ached for our close neighbours.
It rained pretty consistently most days, for months afterwards! At least some rain every day. And a LOT of rain quite often.
Even though I know I’m safe, well-resourced and capable… the primitive instincts of the body invoke a state of alertness. And it’s up to my conscious mind to have a chat and calm that response down. As well as lots of Kinesiology.
Flood waters = ego churn
The floody mix of all the mud, detritus, and everything it touches is kind of like what happens to us when we’re dealing with a swirl of inner turmoil.
Eventually the flood waters settle, with the mucky muddiness at the bottom, and clearer waters on top. This allows us to see what was stirred up more clearly. To reflect and investigate.
For me, the personal revelations that have followed include various masks that the ego wears. There are more than you might think!
The ego wants to be busy. It wants to be the micro-manager, keeping tabs on everything and playing the negative risk manager, expecting that everything it doesn’t understand equals death.
So it gets sneaky. When the obvious roles it might play have been identified and re-trained, it seeks more obtuse ways of leaking in.
First up was survivor’s guilt
For a while, I felt like I couldn’t do enough for others, because my home had so narrowly avoided devastation. Almost every other house in my street and surrounding streets were trashed. So many people lost everything.
So I did a bunch of stuff. Welfare checks for those not in the northern rivers who couldn’t contact loved ones because of the no phone/internet situation. I did food collections. I spent a lot of time talking to people. I raised money from my friends, which was handed directly to some local people who needed it most.
The self-criticism was rife
You’re okay so you can’t sit there and do nothing. Others need more help than you! Don’t be lazy!
This opened the door for the ego to find other ways to criticise and compare. The hallmark of which is a feeling of dissatisfaction with everything you haven’t yet done or achieved.
Sneaky! And bloody nasty. It was only when I unmasked the dissatisfaction that the unrelenting harsh judgement subsided. I see you, ego. I see this game that’s floated in…
Gifts that surface in catastrophes
I knew that people would need Kinesiology, and I was tagged in a post where someone was organising a collective of healers.
Heal Mullum was born, almost as quickly as the floods had come in. In the first week, we didn’t even have a booking system and so we hand-wrote posters to stick up around town.
Kinesiologists, counsellors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists and more. So many of us were called into action. It was like a hive mind, and it was beautiful.
For weeks, I offered pro-bono services to those who were traumatised by the floods. I did a lot of brain formatting work, and adrenal resets. I felt so grateful for my skills and training.
It was amazing to witness the huge shift for some people after only a handful of sessions.
Waters are fluid and it’s okay to move on
Even though my home didn’t flood, it was such a close thing. The foundations were given a bath, for sure. And I knew immediately that the damp and the mould would be coming.
The northern rivers had a housing crisis before the floods. So finding a new home locally was going to be next to impossible. Add other requirements such as being out of the way of floods, and a mould-free home… the writing was on the wall.
It was time to move on. My original plan when I left Melbourne had been to go further north. So that’s what I’m in the process of organising.
The invisible imprint of the floods will stay with me
All at once, I can see what this place looked like before, during and after the waters rose up. I can’t unsee any of it. But I’m deeply grateful all the same.
Maybe one of the reasons I stopped here was to help hold space for all the post-flood trauma recovery.
After all, this wasn’t the first time the rug has been pulled out from under my feet in this life. I was equipped and able to assist and support. It was an absolute blessing.
Being of service during that time has changed my heart
And it’s certainly changed my approach to my work in ways I can’t yet articulate. It’s all still bubbling under the surface.
Now it’s time to keep moving with the flow. To see what’s around the next bend in the river of life.
Ambha Amanda Roberts is a Kinesiologist, Intuitive Healer, educator and facilitator based on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. She offers Kinesiology sessions both in-person and via Skype/Zoom all over the world.
Ambha Amanda is the co-creator of Adventures of Staria, which includes a series of Staria cards, and an upcoming book for children (including inner children).