Under Pressure


“Pressure, pushin’ down on me

Pressin’ down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down

Splits a family in two, puts people on the streets”

This song has been an earwig for me lately, I hear it and feel it. It’s on my mind, and it’s got me thinking about what it means to me in my FIFO life. Trying to extrapolate meaning from a few lines of a Queen and David Bowie song you’d think is easy but it’s not as straightforward as I thought it’d be. I explore it in with our friendly neighbourhood psychologist Matt Bain in a forthcoming podcast but I will, for now, share what is pressin’ down on me. Maybe, some of you will be able to relate or maybe not. Here goes… Maximum effort as Deadpool would say.

We are just coming out of what feels like endless Covid pandemic restrictions, new variants, worse variants, monkeypox, bankruptcies, trucker convoys and travel bans and a two-tier society with defined battle lines between its citizens; the vaxed and the unvaxed! Can’t we just return to normal?!!!

What the hell that used to look like? I am tired of being inundated with social media alerts, breaking news and the latest about Jonny Depp and Amber Heard! Can’t we just go back to pictures of Grumpy Cat? The pandemic alone created enough pressure to push us to the brink, and for many, it sadly did push them over.

In the podcast, Matt and I talked about what pressure is and I had to look at it through a whole new lens in a way I have never seen before. I won’t spoil the podcast but will share a couple of points Matt made.

These are some of the pressures and challenges I think some of us can relate to:

  • Relationship/parental pressure (how do we be present for the people we love when we aren’t there or how do we deal with breakdowns in relationships).
  • Financial pressure -I think we all have seen the bumper sticker “Please God let there be another oil boom and I promise not to piss it away like the last one. How many of us are prepared for a downturn, an illness to ourselves or a family member, emergency expenditures, a large reduction or total loss of income?
  • Mental health – How do we break down the stigma and make it easier to ask for help when we are struggling or stressed?
  • Emotional health – Are we able to label and communicate our emotions accurately so that we can better manage them when life throws us curveballs.
  • Physical health – Are we making good choices to keep our bodies healthy and resilient (nutrition, exercise, sleep)? Are we dealing with an illness?
  • Spiritual health – Are we doing work and living a life that is purposeful and meaningful to us?


Is IT pressing down on us? Or

Are WE pressing it down on ourselves?

I will share a couple pressures that I feel, relationship and financial, and they are intertwined. I wrote in an earlier blog that I was finally “Big Oil” because I had a divorce under my belt. With a divorce come support payments (which are important to honor) but these can be debilitating to starting over and rebuilding (did I mention that I lacked financial wisdom and spent like a drunken sailor when times were good). I have heard this joked about and called the Wayne (thank God for Gretzky retirement plan… Freedom 99! I am also remarried with a blended family and experiencing the challenges of that. They are new to FIFO life and it isn’t easy for them either. While I know it’s tough and a reality of mine I also know that I am not the only one living with in this scenario. I am blessed to have a great job with good benefits and a good income. This however does not grant me immunity from financial stress (also see “Illusions and misconceptions” blog on this topic). I feel pressure about what could happen to me and my family if I lost my job, I have two households I contribute to and they depend on me to varying extents. I feel like I have to perform at a high level even when I might feel like I don’t have it in the tank (thank God for my wonderful colleagues that have been there to carry my load when I have been subpar).

I feel pressure to try and be a good father to my kids even though I wasn’t present for them the way I should have been when they were younger (how do I be present for them when I missed whole stages of their live). I feel pressure to try and be a good example to my wife’s children and balance time to pour into them and try to parent as she has (did I mention I am starting at square one on “how to parent” but feel like I need to be at “expert” level like my wife is right at the get go… I fail, often – Hats off to all of you parents that hold down the fort while we work away – let’s not take this effort for granted, they don’t get to clock out at the end of the day like we do at work).

It feels like I am walking a knife edge between mediocrity and failure in this aspect. Am I overcompensating for not being there for my kids? Do I have guilt trying to be for them what I wasn’t for my kids? A little but I want to try and be the best version of myself. Do I press this down on me? Yes. I struggle with not being able to provide for my family the way I could in my previous marriage (I don’t have the financial resources I had and won’t for years – a lot of my identity as a man and being a good provider is linked to earnings – not healthy).

Now let’s go back to those two bullet points at the start. How much of this pressure is pressing on me, meaning I have no control of it and how much of this pressure am I putting on myself? Personal relationships are in a constant flux and ebb and flow, accept it as it is and I also need to accept that I can be the same way (we have no control over people’s perceptions of us, we also need to grant the grace we would want for ourselves too). If I don’t have control of what is pressing down on me my only choice comes down to how I react to it. The pressure I put on myself I do have control over, chances are I won’t lose my job, it took years of hard work , experience and training to get where I am at and it wasn’t by chance – I need to keep my self-belief in that respect. Flip the script and look at it from the perspective of ability vs inability. This isn’t easy, it’s hard and I still have days that I wrestle with self-doubt. That’s when I have to remember that while I may feel pressure of all kinds and from all sources I have to believe that it is situational, circumstantial and not permanent. This gives me hope and a destination, which are good things to have when you feel under pressure.