Carrie's Grad Program is Ruining My Life

I'm not well yet. I'm limping along in life, and I'm barely taking care of myself, our studio, and Carrie. One of the benefits of being performance oriented and extrinsically valued for as long as I have is that I can handle a good deal of stress. Or at least, that's what I tell myself. Cracks are starting to form in the wall. It feels like I'm struggling with a broken leg, going through physio every month, but then I'm also journeying alongside someone who needs to be carried as well. I didn't sign up for this when Carrie wanted to go to grad school, but then again, I did, in sickness and in health.

Lately, just when I think I have everything together, some coping mechanism sticks its little head out and knocks down my house of cards. I'll end the day having put in a full, honest day's work, cleaned up the home, and eaten healthy meals, but all of a sudden I'll have a snack attack. I thought I was managing my stress levels, taking care of my own needs by listening to music, watching TV, but then at 11 PM, I'll jump on Amazon and buy things I don't need from my wish list with money we don't have, then I'll grab some salami slices, an apple, squeeze some fresh lemon soda, and make myself instant noodles with green onions.

MAMA instant noodles - Tom Yum flavour

I'll start indulging myself because Carrie has two assignments she wants to push out before she goes to sleep, so she emails me her drafts, walks over and asks if I can edit them right away, then texts me 30 minutes later because I ignored her to watch TV. She'll also want to talk about her stress or why this assignment is ridiculous, and I'll stop what I was doing to nod my head and grunt in agreement at what she's venting about.

I not only take on some of her responsibilities at home, but I also support her in other ways. I pick up takeout food. I give her rides to and from work and school. I sometimes have to leave the studio so she can study, and some weeks, I have to do all the chores; she oversees my work when I do the laundry though because I ruined her favourite shirt once. Worst surprise ever. I don't really enjoy cooking, but I do it to save money and not die. I don't like to wash the dishes because my mom yelled at me really bad the first time I tried helping her when I was seven ("THIS DISH STILL HAS SOAP. WHY DID YOU PUT IT IN THE DRYING RACK IF IT'S STILL SOAPY?"), but I wash them for Carrie anyways. Most painfully, I also don't really call her out when she hurts me. As much as we both try to keep our marriage alive, I have to take care of myself emotionally when she's unavailable. As such, we don't fight much anymore because even if I picked one, I don't think she'd engage with me anyways.

Living where we do also contributes to the problem. There's a good reason why they also call studios "bachelor pads," and that's because Carrie is so messy loljk. It's a humble little home, but there is no man cave, just a man corner. There's no office, just a table and chair. There's no living room or TV room, just the man corner. And good luck when a 3D print runs longer than estimated; I try to print things when we're both away at work because that shit is loud and makes it hard to hear the TV or Carrie telling me to edit her assignments.

When she wants the studio to be quiet, I turn off my music. When she wants me to turn off the TV so she can study on the couch, I grab a bottle of wine, lock myself in the bathroom, and cry in the shower. When I'm snacking on chips, she takes the bag and the salsa from me when she snack attacks me; admittedly, it's really good salsa from the Crossroads farmer's market. She sleeps well before me and wakes up earlier, so her sleep quality takes precedence over mine. Her schedule is pretty rigid, so if we dine out, we eat what she feels like or has time for.

Tobias Funkë crying in the shower

Why do I just roll over? Why don't I push back and say "your grad program is ruining my life?"

She's doing two courses in her grad program, working full time, doing a third undergrad course for her registration as a psychologist, and somehow making time for me. I asked her to find steady work some six months ago because we weren't pulling in enough money. In exchange, I never expect her to go out and party with me and our friends, and I take care of more marriage responsibilities.

I would gladly do it all except that I'm in counselling. Lately, it's a struggle to take care of my own needs, but somehow I'm trying to take care of both of us. I've been in therapy for a year, and there's no end in sight. I'm doing a lot better, but I'm still not well. This post wouldn't exist if I were mentally and emotionally healthy, and for that matter, this entire blog would be focused on other things as well. I can barely carry my own cross, but I have to support hers as well. I feel guilty when I bother her with my stuff. It feels like my life isn't as important as hers right now because she's in this program -- she's redirected energy from our marriage so she can survive school. She mentioned once about possibly doing a Ph.D. later, and I can't remember my reaction because I think I blacked out.

Since she started her job, I've been spoiling myself. She started this past November, and about a year and a half prior to that, she was dealing with burnout from her previous job. She had other jobs in between, but that 1.5 year period was rough on us. On top of that, she was doing courses in her distance learning program starting May 2014, so it's been a long and painful road for us. I think I'm worth it though. I deserve to eat good food, have nice things, and to treat myself once in a while or all the time. Now that she's approaching the end of her semester, I'll probably never stop treating myself…for three weeks until she starts her next one.

tl;dr I feel like my life is hard, and I need to pick up another box of instant noodles because I ate them all.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le