I like to play the Caro-Kann as black, and in response to the advance variation play 3... c5!? This works really well for me (~1800 USCF), but as I've gotten better I'm being forced to deal with the response which is common at higher levels, which is 4. dxc5! Nc6 leading to a position which I've found uniquely uncomfortable (and after only 4 moves!):
[FEN "r1bqkbnr/pp2pppp/2n5/2PpP3/8/8/PPP2PPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 1 5"]
Although the computer thinks Black is okay (stockfish depth 29: +0.5) this opening feels very different from other variations of the Caro-Kann and as such I've felt recently that I should study the variation in more detail, but I've really struggled to become more comfortable in this position despite putting more time into this position than almost any other in my repertoire. Here are the reasons that I can see why I'm having trouble:
Fundamentally, black is cramped and down a pawn. Worse, in many variations persist for a long time even with perfect play. Proving compensation seems very hard.
There are a bazilion ways white can play which keep this cramping theme - at almost every move there are 5 moves within a half evaluation point of each other, and my opponents tend to break from the "main lines" that I can see in opening explorers very quickly. Memorizing moves & responses feels fairly futile past a couple moves, and these lines usually don't lead to what I'd call a "comfortable" position.
If I'm not very careful, White's queen-side majority can create passed pawns and with such a cramped position, this can prove deadly. I've lost several games in this fashion.
I've struggled to find much theory or discussion of this position since 3... c5 is it's a 10-to-1 side-line of the main Caro-Kann (although I'm probably just not looking in the right places). The couple books I've looked at don't cover 3... c5.
So, I'm looking for some advice from more experienced players. How can I study / improve this opening? Am I thinking about something wrong here? Is this just a fundamentally uncomfortable position (and probably the reason 3... c5 isn't the main line) and I should just accept that and play a different opening if it's too much? Should I just bunker down and spend a lot of time memorizing lines to guide myself through the opening stages here? I've struggled to gain much insight by looking at pro games (and this is played occasionally at the highest level), but maybe I should try harder at a that?