Full disclosure, I'm not Britney Spears' therapist. I have zero insight into her mental health and life history outside of what the media tells me, and I'm not offering mental health advice here. I'm merely sharing my thoughts and feelings on the matter.
BRITNEY SPEARS' CONSERVATORSHIP
I'm sure by now you've heard about Britney Spears' conservatorship. If you haven't, I'll give you a quick rundown.
In 2008, Britney's father, Jamie, petitioned the court for legal authority over her after what appeared to be a decompensation in her mental health. The courts granted it, and she has now been under a conservatorship for thirteen years.
In case you're wondering what a conservatorship is, according to the California courts official website, a conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization to care for another adult who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances. In this case, Britney's father, Jamie, is the conservator, and Britney is the conservatee. According to Cornell Law School, a conservator handles the conservatee's financial and/or other daily life affairs because the conservatee is incompetent to handle them.
I want to emphasize the word incompetent in the last definition.
Per definition, incompetent means a person does not have the necessary skills to do something successfully. While under conservatorship, Britney Spears did a four-year residency in Vegas, where she performed around two hundred-forty eight shows bringing in over 100 million dollars. Does that sound like someone who's incompetent?
I don't know about you, but that sounds like the complete opposite of incompetent.
While in grad school, I worked for two and a half years in an acute mental health unit located inside a maximum-security prison, with individuals deemed dangerously mentally ill or not competent to stand trial who were civilly committed by the state. Britney isn't even in the same ballpark as those fellas.
On June 23, 2021, Britney Spears spoke with a judge pleading for her conservatorship to end.
I fear that people who blindly subscribe to our current mental health model will most likely assume she is unstable based on what she said to the judge. They might ignorantly say she is delusional or manic, further supporting why she needs a conservator. For those people, I'm calling bullshit. While her speech was pressured, she was lucid and able to articulate her feelings and the harm the conservatorship is causing her. She clearly stated she was angry, and I'd also imagine she was nervous.
Before I jump into my theory of what the heck happened to Britney Spears, I want to talk about some of the comments she made during her request to end her conservatorship.
Britney reported feeling traumatized, oppressed, and abused.
She felt forced to tour and perform, was given no privacy, and was made to use birth control. She was also forced to undergo psychiatric evaluations, take medication, and attend therapy sessions against her will.
Can you imagine if someone told you what to do with your body? If someone forced you to take birth control and denied you the right to marry and conceive? What if someone forced you to work despite feeling depleted and sick? Worse, what if someone forced you to take Lithium.
Britney has zero say over her body, finances, career, or life with this conservatorship in place. Her father is in complete control.
What makes matters worse is she can't pick her own attorney to fight for her. The poor girl can't even advocate for herself because the perpetrators control her like a marionette.
I don't believe for one second that Britney Spears lives with a mental illness. I think prolonged stress pushed her outside of her window of tolerance and her mind-body system became dysregulated as a result.
During her plea with the judge, Britney reports she began working at seventeen, with her first album coming out in 1999. She was off to the races and was an instant pop princess. Around 2006, at the age of twenty-four, Britney's mental health appeared to decompensate. That's a solid seven years of public scrutiny, stress, and exhaustion.
BRITNEYS MENTAL HEALTH DECLINE
Britney Spears mental health decline appears to have begun in 2006 after she was photographed more than once driving with her kiddo in her lap. She was also later photographed stumbling and nearly dropping her 8-month old son, which further fueled the scrutiny of her parenting skills. That same year CPS was called to her house after reports that the nanny had dropped Britney's son, but it doesn't end there. In 2006 Britney filed for divorce from Kevin Federline and began to hit the nightclubs more often, where she was photographed drinking, smoking, and engaging in odd behaviors. She was doing what most people in their early 20s do. I mean, I've had my fair share of drunken moments.
In 2007 Britney went through a breakup, was photographed shaving her head and attacking a paparazzi's car, and was in the courts fighting for custody of her kids. That same year she checked herself into an inpatient facility twice. In September 2007, Britney Spears performed at the VMAs and was eaten alive by the media for her presentation and performance. That same month Britney's management firm dropped her, and her lawyer quit.
Oh, but it doesn't stop there. She was also charged with a misdemeanor hit and run and driving without a license. In October 2007, Britney was ordered to surrender custody of her children to her ex, where she was granted visitation rights. Later that month there was an emergency hearing where she was told she may not visit her kids until she complies with a court order. Throughout all this chaos and stress, Britney also managed to produce a new album.
In January 2008, Britney Spears was taken to the hospital after a nearly three-hour custody standoff with her kids inside her home. A few days later, Kevin Federline was granted sole custody of the kids, and Britney lost her visitation rights. Paparazzi were all over her throughout all of this. That same month she was placed on a mental health hold for unknown reasons, and the next day the conservatorship was put into place. Oh, and let's not forget, Britney was also struggling with people in her immediate circle.
During all of this, she was also raising two kiddos under the age of three.
It sounds like a lot of stress, right?!
Britney Spears was under constant scrutiny, splashed all over every magazine, and we all ate it up. Every misstep was further evidence to confirm people's false beliefs that she was struggling with a mental illness, but she wasn't.
Britney Spears' cup had runneth over, and her body responded.
DYSREGULATED MIND-BODY SYSTEM
When you're in a state of chronic stress without recovery, your mind-body system never has the opportunity to recover fully. When this happens, you build an allostatic load, and your mind-body system becomes dysregulated (that is, mental health symptoms present).
In Widen the Window, Elizabeth Stanley states, dysregulation manifests as physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual symptoms. All symptoms that our current mental health model labels as mental illness.
Due to chronic stress without recovery, Britney Spears' inner equilibrium never had the opportunity to restore back to its baseline. Her thinking brain was hijacked by her survival brain, resulting in her operating in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
When this happens, her thinking brain is essentially unplugged, and emotions and pain are driving her decisions. This can lead Britney to act impulsively, struggle to regulate her emotions and make reactive choices (Sounds about right).
When you're operating outside your window of tolerance, which is how much stress one person can tolerate before they become dysregulated, you struggle to think clearly, see the bigger picture, and make effective and emotionally intelligent decisions.
Britney's erratic behavior is further evidence that she was operating outside her window.
To put it another way, we all have different cup sizes of stress we can hold. When we don't allow our inner equilibrium the ability to recover, all that stress fills up our cup and eventually overflows into our body. That's what leads to the presentation of so-called mental illness.
With all that said, we don't even know what size Britney's window (aka cup size) was before all these events transpired.
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE STRESS TOLERANCE LEVELS
Here are some factors that impact the size of your window and how much stress you can tolerate:
- Childhood adversity
- History of being bullied
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Neglect and abandonment
- Attachment styles to parents
- Poverty and homelessness
- Intergenerational trauma
- Being exposed to domestic abuse
- Having parents who used substances
- The loss of a loved one
- Being placed in foster care or juvenile detention
- Premature birth
- Being raised by a parent who struggled with their own mental health
- Losing someone to suicide
These are just a few examples.
We don't know what Britney Spears' childhood looked like or if she ever experienced any form of abuse. We don't know what her relationships or marriage looked like. Outside of alcohol, we don't know if she had a history of substance use or accessed mental health medications before her conservatorship. We don't know if she was struggling with internal stressors, such as: Thyroid problems, blood sugar instability, inflammation, hormone imbalances, head trauma, etc.
What we can only imagine is that the poor woman was stressed the f*@k out. I mean, wouldn't you be? The constant criticism. Being portrayed as unstable and an unfit mother. People went so far as to vote her the worst celebrity dog owner. Who does that?
Britney Spears was no different than you and me. She was a young woman navigating life under a magnifying glass in front of millions of critical souls. She was a new momma who was probably sleep-deprived. That has its own negative impact on the mind and body.
She went to the bars and did a few silly things, but who hasn't?
She made a few parenting mistakes, but doesn't everyone?!
This conservatorship is doing more harm than good. Britney told the judge she was not happy, struggling to sleep, lonely, and angry. Does that sound like she's recovering to you?
Did someone need to step in when her mental health began to decompensate? Yeah probably. Did they need to take control of her life and force her to take Lithium? Absolutely not.
The courts have no place in the mental health space because they lack the competence to make informed decisions. Trust me. I know the process. While individuals who hold licenses deeming them as reliable sources can speak up, the problem is most believe our current mental health narrative, once again perpetuating the problem.
Her situation enrages me. No person should lose the right to make choices over their own life. If she wants to spend ridiculous amounts of money, let her. She busted her ass to make that money, and it's no one's right to tell her how to spend it.
I haven't felt this upset in a long time and I feel my emotions are being driven by the role I played in contributing to the problem. Sadly, I used to blindly participate in our current mental health narrative. I believed Britney was crazy and consumed all the tabloids about her. I even made fun of her when I saw her in concert, and she said hello to the wrong city (Hello, Sacramento! Whoops, you're in San Jose. Still love you Brit).
Instead, I should've been advocating for her. I should've thrown her a life raft and pulled her in. Am I trying to clear my conscience? No. I'm trying to create a conversation and bring awareness to the realities that our current mental health model is in the business of keeping people sick. What we are doing isn't working!
BRITNEY SPEARS IS ON DEATH ROW
Britney didn't need a life sentence. She needed to recover in a safe space where she could send a memo of safety to her body, but instead, she was emotionally abused and held captive.
She was punished and intimidated by her father and management team, all while they financially benefited from her. We send people to prison for embezzlement and insurance fraud, but when mental health is involved, the victim is deemed crazy. Why should Jamie and the parties involved get off scot-free?! You know it's bad when you want to sue your family.
The media keeps referring to Britney as a prisoner, but the truth is, she has it worse. She's more like a death row inmate. There is zero intention to rehabilitate her or help her heal. Even prisoners get that. They are slowly killing her. I mean, parolees have more freedom and control over their life than Britney does. That's insane to me!
Being isolated, controlled, and forced to work is not in her best interest. It's exacerbating her current mental health symptoms.
WHAT BRITNEY NEEDS
- Britney needs the judge to wake up and recognize how horrible this whole situation is. If that judge fails to see the truth, higher-up powers need to step in, fire that judge, and free Britney.
- She needs to seek therapy in a safe space that promotes healing with someone who will hold space for her.
- Britney needs to take a break from fame and go somewhere where she can rest and recover in peace.
- She needs to consume a diet that promotes good gut and brain health.
- Britney needs to prioritize sleep quality, not quantity.
- She needs to engage in self-care that recharges her emotional, physical, and mental battery.
- She needs to establish healthy boundaries to protect her energy, even if that means closing doors on relationships (even if those relationships are family).
- Britney needs to surround herself with people who will support her healing journey and shower her in hugs and love.
- She needs to keep dancing her heart out.
- She needs to have lunch dates with her besties whenever she chooses.
- Britney needs to be able to binge shop online just like all the rest of us are doing, without having to get permission.
- She needs to do the work and begin to heal her inner child.
- Lastly, she needs off that damn Lithium and she needs to work with a doctor who can safely titrate her off her mental health medications.
Before I receive hate mail, I'm not a conspiracy theorist who's completely anti-meds. I believe they have a time and place in certain situations and for a short duration of time. I don't think mental health medications should be the first line of defense, and I don't believe they should be used long-term.
Britney told the judge she was pushed into involuntary medical evaluations, forced to take Lithium, and told she had to go to rehab after she objected to a piece of choreography. Her medications were switched up, which can cause harm, all because she used her voice and certain people didn't like that.
Joanna Moncrieff states, “We have little evidence that Lithium is a really effective treatment, or even that it is effective at all. Lithium is a neurotoxin. It inhibits the functioning of the nervous system so that people typically feel drowsy, lethargic, and slowed up. The sedative and slowing effects of Lithium, although usually described as side effects, account for why Lithium can help reduce arousal and activity levels in people with acute manic symptoms. In my view, the evidence that Lithium helps prevent episodes of manic depression is far too weak to outweigh the harms it can cause.”
BE PART OF THE CHANGE
We have to create change. We have to change the narrative surrounding mental health, so no one else falls victim to our broken system.
How do we do that? Stay informed, speak up, and start advocating for yourself.
As Lena Dunham says, “Britney was our canary in the coal mine.” She's the lived experience demanding freedom. Not only is she demanding her life back, but she's also demanding change and reform, whether she's aware of it or not.
What's happening to Britney is tragic and horrific. I hope this is the slap in the face society needs to wake up. Stop blindly falling for our current mental health narrative. We're not sheep, so why do we feel we have to be part of this broken mental health model? The Oxford Languages defines sheeple as ‘people compared to sheep in being docile, foolish, or easily led.' Used in a sentence, they stated, “by the time the sheeple wake up and try to change things, it will be too late” Tell me that isn't fitting for this current situation?!
If you want to join me in changing our current mental health narrative, I'd encourage you to tune into episodes:
- Episode 17: Holistic Approaches to Psychiatry With Dr. Ellen Vora
- Episode 19: Medicating Normal With Angela Peacock
- Episode 24: Psychiatric Drugs and the Rise of Mental Illness with Robert Whitaker
- Episode 29: Self-Healing From Trauma With Dr. Nicole Lepera
- Episode 40: Dr. Catherine Pittman Shares her Concerns about Benzodiazepines
- Episode 49: Surviving the Bipolar Label with Karin Jervert
- Episode 58: Thriving During Stress and Recovering From Trauma with Elizabeth Stanley
- Episode 61: Changing the Mental Health Narrative With Kelly Brogan
Britney, if you're listening, I've been fangirling since middle school. I'm sorry you're hurting, and I send you every ounce of love and strength in my being. If you need me to fly to California and tell the judge what's up, call me.