6 minute read
At the peak of her music career, Britney Spears had her famous meltdown where she shaved her head, went to rehab, and began living under conservatorship. The conservatorship was a fairly quiet matter until recently. The #FreeBritney movement started in 2009 and has picked up momentum with the recent documentary, “The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears” released on Hulu in February of 2021. In June of 2021, Britney pleaded to the court to remove the conservatorship. Her testimony leaked and went viral, and now the #FreeBritney movement has exploded.
“a conservatorship is the appointment of a conservator by the court to manage a person’s affairs who is unable to handle them due to their mental capacity, age, or physical disability”
In the testimony, Britney alleged forced contraception, home imprisonment, financial abuse, and unwanted medical control. Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, is said to have made millions of dollars off being his daughter’s conservator. Jamie is a manipulative, controlling, money hungry, villainous father. Or is he?
The Facts: What We Know and Don’t Know
The Cornell Law School states that “a conservatorship is the appointment of a conservator by the court to manage a person’s affairs who is unable to handle them due to their mental capacity, age, or physical disability”. Some states use the word guardian instead of conservator; fiduciary is an interchangeable term as well. Jamie Spears is not currently Britney’s sole conservator. Jodi Montgomery is conservator/fiduciary of Britney’s person and Jamie is conservator of Britney’s finances. Per the public statement from Jodi’s attorney, Jodi must follow a strict code of ethics as a nonrelated, professional conservator. It also states that Jodi has not inhibited Britney’s family planning choices. Is someone lying? Why don’t we hear about Jodi?
“…we do not have evidence of conservatorship abuse based on Britney’s testimony.”
Well, we also know that Britney Spears has a mental illness. There are speculations of bipolar being her diagnosis, but Britney has been appropriately protected from having her medical information released. We know that it takes a team of professionals to put someone under conservatorship: doctors, lawyers, judges, and family. Britney had to undergo an evaluation to determine her capacity to make informed decisions. This is the test that Britney wishes to bypass in removal of her conservatorship. Britney may not have told any lies; she may believe things that aren’t true. This sometimes happens with mental illnesses. And while another mental capacity evaluation would be uncomfortable, it seems to be a reasonable and necessary assessment for this situation.
My Experience with Guardians as a Nurse
The majority of guardians/conservators truly do want the best for their loved one. The guardian to guarded person’s relationship is oftentimes a strained one. It can be similar to a child to parent relationship. The parent has rules for the protection of the child; the child hates those rules. It’s even harder when the child is not a child, but an adult that craves independence and resents not having control over their life. Sometimes, the dependent person says hateful things to their guardian. Guardians are blessed to be able to look past these hateful things and continue to fight for the best life of their loved one.
“Mania is a potentially dangerous part of bipolar disorder characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity.”
Are there bad apple guardians? Sure, bad apples exist in all aspects of life and conservatorship is a real thing that needs to be addressed. However, we do not have evidence of conservatorship abuse based on Britney’s testimony. Let’s go back to something we know: Britney has a mental illness.
Britney Appears to Be Manic
During her testimony, the judge had to ask Britney to slow her speech down multiple times because Britney was talking faster than the courtroom typist could keep up with. Courtroom typists can type over 300 words per minute; the average speaking speed is 150. She also used the “f-word” multiple times as she read her prepared letter to the judge. Using the “f-word” casually in a courtroom is not normal, especially in a prepared professional statement. Britney has also displayed abnormal behavior on her Instagram feed: hundreds of videos of bizarre dancing and spinning, talking quickly while rocking side to side, admitting to burning down her gym, massaging her naked breasts, and locking herself in her bathroom. Her Instagram followers have expressed confusion and concern in the comments of some of these posts. The fast talking, racing thoughts, and erratic behavior are signs of mania.
“…what she does on stage is a performance and not a full representation of who or how she is.”
Mania is a potentially dangerous part of bipolar disorder characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity. In the leaked testimony, Britney stated that she was once prescribed lithium, but didn’t like it. Lithium is a mood stabilizing drug often used to treat bipolar disorder. Could Britney not be taking her prescribed meds? That’s my suspicion. There are those in the #FreeBritney movement that state Britney shouldn’t take medication if she doesn’t want to. I agree with that. But, if she has a mental illness that is controllable with medications, maybe she could live a higher quality of life. Maybe the temporary conservatorship of her person could be removed.
Maybe this. Maybe that.
Maybe, Britney’s dad is loving and it’s hard for him as a caregiver to be demonized for advocating for his daughters’ wellbeing. There are a lot of people with mental illnesses that have no advocate. Some are homeless. Some are in jail. Maybe, one day, Britney will tell the world that she has bipolar disorder and becomes an advocate for bipolar treatment and medications. Today, the only people that know her diagnosis and situation are the health care providers, legal teams, and family that are privy to that information.
Lastly, Britney pointed out that she provides the paycheck for a multitude of people . This is partially true. A lot of people make the performances and tours happen, not just the main star. Because she has done tours and shows, she states she should be able to make her own financial and personal decisions. Britney is a talented performer. But that’s it, what she does on stage is a performance and not a full representation of who or how she is.
Britney Spears’ life has brought awareness to mental illness and conservatorship. Researching Britney Spears’ mental illness and conservatorship has made me more aware of the potential plight of a conservator. The conservator could be a demon or a saint. I think society would have more private information if her conservator was a demon. I also don’t think the general public is ready to accept that psychiatric medication is important. Most people want to free Britney, but who is asking her if she is following the recommended treatment plans, if she is truly taking care of herself? She said in court that she didn’t like lithium. Sometimes it takes a long time to find a medication that works, I wonder what else she has tried or if she has given it time.
Let’s talk about it.
Do you or someone you know take a psychiatric medication? What happens when you don’t take it? What happens when your patient, family member, or friend goes off their meds for weeks or months? Do you think there is a possibility that being the caregiver of an incredibly wealthy, famous person would be hard? What about a middle class or poor, unknown person? If Britney has Bipolar and IF she isn’t taking medications that would help her in decision making processes, would you hold a sign that says #FreeBritney or gently guide her to take medications that would help?