“I just want my life back…the conservatorship should end. I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people—it makes no sense…. basically, this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good.”

—Britney Spears, June 23, 2021

For the past 13 years, the public and press have wondered how Britney Spears really feels about living under a guardianship, a legal arrangement in which an appointed third party cares for the needs of and makes decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person.

Now we know. She feels “traumatized.”

Spears, who’ll be 40 in December, has been under the conservatorship since 2008, when the mental health struggles chronicled by press photographers led her father, Jamie Spears, to request temporary and then permanent legal oversight over her money and personal life. On June 23, at an online court hearing livestreamed to the news media, the pop star asked Judge Brenda Penny in no uncertain terms to end the arrangement.

Her passionate testimony was filled with depictions of emotional and physical abuse and financial exploitation by her father and others appointed to oversee her life and well-being. If true, the situation she described has been as bad or worse than any “conspiracy theories” advanced by #FreeBritney activists:

Being forced to perform, sometimes seven days a week without a break, even with a 102-degree temperature. Forced psychiatric treatments, including drugging with dizzying doses of lithium and constant monitoring. Forced to use birth control and refused the right to marry and have a baby—or even travel in her boyfriend’s car. Isolation, threats, and retaliation if she does not comply with demands. Warnings to keep quiet about her misgivings. Failure to inform her of her right to end the conservatorship. And, adding insult to injury, being forced to pay the salaries of those she claims are harming her. Comparing her circumstances to sex trafficking, Britney told the judge she wished to sue her conservators and be allowed to tell reporters “what they did to me.”

Not So Unusual

The transcript of her testimony serves to vindicate the concerns of fans and disability rights advocates. It also highlights not only the issues that make guardianships in general problematic, but also the disrespect and dehumanization faced by people who, like Britney, have been labeled mentally ill and placed in the mental health system against their will.

Almost by definition, guardianships such as the one Spears is under can be infantilizing, removing ordinary civil rights and substituting the guardians’ choices for the ward’s.  According to Spears, she is constantly directed what to do and feels “like I work for the people whom I pay.” Though her conservatorship is supposed to protect her, she said any unapproved actions are punished by removing privileges such as seeing her children or taking a vacation.

Spears also claims she was pushed into four months of “rehab” after she disagreed with conservators over a choreography routine, subjected to  10 hours a day of non-optional therapy meetings with unfamiliar doctors, and never left alone even to dress. The “treatment” involved forced drugging with lithium, which she said left her virtually unable to function. And she’s been required to attend therapy three times a week in a public building, where “scummy paparazzi” photograph her leaving sessions in tears. This type of adversarial mental health treatment has been documented in countless personal stories on Mad in America and elsewhere.

So has a lack of credibility; mental health patients’ complaints of drug side effects or psychiatric abuse are often not believed.  As Britney told the judge, “The last time I spoke to you, by just keeping the conservatorship going, and also keeping my dad in the loop, made me feel like I was dead—like I didn’t matter, like nothing had been done to me, like you thought I was lying or something.”

Of declining to speak to the press or tell fans of her woes, she explained, “It’s embarrassing and demoralizing what I’ve been through. And that’s the main reason I’ve never said it openly… because I honestly don’t think anyone would believe me.”

Perhaps most disturbing was her allegation that the conservators won’t let doctors remove her IUD so she can try to get pregnant with her longtime partner. Some commentators have compared this type of medical control to forced sterilization, historically practiced on people deemed “unfit” or mad and codified in the notorious Buck v. Bell case involving an institutionalized woman named Carrie Buck.  Deemed “feeble-minded” and “promiscuous,” Buck was sterilized after the Supreme Court ruled that “public welfare” superseded her individual rights.

Media Scrutiny  

As with the revelations in February’s documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” the press reaction to her speech was swift and shocked, with network talking heads and commentators from conservative talk show host Megan McCain to the liberal legal columnist for The Nation now calling to #FreeBritney. Major media outlets and politicians alike noted the links between Spears’ case and the larger issues of disability and reproductive rights.

MSNBC anchor Joy Reid featured the hearing in her “The Absolute Worst” segment, reporting, “Britney Spears’ case of alleged conservatorship abuse could happen to anyone,” and pointing out that guardians control at least $50 billion in assets. Reid cited violations such as placing a DNR on an elderly man who did not want to die, and summed up, “Britney’s case is getting the scrutiny it deserves, and maybe it will spark changes to a toxic system much in need of reform. Free Britney!”

Britney’s claim that she is forced to use contraception came in for particular criticism. For example, a New York Times story on the case quoted attorney and reproductive rights advocate Ruth Dawson, who explained that whatever the conservators’ rationale, “Forcing someone to be on birth control against their will is a violation of basic human rights and bodily autonomy, just as forcing someone to become or stay pregnant against their will would be.” A health law scholar told the Times, “It’s unspeakable.”

One thing the media have yet to reflect on is their own failure: Spears said her family lied about her to the press, including about what she described as a months-long stay at a psychiatric facility and that—unlike what has been reported—she had not stopped taking her regular medication and did not go willingly. She also admitted that postings on her perky Instagram account, where she’s claimed she is happy, reflected “denial”—an effort to “fake it till you make it.” Why were outlets so quick to believe the spin control? And if, as the New York Times reported, records show she has been trying to end the conservatorship for years, why is that information coming to light only now?

What’s Next?

One would think that, after hearing Spears’ allegations and desire to sue her family and conservatorship team, the judge would call for an investigation. But at press time, nothing further had happened. For Britney to dissolve the conservatorship, her next step is to file official paperwork requesting that. (She has reportedly been asking her attorney to do so for some time.) In the meantime, the judge can consider her demands for changes, including allowing the star to choose her own attorney and therapist.

Even if Britney does file, her independence is far from assured, according to lawyers quoted in press interviews on the matter.

To be removed from guardianship, a ward “would have to state facts showing that the conservatorship is no longer required or that the grounds for establishing the conservatorship no longer exist,” family law attorney Alexander Ripps told the BBC. But showing one is capable of managing one’s life is not easy to document when control over that life is removed. Another lawyer, Christopher Melcher, wondered, “Can she bring in acquaintances that have seen her daily activities, who can attest that there’s been no erratic behaviour? Or has she been isolated so much that she doesn’t have any of those favourable witnesses?”

This Catch-22 is complicated by the fact that Britney stated numerous times that she is unwilling to undergo the evaluations usually required to terminate a conservatorship. As she put it, “I don’t feel like I should even be in a room with anyone to offend me by trying to question my capacity or intelligence, whether I need to be in this stupid conservatorship or not. I’ve done more than enough.”

Also, if—as is likely—her conservators challenge her request, it could lead to protracted litigation. Sarah J. Wentz, an attorney specializing in conservatorships, told Variety Trials can take years…. I would imagine this would be a case with a lot of depositions, so you’re talking about a full-blown trial.”

And if a court battle ensues, her family and other guardians may have the upper hand in the “he said/she said.” Because Spears has a mental illness diagnosis, they (or a hired doctor) could argue her testimony is a sign of anosognosia, or being unaware that one is ill. They could describe her abuse allegations as paranoid delusions. And they could portray her rage, and admission that she cries every day, as signs she may be at risk of harming herself or others, criteria often used to continue involuntary psychiatric treatment.

As for the forced contraception, it is probably illegal. According to the Times, it is rare in a conservatorship and despite America’s “dark history… more recent rulings and legislation suggest it would violate a basic right.”

On the other hand, according to Wentz, Britney can indeed sue her conservators for breach of fiduciary duty: “If certain statements that she made proved that they did things in their own self-interest to line their pockets versus hers, that’s an easier case to prove than some of the softer issues, which are really hard to prosecute on because they will say that they were trying to act in her best interest.”

Larger Lessons

Whatever the outcome, one thing is sure: Britney is using her voice to assert her competence, her rights, and her wishes. And, at least by some, it’s being heard. But as she told the judge, many people out of the spotlight are in the same boat: “We can sit here all day and say oh, conservatorships are here to help people. But ma’am, there is a thousand conservatorships that are abusive as well.”

And that includes those guardianships overseeing disabled people who can’t work and who struggle with everyday tasks. In a Twitter thread about Spears’ statement, peer-support network Project LETS stated, in part:

A tweet from Project LETS reading "For everyone viewing #FreeBritney from the lens of 'this isn't right--she's not (Disabled, incapacitated, incompetent, mentally ill) because she can (work, communicate effectively about her abuse, make decisions, be a mother, post on social media)'--that is NOT the point:"A tweet from Project LETS reading "The bottom line: #FreeBritney is a Disability Rights issue. It's about who we see as human enough to be granted the rights of personhood."

The saga of Britney Spears illustrates how vital it is for the courts and press to give a platform to the voices of people with lived experience in the mental health system and their advocates.

It also shows the need to overhaul a system that government and media reports alike have found to be minimally monitored. Richard Calhoun, co-founder of the Coalition for Elderly and Disability Rights, an advocacy group focused on human rights of those under conservatorship, told Mad in America, “The courts in general and the LA Court in specific provides so little oversight, a court-appointed professional can routinely submit invoices billing more than 24 hours per day and nobody raises a red flag saying wait a minute, this is not even possible. Only when the general public realizes they could be the next victim… will the widespread profitable abuse of conservatees stop.”

In the meantime, said his CEDAR co-founder Linda Kinkaid, MPH—who described guardianships as “civil death”—“Britney’s case is definitely moving the needle on conservatorship in California. The change is not because one person, in this case Britney, addressed the court. The change is driven by civil rights advocacy and media coverage. For the first time, the average person understands.”

Editor’s Note: At press time, Britney Spears’ attorney had not yet filed the official paperwork to end her conservatorship. But on June 30, Judge Penny declined Britney’s request, filed in fall 2020, to remove her father Jamie Spears as co-conservator of her finances. The next day, recently confirmed co-financial conservator Bessemer Trust asked to resign from the role after learning that Britney’s conservatorship is not voluntary. Meanwhile, Jamie Spears has called for an official probe of his daughter’s allegations (which, seemingly, would mean having his own actions investigated). The next hearing in Spears’ case is expected on July 14.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much, Miranda, for your continued coverage of this heartbreaking, outrageous and terrifying situation involving Britney Spears. If you haven’t seen them, I think today’s New Yorker article by Ronan Farrow is absolutely mind blowing in its detail about the specifics of how hard Britney has been fighting this conservatorship all along. It answers questions many have had about how much control she has over her social media and general public image as well.

    https://www.newyorker.com/news/american-chronicles/britney-spears-conservatorship-nightmare

    In addition, an article yesterday in The Cut is an incredibly well written, no holds barred take down of psychiatry generally that I think will be very well received by many of this site’s readers should it be republished here.

    https://www.thecut.com/amp/2021/07/britney-spears-experience-shows-how-we-treat-mentally-ill.html

  2. Well if it is inherited, I guess papa is batshit also and should not be trusted as competent to run daughter’s affairs :).

    Thanks Miranda.
    Obviously Brittany needs to run away to some south american country and live out the rest of her life in peace.

    Being a fugitive is shitty, but so much better than to deal with the gods of psychiatry.

  3. I was handed one of these contracts, under the guise of an “art manager” contract, after a show of my “insightful,” “work of smart female,” but “too truthful” for some, artwork. By a psychologist who said he wanted to give me an “artist of the year” award. I read the contract, it was truly appalling. The sicko psychologist who gave it to me wanted me to hire him to steal all profits from my work, and actually at times like Christmas, a sale of my work would leave me owing him money. He wanted to control my life story, rather than allowing me to write my own life’s story. He wanted to take control of my lawyers and accountants. He wanted to steal all my money and work. Truly, the contract was appalling.

    And was he ever obnoxious. He started out by telling me how wonderful it would be if he took control of my finances, since I could then concentrate more on my work. I said if I gave you control of my finances, you’d just steal my money. He humpfed and grumpfed and said something about the bankers. I took this to mean that since the banksters got away with stealing “trillions worth of houses” from innocent America families, that means it’s fine for him to steal from widows in his church. He said, just sign the contract.

    I said no, I can’t afford to hire a business manager. He asked me to sign the contract again anyway.

    Again I said no, and explained to him that I did not trust Lutheran psychologists, because a Lutheran psychologist had misdiagnosed me and destroyed my marriage, so she could cover up the abuse of my child, for her pastor. He said he was not a clinical psychologist, so I should sign the contract. I said I don’t care what kind of psychologist you are. And again, I said no.

    He then tried to tell me that I just needed to forgive those people. So I explained that I was drugged up because a non- “holist Christian talk therapist” fraudulently claimed a dream about being moved by the Holy Spirit was a “Holy Spirit voice,” according to her medical records. And I consider that blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is the only unforgivable sin in the entire Holy Bible. Thus, forgiveness of those people is God’s decision, not mine.

    I then explained to him that I had a business degree, in addition to the art degree, and have both owned and managed many businesses in my life, so I didn’t need a business manager. He asked me again to sign the contract, again I said no.

    I went on to explain to him that one of the first things that one is taught in business school is to never, never, ever, ever, ever enter into a business contract with a person who wants to take a percentage of gross. He lied, and claimed there was no other way (like, for example, a contract where a manager takes a percentage of net profit?), and he asked me sign his thievery contact again. Again, I said no.

    He then asked me what my goal was with my work. I told him I hoped to some day get my work into the art history books. He kind of grumbled out of concern because he was afraid that “the world might be ready for a Chicago Chagall.” He then asked me again to sign the contract. I again said no.

    I further went on to tell him that I didn’t believe in the DSM, and that a DSM “bible” thumping social worker had even tried to get her grubby little hands on my child. Because he’d largely healed from the child abuse, and gone from remedial reading, after the child abuse, to getting 100% on his state standardized tests in eighth grade. He made some sort of sick comment about how trying to drug the smartest children was acceptable. And again he asked me to sign the contract. Again I said no.

    I then emailed this psychologist’s horrendous contract to my brothers, since I’d concluded by this time, that this psychologist was just an outright misogynist. My brothers absolutely agreed with me that we did not want this insane psychologist involved with our family’s money. And I told the psychologist that no one in my family wanted him involved with our family’s money. He said I should sign the contract anyway. Again I said no.

    Finally, he tells me that he won’t give me the “artist of the year” award, unless I sign the contract. So I said, fine let’s just forget about it. This prompted him to say, “Good, then you’ll sign the contract!” I was just plain pissed at this idiot at this point, and asked him “What is wrong with you!” And went on to tell him that I’d never heard of a dumber idea than to put a child abuse covering up psychologist in charge of my anti-child abuse, anti-psychiatry artwork.

    Then I finally pointed out to him that the primary actual societal function of both the psychological and psychiatric professions is covering up child abuse. And that the psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ “partnership” with my childhood religion had turned the head bishops of that religion into systemic child abuse cover uppers, too. And all these people need to get out of the child abuse covering up business.

    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php?fbclid=IwAR2-cgZPcEvbz7yFqMuUwneIuaqGleGiOzackY4N2sPeVXolwmEga5iKxdo
    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/
    https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    He then kind of started pleading with me about wanting to “maintain the status quo.”

    At this point, both my mother and I felt it was no longer safe for us to attend my childhood church any longer, so we stopped attending that church. I went to the police, explained the whole scam, and asked if such thievery contracts were even legal to hand out. I think the policeman got a kick out of the fact that one of these horrendous people, who hand out these evil contracts, got caught. He said he’d file a police report, and I’m guessing he called the psychologist and told him to just leave me alone.

    But truly it’s shameful these contracts are even legal. I’ve heard lots of stories from people whose elderly parent got caught up in one of these contracts, had all their money stolen, then the psychiatrist involved ends up killing the elderly parent with the psych drugs.

    • Someone Else,

      Thank you for sharing as yours is a great testimony of how just the concept of “mental illness” itself can constitute a powerplay between patient/client and psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist/counselor/social worker/caregivers/enablers.

      As the professional assigning the DSM label of “mental illness” is considered the expert on what are normal behaviors, moods, feeling, emotions, etc. and the “mentally ill” person is the abnormal person completely dependent on their expertise.

      Who determines the need for treatment and who profits?

      Absolutely unbelievable the control, abuse and thievery that can go on in these settings.

      Listening to Ms. Spears describe her “team” it may seem confusing to the general public as to why so many people are tasked with trying to maintain the mental health
      of just one person. She seems confused herself as to why she is going to so many different professionals. And sadly, excluded from genuine friendships.

      For those who are not familiar with the system, assumptions may be made that it is because of her celebrity status she has a treatment team but that certainly is not the case. Most people in the system end up believing they need the services of multiple professionals.

      I think many in the general public envision a psychiatrist also providing talk therapy, while most only provide a short session for medication management and work with other professionals providing different levels of treatment, along with understanding the different branches of psychology.

      Ms. Spears testimony is powerful in that she is exposing psychiatry as an unregulated powerbase of authority, along with questioning who determines the need for “treatment” and just how many profit.

      In her own words, it sounds like what Ms. Spears wants to be free of is all psychological services that have empowered others to become the Britney Spears experts while profiting off of her success.

  4. Many interesting aspects to consider especially given the opportunity this case has to assist the “average person” in understanding the special circumstances many individuals who become labeled “mentally ill” are forced to live under.

    “Forcing someone to be on birth control against their will is a violation of basic human rights”

    While that may be true for the “average person”, is it true for the average “mentally ill” person?

    In 2012, a Massachusetts court overturned a ruling by a judge who ordered a mentally ill woman to undergo an abortion against her wishes and be sterilized.

    https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/nation_world/20120118_Judges_reject_forced_abortion.html

    Although the decision was overruled

    “The judge reasoned that if the woman were competent, she would opt for an abortion to benefit from medication that otherwise could not be given to her because of its effects on the fetus.”

    If Ms. Spears is being forced to take the prescription medication lithium carbonate, there are risk factors to consider with pregnancy .

    Are the risk factors being used by her treatment team to justify forcing her to remain on birth control?

    Are other women who are forced to take lithium carbonate also being forced to remain on birth control?

    In his book Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, author Pete Earley gives an in-depth look inside the mental health care system.

    This book portrays the very dark side of a treatment approach based solely on pharmaceuticals and the author uses selective story-telling to support the belief patients benefit from life-long medication management. One of the stories he uses is of a young woman who is stable on medications, gets pregnant, tries to go off medications by using supplements, relapses, goes back on medications and chooses to abort her child rather than risk side effects to her unborn child.

    Many “mentally ill” individuals are forced to take drugs that drastically reduce their chances of having children and it is not considered a violation of basic human rights.

    • “The judge reasoned that if the woman were competent, she would opt for an abortion to benefit from medication that otherwise could not be given to her because of its effects on the fetus.”

      So this judge must have got that information from a doctor. And it would then beg the question how is the fetus affected?
      And if the developing fetus is affected, then the drugs they give kids would affect them also
      The brains of kids are not developed fully until age 24, so science tells us. Yet the shrinks regularly give these drugs to undeveloped brains.

      • If you consider that these psych drugs could harm the developing fetus (although I have read where women explain the drugs didn’t harm the baby, because the baby was born with ten fingers and ten toes) then should these psych drugs really be prescribed to women of child-bearing age at all? But, then what about women past child-bearing age? I would say there are other reasons to assert danger. As far as men go, I have read that these drugs disrupt their reproductive abilities, too? Have you noticed how the birth rate has dropped in countries like the USA? Like Robert Whitaker’s work, who found a correlation between rising disability claims and the rising prescriptions of psych drugs; could there be a correlation in declining birth rates and the rising prescriptions of psych drugs? That would be very interesting, but it might not be something that psychiatry, etc. wants to be pointed out to them? Thank you.

      • Sam,

        Great points!

        Years ago I went through IV Chelation treatments to help detox from past exposure to lead and other toxins.

        Most of the other patients were older and receiving Chelation as a complementary treatment with the belief it would benefit coronary heart disease or macular degeneration. The treatments took about four hours and there were always 10-15 other patients getting treatments at the same time, so everyone got to know each other and we had wonderful conversation on different topics involving many health issues and treatment options.

        A gentleman in his eighties made the observation when he was a kid, students were given cod liver oil in school and how now in his grandchildren’s school, the kids are lined up for doses of Ritalin.

        At the time, each child on Ritalin was worth approximately $1200 to stockholders. 🙁

    • I think you’ve brought up some points that lead to a bigger discussion on childbearing in general. The right to both produce and raise ones own genetic offspring has been under attack for decades by multiple industries that profit from both fertility and infertility. This is part and parcel of the right to NOT bear and raise children, which is equally under attack.

      Both of these movements utilize the production of children for profit through fertility treatments, through adoption, and through surrogacy.

      The adoption industry alone is a multinational, multi billion dollar industry that promotes the transfer of humans from the undeserving to the deserving largely along economic lines. Equality has been framed as everyone having equal ability to adopt rather than a restriction of the circumstances under which children are transferred from the poor to the well off. There are few discussions of this which take into account the lifelong effects adoption often has on children and on the mother’s who have lost or willingly given them up. We hear almost nothing but positive stories in our cultural discussions of adoption but rarely are willing to discuss how the children themselves fare or what circumstances led to their being relinquished. Whether it’s adoption of infants or older children, we can’t have a genuine conversation without discussing issues such as poverty, racism, trauma, and the culture of extreme judgment of what is a good parent vs what is a bad parent.

      Additionally, in pursuit of economic freedom, women have been for decades delaying childbirth while they build their careers so that they can be independent from male oppression. So now we have millions of women relying on fertility treatments as they attempt to bear children nearer the end of their natural fertility.

      We also have the surrogacy movement that benefits single hopeful parents as well as the LGBT population. Surrogates are often socioeconomically disadvantaged women who are essentially renting out their wombs. I’ve known them. Successful surrogates pump out one child after another at great risk to their own health and future fertility.

      You bring up good points about women choosing (or being forced) not to have their own children because of the drugs they have been prescribed. Often, adoption is the solution promoted to fix this issue.

      Another thing we don’t talk about is the pain of adoption loss. The majority of birth mothers never go on to have more children after experiencing the pain of relinquishment. Surrogates experience all of the same physical effects of childbearing and birth regardless of the genetic makeup of the child in the womb.

      We don’t talk about these things because they are inconvenient to the goals of those who are seen as deserving of raising children.

      When we talk about the right to bear and raise children, we have to also talk about society’s responsibility to keeping families intact. We have to talk about how poverty (socioeconomic status generally) influences decisions and cultural opinions about who is worthy of being a parent. We have to talk about the long term effects of CPS involvement, foster care, etc. We have to talk about how many foster parents are doing it for the financial boost and how awful so many foster homes are and the damage being done in the name of child protection. We need to talk about how many death row inmates are former foster children. We need to talk about international adoption. We need to talk about the health effects of fertility treatments and surrogacy. We need to talk about the trauma so much of this produces.

      In order to realize full reproductive rights, especially for those labeled as “mentally ill”, we really have to talk about who matters in our society.

      And thank you for the book link and description!

      • Dear kindredspirit

        Wow! there is a definitely a bigger discussion needed in this arena and you obviously are incredibly well-versed. Thanks for sharing and I hope more comes forward out of your comment.

        Have you ever seen the documentary Three Identical Strangers?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV77b6f4zqM

        “Three strangers are reunited by astonishing coincidence after being born identical triplets, separated at birth, and adopted by three different families. Their jaw-dropping, feel-good story instantly becomes a global sensation complete with fame and celebrity, however, the fairy-tale reunion sets in motion a series of events that unearth an unimaginable secret – a secret with radical repercussions for us all.”

        “it was revealed that the infants had been intentionally separated and placed with families having different parenting styles and economic levels – one blue-collar, one middle-class, and one affluent – as an experiment on human subjects.”

        SICKENING!

  5. This is of course really appalling for all the reasons named.

    For practical purposes to get out of such a situation, it is really important to “play the game”.
    The judges are in no way enlightened, follow the rules and want to play it safe, especially with such a high profile case.
    That means, to undergo such an assessment, which Britney apparently refuses, and to tell them everything they want to hear.
    So all about being ” normal” and nothing about crying every day.

    “Normal” is of course an artificial concept and therefore quite easy to fake.
    Also about having a job, a sportclub, a partner, a social life and so on.

    Personally I think, it is quite appalling that Britneys father is her guardian, as from a psychological aspect, he is most likely, the person, who caused the original problem.
    That is a bit “to set the fox to keep the goose”.

    Generally father, or mother- in laws do not always approve the partner.
    The exaggerated risk of birth defects with lithium is 7 in a 1000, but this is of course not great.

    Normally it is more easy to change the conservator, when there is no trust.
    One problem is certaintly, that America romantizises family relationships.

  6. This conservatorship seems to have a “catch-22 conundrum” associated with it. It is almost like Britney Spears or anyone else in such position loses either way it turns out; as just sadly, even the public knowledge of this somewhat stains Britney, at least in the eyes of some. The main thing that causes the issue is the involvement of psychiatry and its incredible gaslighting influence upon the world right now. One question is what was the motivation to have Britney be put into this situation with her father as her conservator? Is it basic greed or something more nefarious? In my opinion, there is truth to the fact that disability rights are involved; but disability rights are much more than just a “women’s thing.” In my opinion, I do not see disability in and of itself as discriminatory. Thus, in my opinion, the results of this case should be of interest to all Americans. No one can predict when disability might come upon them. Yet, in this country, many disabled Americans of all kinds of disabilities handle their affairs just fine without being under any sort of conservatorship; so it does go back to the original question of: why?
    Second, I believe someone mentioned the effect of lithium and these other psych drugs upon the female reproductive system. Most of the women I knew on these drugs, including myself, had little to no periods after being put on these drugs. There are those who have been basically “sterilized” through the use of these drugs. It would be interesting to “study” how these drugs really affect the reproductive system; both male and female. Amongst other reasons, this could answer the question of the lowering birth rates in the US. I am not sure of other “western nations” birth rates. Since, it seems, it is highly probable that lithium might have affected Britney’s ability to become pregnant; why did they make her use the also dangerous IUD, too? I am afraid there is sadly much more to this than what seems apparent at first. Still, the decisions against her seem unexplainably misplaced and in no one’s favor, not even her father, who seems to Britney as his “prisoner.” Thank you.

  7. Thanks Miranda for reporting on the shocking abuses Britney Spears has been dealt. What was recently revealed in her case should be a huge wake-up call to the media and general public as to how easily psychiatric labelling leads to violations of human rights and grave harm.

    This saga resonates as after living my life very responsibly and independently I was shocked to be stripped of my autonomy after given what was proven a ‘cancer over-diagnosis’. An oncologist told me I had very little chance to survive the ‘cancer’ and that my only hope was a drug with ‘side effects’ of heart attack, stroke and blindness. He was enraged and abusive after I declined the drug. Cancer docs colluded with a psychiatrist and an estranged eldest sibling to put 4 psych labels on me and strip me of my autonomy to make my own medical decisions. I didn’t take his drug but because of the psych labels a brutal surgery was later forced on me without consent or any information on risks, long term effects etc. and without a chance to ask questions or get answers. The disabling surgery was proven unnecessary as there was no cancer. Hospital records and doctor’s records prove there was no informed consent but if psychiatry is involved there is no accountability. Hopefully Britney gets her life back sooner than later and her case brings more awareness to the damage and violations psychiatric labelling brings to so many.

    • Rosalee,

      My goodness!

      Thank you for sharing your traumatic ordeal (which could probably be made into a Lifetime Movie)

      “revealed in her case should be a huge wake-up call to the media and general public as to how easily psychiatric labelling leads to violations of human rights and grave harm.”

      AGREE!

      • Thanks Maria!
        Before my ordeal I had already felt traumatized by psychiatry after my brother died while dutifully taking drugs a psychiatrist prescribed him to deal with grief over divorce and kids moving. He went downhill and died one day. The autopsy showed his body had not been metabolizing the drugs properly and attributed his death to a toxic level that built up in his liver.

        So I was already leery of psychiatry when my ordeal took place. There were many twists and turns when I began to get my medical records and uncover the layers of collusion and lies that led to the shocking ambush. It would make for a title such as “Predatory Psychiatry; How A Cancer Over-Diagnosis Became a Saga of Abuse, Collusion, Defamatory Lies, Psych Labels and Assault”.

        • That’s a great title Rosalee!

          I am sure you are not alone. Creating an awareness could help others.

          I also lost my father and most recently my brother to psychiatry’s insane use of polypsychophramacology, both were prescribed psych drugs from their primary care physicians, who ignored underlying medical conditions.

          As well, I had my own experiences with psychiatry and the system.

          I always advise others to get copies of all of their medical records.

          The best investment I ever made as a psych patient was signing up for a college course in Abnormal Psychology so I could better understand the DSM labeling process and my medical records.

          Unbelievable how psychiatrists and other professionals can spin words into supporting a diagnosis of mental illness. What appears to be the case for Britney Spears too.

        • Maria, I’m very sorry to hear you lost both your father and brother to prescription psych drugs and had your own experience as well. The tentacles of harm are so pervasive. It’s long past due for the media to start reporting these dreadful issues. Hopefully Britney’s situation will be the catalyst. If you or anyone else hasn’t seen this letter to the media you may want to read and sign it:

          https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1X-22I-R5bJGOGmgCfUFF_J5MzUlCfCMgkBslVuHdS5s/viewform?edit_requested=true

          • Thank you for your kind words of sympathy Rosalee and for the link. I am a longtime member of the International Society of Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) and our members were involved in creating the document. Glad to see it reached you 🙂

            My brother and I were blessed to come from a privileged family, one in which our grandparents were hardworking WWI veterans/immigrants, dads and uncles hardworking WWII veterans, moms/aunts were loving stay-at-home caregivers, we grew up in a typical Main Street USA village community and we learned from a Christian perspective the importance of respect, integrity, forgiveness and providing for those less fortunate within our community. We were extremely rich in family values and I only wish there were a way to make a donation to Britney as sadly it seems like that is what is lacking the most in her life.

            Take care, Maria

          • Maria, that’s great to know. I was very happy to sign the letter and hope it gathers many more signatures. I purchased “Smoke and Mirrors” by ISEPP Director Dr. Chuck Ruby a few months ago and it’s a fantastic book!

  8. This is of course really appalling, for all the reasons named.

    From a practical point of view to get out of this situation, is however to ” play the game”.
    Judges are in no way enlightened, follow the rules and play it safe, especially in such a high profile case.
    This means therefore, that Britney undergoes such an assessment, she apparently refuses.
    Then just tell them, what they want to hear.
    This is all about being “normal” and nothing about crying every day.
    “Normal” is of course an artificial concept and therefore very easy to fake.
    Also about having a job, a sport club, a partner, a social life and so on.

    What I find specially appalling, is that her father is her legal guardian.
    From a psychological point of view, he more likely caused the problem in the first place.
    This is like “setting the fox to keep the geese”.
    Not all father- or mother-in laws approve of the partner.

    Regarding the pregnancy risk of Lithium: According to the British NICE guidelines the absolute risk for harm in pregnancy is 7 in a 1000.
    The correspondent ACOG practice bulletin states, that about one third of pregnant woman take psychotropic medication at some point during pregnancy. That was in 2008, so the numbers might be higher.
    That’s also regarding “normal”.

    It is usually easier to change a conservatorship, then to get rid of it, once there is no trust.
    That this is a problem here apparently, I think is due to that America romanticizes family relationships.

    For pop-singers it is also more “the norm” to succumb to break-downs and substance abuse.
    Also completely normal.

    • Great points Armadillo!

      Considering the general public typically shows more concern for problems experienced by those of celebrity status than the general public, it’s nice to look at all issues from different perspectives and keep the conversation moving as a grassroots effort.

      The use of lithium itself is a great topic and there are many factors to consider.

      In therapeutic doses, lithium carbonate is poisonous and has many debilitating side effects.

      However, “In low doses, lithium acts as a nutrient required for B12 and folate transport and uptake, neuromodulation, and the function of many biochemical processes in both humans and animals.”

      Lithium has been added to the World Health Organization’s list of nutritionally essential trace elements.

      Whereas a psychiatrist, whose goal it is to normalize a woman’s moods/behaviors, may consider the toxic effects of prescription lithium carbonate a low risk, an OBGYN, who has a different set of goals involving more responsibility and may have had a negative experience with a patient on lithium carbonate, would be shocked by the psychiatrist’s indifference.

      The risk management process can help provide alternative strategies.

      One might consider the possibility of switching to lithium orotate, an over-the-counter nutraceutical, considered to be less toxic for therapeutic benefits or investigating into the possibility of an existing underlying condition contributing to a perceived “mood disorder”.

      Cases like the one below may be rare but indicate the need to consider underlying conditions.

      Take care, Maria

      Hemochromatosis-induced bipolar disorder: a case report

      Daniele Serata 1, Antonio Del Casale, Chiara Rapinesi, Iginia Mancinelli, Pieritalo Pompili, Giorgio D Kotzalidis, Laura Aimati, Valeria Savoja, Gabriele Sani, Maurizio Simmaco, Roberto Tatarelli, Paolo Girardi
      Affiliations expand
      PMID: 21749841 DOI: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2011.04.013
      Abstract
      Objective: A patient presenting with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, bipolar disorder was found to be affected by high iron hemochromatosis. This prompted us to explore the relation between bipolar disorder and iron overload.

      Method: We report the case and review the peer-reviewed literature focusing on mood symptoms in patients with hemochromatosis or iron overload. Animal studies of brain effects of iron overload are summarized. High iron hemochromatosis was confirmed by genetic testing, and treatment was instituted to address iron overload.

      Results: Patient’s bipolar symptoms completely subsided after phlebotomic reduction of iron overload.

      Conclusion: Clinicians should explore the possibility of iron overload and seek genetic confirmation of hemochromatosis in resistant bipolar disorder to avoid unnecessary medication.

  9. First, I of course do not think, it is a good idea to take psychotropic medication in pregnancy, that was a tongue in cheek reference to the authorities for this matter in the UK and USA.

    Lithium is an evil poison and I have seen with my own eyes the most dreadful deaths due to this drug. It only works as a calming substance with many side effects, but less draining then the “major tranquillizers”. After a crisis is over, I see no reason for any of these.

    To get rid of a conservatorship one has to follow the rules of the court.
    That means first to send a written request, that one rather wants to manage one’s own affairs again.
    This only has to be a single sentence and does not need any more reasons.

    Then to undergo an assessment of an psychiatrist or psychologist, who want to know, if you stabilized yourself again after the crisis.
    For this, tidy up your flat, put on a nice dress and tell them everything about being “the girl next door”, best with proof for job, sport club, social life and so on.

    Britney has not done any of these, therefore it is logical, that the courts can not lift the conservatorship.
    I am wondering, if this is all about an aging pop-star being back in the news, or if she should sue her own lawyer for incompetence, for not telling her this.

    Second there were some strange theories about the reasons for being manic-depressive.
    I personally find the explanation of Silvano Arieti best.

    He says, an depression is usually due to one of three stressors: The death of the “dominant other”, the realization, that the relationship to the “dominant other” has completely failed and that the “dominant goal” has existentially failed, which is the political party, the firma or a similar important principle.
    The “dominant other” is usually the spouse, but basically all of these symbolize the primary caretaker, and is of course suppressing the affected individual, but also giving a lot etc.

    With a mania the situation becomes so intolerable, that the person takes a leap out of it into another space. This is different from the schizophrenic psychotic break, as this is all about fun, having the best time of one’s life etc, as the early experiences as a child were different.
    This is but nothing about: Being happy, being more happy, then becoming manic.., but a deep existential trouble and crisis. Classically by talking about, what I going on, it is easy to get the manic person to start crying.

    Arietis book on depression and another on manic-depressive illness can you also find on the website http://www.free psychotherapy books.org which is a good start if you happen to not have the means for books, or the local library is crab, as they also selected legible books.
    As Britney cannot effectively fight for herself in respect of her father, this could be an indication, that she indeed has this problem.

    I found also, after talking to many people, that there is a risk for mania, when a very depressing situation has a sudden little whiff of freedom. That means, a little break of it, like a holiday, a free time from work or a chance of freedom from outside for the whole situation.

    From a practical point of view during an episode of mania:
    Think of the “es-ego-superego” model where ego is in the depression completely suppressed by the demands of the superego.
    In the mania the superego is lifted and to break the mania, it is important to have the superego back over again, this unfortunately de facto also means to straight go back into the depressive state, which can be easier resolved.
    This can only happen in the encounter with others, when the person recognizes himself as manic in the eyes of the other.

    All psychiatric problems are problem of relationships and for the real origin of depression at the end a bit of Melanie Klein .. According to her there is a difference in the development of the child, where the child sees the other not only as supplying goods, but as a person in their own right.
    It can happen in depression that the person uses the other as emotional trash can and in mania the others are just seen as background actors.
    To solve this, is only possible with the help of another, similar as you can’t learn to dance Tango alone.
    Britney should have the means for a therapy.

    Just one addendum to think over: Maybe all the great rock legends, in order to prevent self-destruction, should have been sedated and under the guardianship of their parents!

    • Armadillo,

      My apologies, I did not pick up on the tongue-and-cheek and I appreciate the exchange as it’s great to get clarification and expand this topic.

      Electronic communication has it’s downfalls with misinterpretation but it’s also so effective with speed, timeliness and reaching across barriers.

      Just as some background, I am not a mental health professional. My interest in this case stems from my passion to advocate on behalf of those less fortunate, who continue to be trapped in a broken, authoritative and unregulated system. I include Ms. Spears in that category. My passion developed out of my own experiences navigating what may seem like a complex system and seeking answers to many questions from many different perspectives.

      I found this part of your comment especially interesting:

      “For this, tidy up your flat, put on a nice dress and tell them everything about being “the girl next door”, best with proof for job, sport club, social life and so on. Britney has not done any of these, therefore it is logical, that the courts can not lift the conservatorship. I am wondering, if this is all about an aging pop-star being back in the news, or if she should sue her own lawyer for incompetence, for not telling her this. ”

      I think what you are saying is that it is obvious the attorney for Ms. Spears did not spend the time needed to prep her for a successful outcome?

      Could you expand on that?

      In listening to the full Hearing, it’s hard to believe Ms. Spears even has the assistance of an attorney. It definitely seems like a show of incompetence that she was not better prepared to articulate her statements to the judge. She was speaking so fast the judge repeatedly asked her to slow down so the court stenographer could keep up but her pace only changed slightly and then sped up again.

      While her attitude and language may seem like a normal, well-justified response to her circumstances and lifestyle as a pop-star to most of us, a psychiatric spin-doctor could easily conclude otherwise.

      Under the DSM rubberstamp labeling process, her pressured speech that didn’t stop at appropriate intervals, as well as, use of slang/curse words/unprofessional language when speaking to a judge, expressing inappropriate joy over the death of a medical doctor and the nature of her postings on Instagram, could be considered a state of mania and substantiate the continued need for court-ordered psychiatric and psychological services, along with conservatorship.

      Likewise, most of her allegations could easily be explained away by putting the “in the best interest” spin on things, especially considering finances and protecting one from manic spending sprees. It seems like this is what her attorney may have been trying to warn her of but neither seems to fully comprehend how the system works in partnership with psychiatric evaluation as it is a very confusing system to navigate. I feel a knowledgeable attorney (or paralegal) could have worked with her to better prepare a more professional, coherent, clear and convincing statement.

      I agree, without “the girl next-door” image, it does seem more likely the court would favor conservatorship under the framework of best interest principles in decision-making.

      It is courageous for anyone labeled with a “mental illness” to share their story with the public as there is so much stigma attached as well as it opens the door for unwarranted criticism, gossip and malicious rumors.

      Although the Hearing provided just a brief glimpse into her experiences, I think Britney Spears’ circumstances on becoming a psychiatric patient in a more privileged lifestyle might somewhat echo that of Laura Delano’s, with academic achievements at Laura’s advantage in being able to break away from the system.

      Thanks for the conversation!

      Maria

  10. Addendum:
    I was talking about this book:
    https://www.freepsychotherapybooks.org/ebook/affective-disorders/
    and
    https://www.freepsychotherapybooks.org/ebook/severe-and-mild-depression/

    You will have to provide a name and e-mail address in order to download them, but there are no hidden bills or viruses I could detect.
    They only ask for donations to maintain the site.

    With the first book chapter about “Affective disorders” maybe start with the psychodynamic mechanism around page 45, as the start is a bit cumbersome.
    With Arieti’s book on depression I specifically recommend the chapter on Franz Kafka in order to understand psychotic depression.

    I once recommended in another posting Arieti’s “Interpretation of schizophrenia”, this you can actually also find there.
    https://www.freepsychotherapybooks.org/ebook/interpretation-of-schizophrenia/

    The conclusion regarding Britney is however, that her father should definitely not be her legal guardian, as this will drive her completely insane.

    • Hi Maria,

      thanks for elaborating further on this topic, as I have to admit, that I have not read her statement!

      Britney is of course clearly manic, but I explained earlier the classic stressors, which trigger a mania.
      It is the realization, that the relationship to the “dominant other” has completely failed, she has been exploited all along.
      Now explaining the matter to the court to actually get free from her fathers guardianship, she gives an excellent reason to continue it!

      Every lawyer in her right mind, would have advised her not to show up in such a state.

      The topic is however also really interesting for me, as I firmly believe, that a manic person is indeed in deep distress and that it is inhuman not to listen, what they have to say.
      Normally a manic person does tell of the reason of their distress, if you listen and this is also the title of this article!

      As I said, this conflict will drive her insane and it did!

      For getting out of a conservatorship, I just described it, as there might be people on MIA, for whom this might be useful.
      The civic court really just want to know, that you stabilized yourself after a crisis.
      If the conservator agrees to let you off, no assessment is of course needed.

      I forgot to mention: Regarding mania again, an important factor is also the disturbance of sleep.
      After the superego has been pushed aside and the ego is free, a lot of energy is released, so there is not so much sleep necessary anymore.
      The ego is happy and plays with the elements of the id, or the unconscious.
      This is also a lot of fun, but quite dangerous, as the unconscious is a strong force.
      By the lack of sleep gets the ego also weakened and therefore overwhelmed by the unconscious elements.
      Therefore a first aid measure is also to restore the sleep.
      In the end, the conflict, which triggered the crisis, has to be resolved.

      This is just my own theory, Freud himself explained depression as a problem of relationship, which it really is.
      Basically the rage, which should be directed to the other person, who has died, is directed against oneself.

      I was a bit disturbed by your explanation of mania as an iron overload.
      Iron do I associate with hard work, aggression and so on.
      Maybe there is a connection..

      • Thanks for the response Armadillo!

        I appreciate the continued conversation as it is this type of exchange that really helps along the path of discovery by fleshing out different concepts from varied perspectives. Like the Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant, it helps to understand things from every angle.

        Again, apologies for electronic communication as sometimes difficult to interpret.

        Just for some additional background to a long story, on March 24, 1996 I suffered an acute manic episode from toxic encephalopathy and was misdiagnosed as having “manic-depression with psychotic features”.

        Literally, spontaneous mental illness.

        On March 23rd, I was a 33-year-old, competent, independent individual with no history of mental illness.

        On March 24th, because of a very quick psychiatric evaluation in a hospital ER setting, I instantly became a person with a history of mental illness and that label altered the trajectory of my life.

        My family made the ER doctors aware of the fact I worked in an environment with strong chemical fumes and to please check me for chemical toxicity. The doctors refused to listen.

        Along the way, I chose to take classes that would hopefully lead to a new career and also give me a better understand of my own mental illness. The first course I took was Abnormal Psychology and information from that course was instrumental in helping me better understand the DSM rubberstamp labeling process.

        My “spontaneous mental illness” ended up involving a workers’ comp case and the medical library became my second home researching the possible connection of chemical exposure and what I thought was bipolar disorder. I was successful in establishing a workers’ comp case and gained medical opinion supporting the diagnosis of toxic encephalopathy. I have since helped other individuals labeled with bipolar disorder make the connection to an occupational disease.

        I posted this article:

        Hemochromatosis-induced bipolar disorder: a case report

        https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21749841/

        as just one of many cases involving a medical condition inducing a manic state leading to a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder.

        Susannah Cahalan at TEDxAmsterdamWomen 2013 explains how she was also misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before a neurologist determined the underlying cause of Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a condition in which the immune system essentially attacks the brain. Her doctor said the majority of other people with this condition are wasting away in psych wards or homeless.

        Here is a link to her TEDxTalk:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqrzvYnrI9A

        Very interested in your thoughts on listening to Britney Spears FULL Conservatorship Hearing (Leaked HQ Audio) Opening Testimony, it’s 23 minutes long

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVrhKBhMrEI

        From a psychiatric patient perspective, it seems like she is not aware of the impact a psychiatric diagnosis can have on a person’s life, nor does she seem aware of the role different mental health professionals have,. It sounds as if she underwent
        neuropsych tests and she was unaware of why theses tests are given.

        Compared to my experiences of “mania”, she sounds quite normal, and just needs coaching on how to speak to a judge.

        Take care, Maria

  11. I cannot say much, without ever having met Britney, consistent with the Goldwater rule.

    The whole can of course also be a result of alcohol and drugs and Britney is certainly in complete denial regarding this.
    The only thing, which is sure, that one does not present oneself in this manner to a court, especially when there is also a custody battle for children going on.
    Her buddy Paris Hilton gave a better example, what to do, when she was charged with drunk driving, which is usually diagnostic.
    It is not a psychotic mania, but a communication is always a two sided affair and a lot is completely inappropriate.
    I would assume, Britney is an intelligent woman, as the runs a multi-million dollar business and the only other explanation for this presentation would be, that she is as thick as a brick, which is unlikely.

    What would indeed support the possibility of a manic depressive problem, is her past behavior, like that shaving her hair of in public. The counter transference in mania is of course, that it is infectious, but also that the others have the urge to restrict the person in their behavior.
    Also the relentless pushing of her father to have success, from extreme early age, her identifying with it.. etc.

    Britney’s “persona” is also the reincarnation of an American dance Barbie doll, and at the same time, of the ultimate “girl next door”, which was therefore also a tongue in cheek comment of mine.
    We all play theater all the time and being a professional performer, she has not gotten her act together at all.
    This all is really sad and tragic and I feel really sorry for her.

    I just want to remark, that a manic depressive problem is however a difference to chronic schizophrenia with an established delusional building, which has of course a very poor prognosis.

    The only thing, which is certain, is, that Britney was not helped by Psychiatry at all.

  12. Maria, great comment, very illuminating of just how most out there
    are no help and I think Brittany is in that spot of not getting real help.
    I also think Brittany has not had a chance to learn what has gone wrong
    and so the tactics used on her just make her more confused and not
    educated about the history of her life and how it, like many others
    just brings her into more abuse.

    Psychiatry loves to talk about “stigma”. And sure, perhaps a few friends or family
    do stigmatize, but the real stigma actually came first from the shrinks.

    Have we ever seen a shrink inside a court room defending the person they themselves
    “convicted”? Psych diagnosis are worse than any crime I could commit.
    The only places a diagnosis will ever hurt me are within the system and it’s services. That kind of stigma remains life threatening at all times.
    You are marked and branded and never know when the next ball drops.

    And so they encourage the unknowing public to “talk about mental health”, or go see a “therapist” or “shrink”. It is really one big false advertisement with most therapists even being completely ignorant.

    One remains ignorant until one has had to deal with that wonderful psychiatry that remains unbiased and doesn’t “stigmatize”.

    Your efforts have been so damn strong and you have gone above and beyond fighting for what you NEVER EVER should have had to fight for.

    Any shrink could have made it much easier for you and your sibling, but they chose not to.
    Why?

    Psychiatry fucks up a lot of families. It’s another of their specialities.

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