Britney Spears has spoken publicly about her conservatorship for the first time in 13 years and the situation is more tragic than anyone knew.
In a virtual court hearing on Wednesday, Spears read a written statement aloud detailing her view on her conservatorship. Following a public mental health crisis in 2008, Spears was placed under the conservatorship of her father, Jamie Spears. He was given full access to her finances, schedule, work and, according to Britney, her entire life.
“The control he had over someone as powerful as me — he loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%,” Spears said in her statement. “He loved it.”
Spears revealed details that the public had not known about and were difficult to hear. Not only was her father, and by extension his team that Britney paid for, controlling her life, they were exerting their power in unnecessary ways.
Spears says that she was forced to work long hours every single day, with no days off even if she wasn’t feeling well. She also says she lived with the people she worked with and was paying for them, meaning they were profiting off their control of her life. Spears said the best comparison she could think of was “sex trafficking. Making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away — credit card, cash, phone, passport — and placing them in a home where they work with the people who live with them.”
She had to see a doctor who put her on lithium, a drug used often to treat patients with bipolar disorder, which Spears said left her feeling “drunk” while she used it. She said that she also sees a therapist three times a week that she does not trust and did not get to choose.
One of the most upsetting allegations Spears made came when she said she was forced to put an IUD in to prevent her from getting pregnant, and she has been told she cannot get it removed. She says she has been told by her team that she cannot remove the IUD to get pregnant and she also is not allowed to get married to her boyfriend of five years.
At the end of testimony, Spears revealed that she was nervous to discuss the details of her conservatorship because her team had advised her against it. But she felt that she needed to speak out for her own sake, and she wanted to be a voice to others who were in similar situations.
Spears’ testimony lent credibility to what many fans had speculated over the last few years: that Britney had lost autonomy of her own life. It’s what spawned the #FreeBritney movement and was the subject of the documentary Framing Britney Spears that was released earlier this year. The movement has pushed Spears’ mistreatment into the spotlight, and the allegations made in her testimony certainly underline the seriousness of the situation.
“[…] I told the whole world ‘I’m OK and I’m happy.’ It’s a lie,” Spears said. “I thought I just maybe if I said that enough maybe I might become happy, because I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. You know, fake it till you make it. But now I’m telling you the truth, OK? I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.”
Thirteen years ago, Spears’ public health crisis shocked the world and tabloids as the pop star princess quickly fell from the top. While it was necessary for Spears to get help and treatment (Spears admitted she still would like to see a therapist, just on her own terms), she says the level of control her conservatorship removed from her life was all out of disproportion to the actual events that prompted it.
Spears’ life and story may seem of little importance to the Church, but she represents many individuals who feel trapped and locked up in their lives. Men, women and children with severe mental health problems are mistreated by people who think they know what’s best for them, which oftentimes only ends up perpetuating harm, no matter how well-intended. The Church needs to take steps to understand the nuances of mental health problems — what causes them, what exacerbates them, the differences in mental health issues — in order to best help our brothers and sisters who are struggling.
Spears’ story could have been prevented if only she had people in her life guiding her toward true freedom and stability. The past can’t be changed for Spears, but there is hope for her future, and hope for members of the Church who resonate with her story.