Britney Spears was a prominent figure within my chaotic childhood. Four hour car journeys to a holiday retreat in the British “summer” to an anti-climactic caravan holiday home spent freezing by the coast? Britney Spears’ discography to the rescue. What did I do when I finally scraped enough pocket money to waste on a compressed brick-resembling MP3 player? I blew all of its memory within seconds burning her albums onto it.
To this very day, I truly cannot pinpoint why I idolised her at such a young age; I guess she inspired me through her independent, self-assured and sexually liberated persona that blinded me from the bland, commercial lyrics with no true meaning besides entertainment for the masses. I had no clue the majority of the lyrics I hummed along to were sexual innuendos – I was unashamedly having too much of a blast.
A couple of years after my crazed obsession faded out through the opening gate of puberty, I came across articles online on how Britney was a negligent mother, temporarily lost custody of her kids and frequently yo-yoed in and out of rehab for alcohol and drugs misuse.
It was like somebody had stabbed a fork into my fragile heart and ate it in front of me.
I felt deceived by the empowered figure I had grown up admiring. This icon of seeming perfection had turned out to be nothing but a talented singer with a string of bad decisions just like every other normal human being. No longer eight years old and proudly strutting to the beat of “Gimme More”, I can now still look back fondly on my Britney-adoring days by using her breakdown as an extended metaphor for the stress levels of my own life.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, Britney is still the quintessential example of a child star whose life plummeted into a devastating breakdown – now more recently rivaled by the likes of Amanda Bynes and Shia Labeouf. The resulting media attention during her fall to rock bottom was pervasively intrusive into her personal life and scattered across front page spreads globally like public gossip, yet just a year following her public meltdown she bounced back with the album “Blackout” in 2008 selling over 3 million copies worldwide. Spears practically became synonymous with mental instability and recklessness during this time, yet somehow overcame all odds to continue a relatively successful music career alongside the string of haphazardly attached wefts of hair extensions.
Good on you, Britney.
The reason why I find what pop culture now regards as a comedic anecdote of a 90’s superstar’s spiral into madness so different to the other stories out there is how Britney has actually made her comeback. Fair enough, she isn’t in her prime anymore neither statistically nor vocally but I think we can all put our hands up and admit that she truly did pull herself together after behaviour that ranged from violently attacking a paparazzi’s car with a make-do umbrella weapon to shaving off her entire head scared that it contained traces of the hardcore drugs she had been taking.
Whilst writing this post, I started to think of the many instances in which I’ve been in the midst of a physical and mental collapse. I’ll spare you the long, never-ending exhaustive list of my failures and mistakes; my future psychotherapist will have enough to deal with as it is. Instead, I’d like to emphasise that I’m still here. I’m (somewhat) over those things by now although at the time they seemed to be the worst things that could have possibly have happened to me. In fact much, much worse things have happened in my life, however at the time small instances of misfortune felt devastating. Now I’m able to look back and laugh at my exaggerated take on what happened warped by both my anxiety and mood. Sad, embarrassing, painful and horrible things happen every single day, but it’s how you take them and re-build yourself from them that matters.
Britney’s breakdown haunts the internet in the form of memes and inspirational quotes to this very day re-tweeted, liked and shared as a comforting comparison between a global phenomenon’s meltdown and our own very stressful lives. But surely there’s something deeper to it all than just looking back at the episode as a bit of a laugh, right? Can’t we all use it as a role model-like example of screaming a big “screw you” to life when it goes belly up and carrying on despite the circumstances?
However childish it may seemingly appear to look up to a pop star’s recovery as a source of inspiration for motivation when battling my own mental health and day-to-day hardships, it truly has. Daily light-hearted reminders like the 2007 meltdown are a less daunting spin on reminding myself that things are alright and that there is always another day to bounce up on when things are seeming like they’re falling apart. Seeing somebody who I’d grown up idolising with every beat of my heart go through something that mirrored something so similar within me was a comforting reminder that the feelings I had were valid. Every so often when I see her pop up on social media platforms, Spotify or online I’m not too bothered about her music or career but feel warmly towards the reminder that she’s become in my life that everything will be okay and you can pick yourself up no matter what.
With all the best wishes at heart, I hope none of you have to face such a low point in your life that you begin to compare your life to this moment in Britney’s. Nevertheless, it’s not guaranteed and I know life can really be pushing (to say the least!) at times, but perhaps the next time you’re feeling down you’ll remember that even people like Britney have felt the same way which has certainly been a good positive focus for me when I’ve had my own lows. There’s nothing wrong with using other people’s problems to motivate you to get through your own, in fact I highly encourage it. Life’s messy enough as it is, with or without mental instability to add to the list, however you are never the only one.
You can bounce back, you can redeem whatever you’ve lost and kick ass whilst doing so. Take it from
the best Britney.
– Words by Camila Florencia.