There is a Britney Spears documentary called Britney: For The Record that was released after her infamous public breakdown in 2007. Overall, the film is quite calculated and only offers a diluted version of the honesty that was advertised, and often acts as an extended commercial for her comeback album, Circus. She vaguely explains a bit about her state of mind at the time, but does not dwell too intensely on the past. The reaction from fans as well as critics was that Britney did not share enough.
I was recently watching For The Record for the first time in a while, but this time ,much of the conversation that I once brushed off as vague and without depth was unexpectedly relatable. Towards the end of the film, she says something that really caught my attention, and made me realize how much I was suddenly getting everything that she was going through.
“When I was in my car, and I was driving, I was going somewhere,” she says upon being asked about her consistent public appearances, despite her clearly unstable frame of mind. My immediate response to this idea was “I feel ya, Brit!” Like her, some days I jump into my car and just go. She did not need to explain why, because the why doesn’t matter, and sometimes doesn’t exist.
I was 16 in 2007, and at the time, watching an adult Britney Spears smashing an umbrella against the side of a paparazzi’s SUV seemed ridiculous. I often wondered how someone could get to that point, and thought that she was such an anomaly that it was okay to make fun of what was taking place in the public eye. Like most everyone else, I didn’t sympathize with whatever broken down version of the American Dream was driving on the freeway with her baby on her lap. I was laughing, waiting for the next point of the downward spiral to appear on the cover of Star. Now, at 22 years old, my heart aches a little bit, knowing that if cameras were chronically following me around, I could easily find myself in the same emotional state of being, with the same distorted rationality.
I have been dealing with generalized anxiety for quite some time now. This summer in particular has been difficult to manage. Like Britney from 2007, I am at a very uncertain time in life. I just graduated, I am moving to an unfamiliar city, a lot of my best friends are moving across the country, my love life does not exist, and my current job is a short-term contract. The persistent anxiety, with the added bonus of uncertainty and instability, has taken a toll on my well-being, and I find myself in bed more often than I would like. If I were a cash cow, responsible for dancing on stage with an albino python for the world to see, I would also be reacting in inexplicable ways.
Some days, I get the Britney Spears that we saw in 2007 on the cover of tabloid magazines. I just get it. Some days, I want to shave my head. I don’t know why, I just do. Some days I want to get in my car and forget everything and drive in circles around the block. Some days I want to cut out the people who love me, simply because the effort it would take to talk to someone does not seem worth it. If I could, I would tell people who were in my way to “fucking MOVE” and not care about what everyone thought. Some days, if it would make me feel better, I want to do it, regardless of the consequences.
Now that I notice that my feelings are often unexplainable to myself and to others, it is important that the people around be are understanding and patient. Sometimes it’s frustrating to imagine having to answer to even my closest friends (let alone super fans and entertainment journalists) and all I want is unwavering support. My hope is that next time that you are making fun of or being entertained by someone who clearly is not acting rationally, think about the reasons that this behavior may be occurring. Be supportive. Let your friends have their moments of temporary insanity. Ask questions, but don’t expect answers. Be there for someone when they need it. Know when to reach out and step in.
As for myself, I’ve decided that it’s okay to feel how you feel, and react to these feelings accordingly. If you want to shave your head: go for it. This all being said, sometimes you have to think about consequences and if short-term pleasure will lead to long-term happiness. Most 20-somethings feel some sort of personal confusion, and this confusion can lead to being completely overwhelmed. There is a lot of relief in knowing that I’m not the only one who is overwhelmed, and that even legendary pop stars are emotionally unstable at points in their lives. Luckily for me, Caleb: For the Record is not something that will be on MTV any time soon.