“I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!!” began the caption of an Instagram that Britney Spears posted on Tuesday night. She wasn’t exaggerating; Spears has yet to have a moment of peace in 2019, seeing as the chaos began just a few days into the year, with the announcement of her then upcoming Las Vegas residency’s cancellation following her father’s near death and illness.
At the time, Spears made it very clear that, however “tough” it was for her to say it, she would be taking a step back from public life: “I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time,” she wrote in her caption, which then, of course, caused the media and the public to put their full focus on Spears and her family.
If she was able to do what she intended in the months that followed, that certainly came to an end this month, which began with TMZ reporting that Spears had checked into a mental health facility to help her cope with her father’s illness. Even when she was away from the public eye, the headlines didn’t stop, though they certainly multiplied when Spears ventured outside of the facility for Easter Sunday. By the next day, the hashtag #FreeBritney was once again trending, as well as being paraded around by protestors who gathered outside of West Hollywood’s city hall in the wake of rumors that Spears was being held against her will.
By the next day, there was an entirely new batch of headlines, thanks in large part to Spears’s paparazzi-documented outing to get frozen yogurt. But TMZ, naturally, went with something splashier: a report claiming that Spears’s “cocktail of meds” was to blame for her time in the facility, which promptly caused Twitter’s armchair psychiatrists to come out in full force. TMZ itself is no medical journal, and in making things more digestible for its readers, it appears to have gotten a bit garbled. Assuming that its reports that Spears is changing up her medications, putting her at risk for suicide, are even correct in the first place, they’re still misleading; one in six Americans take antidepressants, which, like any medication, have potential side effects, one of which often happens to be “suicidal thoughts.” If Spears is at risk in that regard, she’s certainly not the only one.
Later that night, Spears was finally able to take things into her own hands—beginning, quite understandably, with the declaration that the situation had “gotten out of control!!!” For example, she continued: “There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me.” Still, as with her follow-up post today—a video of her dancing, captioned, “Who knew stress would be a great 5 pound weight loss. Yay for me 😉😉”—Spears tried to keep things upbeat. Along with the reassurance that “all is well,” Spears devoted an additional 170 words, plus a video, to get that across, almost as if to comfort the public. Never mind that the public is part of the reason that Spears herself needs comfort.
Case in point: In exchange for reassuring the public that “all is well,” Spears is now being subjected to even more of a media storm, including reports that the real reason she canceled her residency was “soft” ticket sales. Still, there’s no shortage of people who think something’s seriously wrong with Spears, as they’ve expressed via a wave of critiques of her appearance.
No matter how many people pay attention, Spears still can’t seem to be heard. Her post wasn’t just an update; more importantly, it was also yet another request for “a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way.” At this point, she’s practically begging for it: “If you could do that, I would be forever grateful,” her caption concludes, along with a comforting “love you” and three hearts. Whether or not all is well is not the point; either way, Spears shouldn’t have to tell us in the first place.