I've been hearing from a reliable source for almost a year now that some of Britney Spears' family members believe she has bipolar disorder. They don’t think it’s drugs. They don’t feel she has a drinking problem.
In plain and simple language, they believe the former pop princess has a mental illness.
If, in fact, Ms. Spears has a bipolar illness, isn’t it time for the haters to back off? I'm talking about those who post comments on blogs that go so far as to wish her dead.
Making fun of Spears for a bad song, a poor performance or maybe even a not-so-in-shape body, I can handle. But the venom that's been spewed in the last 24 hours alone is unreal.
Why so much hate? My armchair theory is, it’s jealousy. No one is jealous of her downfall, but surely they may be envious of all she's achieved in her very young life. She wasn’t even an adult when she became one of the world’s biggest pop sensations. And she got very, very rich along the way.
Fast-forward to today. Spears is in a hospital, locked down for her own good. No one knows for sure what exactly went down last night at her house, but I don’t care how famous you are, being strapped into a gurney and thrown into an ambulance as paparazzi and news helicopters hover overheard to catch every minute detail cannot be fun in any way.
While her particular situation may be unique, Spears is not exactly alone. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, bipolar disorder affects 5.7 million American adults. The median age of onset for the illness is 25. Spears just turned 26 Dec. 1.
"The symptoms of bipolar disorder are basically extreme highs and lows," says Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser. "It's a very under treated disorder. Most people end up medicating themselves with drugs or alcohol."
I was talking to a friend earlier who said of Spears’ messy life, “She asked for it.” Would you say the same thing about someone with cancer?
No one in their right mind asks to have bipolar disorder. No one in their right mind asks for their children to be taken away from them. No one in their right mind asks to be called trash by overzealous bloggers.
I am not saying Spears' behavior should be condoned or supported. Of course not. Not only has she apparently put her own life at risk, she’s appeared to have endangered her children’s safety and well-being.
But with the right medical care and supervision, there’s no reason Spears can’t get back on her own two feet. Up to 80 percent of those treated generally show an improvement in their symptoms within four to six weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, and/or attending support groups, according to NIMH.
She could be a mom to those kids. She can be a wife again someday. And yes, I really do believe she can fill stadiums and concert halls like she once did not so long ago.
"There are a lot of people with bipolar disorder that function in the world like normal people," Kaiser says.
Still, as the hours have gone by today, I've noticed a shift. Comments posted on blogs seem to be more sympathetic. People, I hope, are slowly coming to realize she isn’t just a spoiled brat dancing on table tops. Spears is a sick woman who needs help.
My heart goes out to her. It really does.
Remember, she’s just like us.