by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 


Backstory to this post: I have the most amazing readers. There are several people who are in the Facebook group and who are podcast listeners who were here, on the blog, long before the book Getting Past Your Breakup was even a thought (I had no intention of writing a book, but it wasn’t pitched until May 2008, published by Hachette in 2009).  I have RARELY written on celebrities, but I have written on a fwe and Britney Spears is one of them. 

Many times my readers ask me about a post or remember a post that I have zero memory of ever writing. This is one of those times.

Someone wrote me and said, “Didn’t you write a post about Britney Spears during her ‘meltdown’ phase? Do you still have it? I think it might be interesting to read in light of what’s going on with her now.” I almost said I NEVER wrote anything about Britney Spears without looking for it.  But my experience is that my readers know my articles better than I do.  Same way my podcast listeners know my episodes better than I do. 

But even so, the request for a Britney Spears post was odd. Or so I thought.

Three things:

1. I have only a basic understanding as to why Britney is a news item right now which is:

2. There is a documentary about her and her father is still managing her affairs even after she challenged that in court and

3. The reader who remembered a post I wrote about Britney long long ago thinks it’s relevant to her situation today (i.e. people can be a mess at a young age, but they can change and grow). 

When I get a chance, I’ll look into what is going on with Britney these days and do an update to this post – either in an article or on a podcast – as to what has gone on with her in the FOURTEEN years since I wrote this on this blog. In this post, I refer to myself as a “former therapist,” as I was practicing law full-time at the time and had no interest in returning to being a therapist as I am (once again) these days. This  should be interesting.

5/21: As an attorney, I think that it is time that Britney’s conservatorship end. As a therapist, I am so sorry that this continues to take its toll on her as it should NOT. It is clear that Britney’s conservatorship should long be over. I was as Britney was at 25, but because I was not rich and famous, no one tried to take my life over. I got into therapy at 30 and turned my life around. I became an AMAZING success within a few years.  Britney should NOT be under anyone’s control any longer.  As an attorney, I know that these conservatorships are complex, but it’s not fair, it’s simply NOT, that she is still under one. 

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this article, written in March 2007, and how it’s relevant to what is happening with her today (I’m not sure it is, the person who asked about this post thinks it is). 

More On Dancing Out of Control – March 7, 2007

When she is starved, a woman will take any substitutes offered, including those that, like placebos, do absolutely nothing for her, as well as destructive and life-threatening ones that hideously waste her time and her talents or expose her life to physical danger. It is a famine of the soul that makes a woman choose things that will cause her to dance madly out of control–then too, too near the executioner’s door. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I’ve used this exact quote on another post entitled Dancing Out of Control that was about me and the me I used to be. It was a short post so I will repeat it here:

We look at the things that keep us dancing out of control and find, underneath, an aching emptiness looking to be filled. Unfortunately when you are that hungry, you look for it in all the wrong places.

It is said that hungry people make poor shoppers, and so it is.

When we are seeking to distract ourselves from the turmoil inside, the part of us that feels unloved, we seek out chaotic people and situations. That is what I did. For years. For years and years. 

When we feel empty inside we seek out people to fill it but because we seek out people who are FAMILIAR (remember, like family) we are never going to find someone who can fill our aching soul, our bottomless pit that craves attention.

Not only are they incapable of filling it, but we are incapable of being filled from the outside. We need to find the source within ourselves. We need to find it by sitting still, by taking off the dancing shoes and becoming courageous enough to face the pain and sorrow that leads us to dance out of control in the first place.

When we heal our wounded places, when we learn to fill ourselves up, we can start to sit still and make peace with the peace.

That was it. That was the entirety of the post (obviously one of my less verbose days). I have learned to let go of the chaos and make peace with the peace. It took a bit of learning, but I managed to do it. 

A few weeks ago, I answered some people who asked if I could do another Britney Spears post. I did one a while back and deleted it because it wasn’t what I was all about. I ranted about psycho celeb sighting and the obsession with celebrities. I don’t know why people are so focused on what celebrities are doing and I do not, REPEAT: DO NOT, want this blog to devolve into commentary on celebrities. That is not the direction I want this blog to go in. 

But then today I read my latest copy of “The Week”, which is one of my favorite magazines, and they had a summary of stories about Britney and her hair shearing incident.

“The Week” is one of my favorites because they present their topics with quotes and views from various publications (both hard copy and internet) so you get a few different view points on each topic.

In the Week’s Britney story, some thought she was acting out and, like an out of control brat, needed a time out. Some thought she had no other way of expressing anger. Some just see her on a long steady decline to oblivion.

As someone who was once a lost and confused 25 year old young mother (same age Britney is now), I had to turn back and look at just how lost and pretty crazy I was at that age and how screwed up my life was. I wasn’t rich which was a good thing because god only knows how out of control I COULD have gotten. But there was one thing that was very clear about my behavior: I was a hurting unit. 

Although I’m going to talk about her some, this post isn’t necessarily about Britney, but it’s about any young person – especially women and especially young mothers – who might think their life is out of control and they have no idea where to look or go or be. There is hope…please believe me. I’ve been there.  There is hope for Britney and there is hope for you as there was hope for me. Only I didn’t know it at the time.

Here’s the story of being out of control:

When I was pregnant with my 3rd child I was 25 years old. My husband was not happy that I was pregnant again (of course it was all my fault) and he spent the last months of my pregnancy not talking to me except to tell me how much he hated me and bringing over to the house an 18 year old girl to play video games. I never felt so lost and alone in my life.

They were obviously having an affair and I was frozen out in my own house. I would busy myself with the kids, but after they were in bed, my husband and his girlfriend would sit in the living room every night playing video games and laughing and I was in the kitchen, alone, pregnant and scared.  My mother tried to “help” by bringing me out to go to Bingo with her and my aunts. One night they dropped me off and my mother remarked that if it was her, she wouldn’t put up with the girlfriend being at my house (her car was parked outside). 

As I made my way up the 3 flights to my apartment, the comment went round in my head. When I got to the top, I opened the door and looked into the living room. She sat, joystick in hand, laughing with my husband. They were both sitting on the ottoman though there was both a couch and a loveseat in the room. My head popped. I said to her, “GET THE F OUT OF MY HOUSE AND STAY AWAY FROM MY HUSBAND!” Her eyes grew wide…she grabbed her coat and keys and fled down the stairs.  My husband went running after her….screaming her name…

After that he went to her house every night, coming home at all hours. Well I guess I showed her. 

On Thanksgiving weekend he took my two sons to his mother’s house, two states away, I was due to have the baby any day. Over the weekend I cleaned the house and straightened everything up. I was proud of how the house looked and thought he would be too.

When he came home on Sunday he looked at the house and said sarcastically, “What did your mother come over and clean?” He left the two boys with me and headed out over to the girlfriend’s house. A few hours later I started bleeding and having contractions. It was rainy and cold and I was alone with two little boys ages 5 and 16 months. I was frantic and crying. I had never bled in my other two labors and now the blood was coming so fast I was afraid of passing out before I could get someone to take care of the kids.

I dialed people frantically but could not find anyone. I was convinced we were all going to die. I was ready to call the ambulance and the police but I had this reluctance to “bother” them (I never liked to bother strangers). Then all of a sudden, he came home. He looked at the trails of blood on the floor and asked me why the hell I didn’t clean it up (didn’t ask me if everyone was okay). Our downstairs neighbors came home to watch the boys and he took me to the hospital.

He didn’t speak to me the whole way there. I was obviously ruining his life what with the medical emergencies and childbirth and all.

After they hooked me up to the monitors, it was clear the baby was in distress. I was in a panic and thought I would lose him. I wasn’t allowed to move while they poked and prodded at me while I had strong contractions. My loving husband stood against the wall like he was waiting for a train while his wife was besides herself and his baby boy was in trouble. I never hated anyone so much in my entire life, but I was in labor and powerless. And he knew it.

Because it was a third delivery the baby all of a sudden came quickly. He was born with the cord around his neck but within minutes they could tell he was okay but we had to stay in the hospital a few extra days. I had horrible post partum depression and did nothing but cry.

He would come to the hospital and hold the baby. I would try to make small talk but he would say he came to visit his son, not me. It hurt me to my core.

He picked me up at the hospital without a word and refused to talk to me or help me with the baby once we got home. I was weak and tired but tried to get him to pay attention to me. He refused to talk to me. It was me and the 3 boys in a 4 room apartment and I was desperate for some conversation. He kept walking away from me. It was difficult to keep the boys from seeing his disdain.

Without thinking of how weak I was, I ran out of the house sobbing and angry. About half way down the block I was dizzy and sick. I had to turn around. I got to the top of our stairs and I collapsed and couldn’t move. I rapped weakly on the door and after a time he opened the door cursing me out and telling me how f’d up I was.

I was starving for affection, attention and someone to love me. I felt like my life was out of control, I was out of control. He kept threatening to keep the boys if I left. I couldn’t leave and I couldn’t stay. I would occasionally fly into rages, occasionally go out and drink too much and other times sit sullen and depressed on my bed. For the next couple of years my emotions were out of control. I was a mess. A complete basket case.

I finally found the courage to leave. Between the time my last son was born and when I left four years later, he had two more affairs, a lot more abuse and too much control and criticism. And yet I was being held up, constantly, as the crazy one.

When I got out, I didn’t trust anyone and didn’t know what love or caring looked like. I was just out of my twenties and I was as tired as if I was an old lady. I thought rehab or jail would be a respite. Some place. Any place.

I had felt empty and sad all my life. I swung between sad and pathetic out of control behavior and angry want to kill the world behavior.

Eventually I stopped and realized I had to straighten up and learn the healthy way of being. I had to work through the pain of the past and get my act together. Not for me, but for my boys. I didn’t want them to grow up thinking their mother was a mental case and I certainly felt like one. All of the time. I had made poor choices and they continually came home to roost. One day I just had to say enough is enough.

It is not easy being young, being a mother and feeling out of control. I’m sure it’s even harder with the whole world watching.

The Week wrote ” Psychotherapists are still wondering what to make of [Britney’s head shaving].” Some think its a cry for help or the beginning of a nervous breakdown..

As a former therapist I can’t analyze or diagnose her because I don’t know her, but as a former out of control twenty something, I know that it hurts. WHATEVER is going on with Britney is HURT.

I know that the feelings are so overwhelming and confusing that you feel you need to DO something. And to be honest, I understand her beating the hell out of the paparazzi car. They were getting gas for goodness sakes. I’m annoyed getting gas without anyone harassing me. I would be beating on someone too.

I don’t profess to KNOW what is wrong with Britney but as someone who was once out of control and now is happy and healthy and strong and confident, I have to send some hope her way. As someone who adores my now-grown sons (and they are all close to me) and who was once in danger of losing them to a big loser, I only hope she stops the slide before it’s too late. And as someone who writes daily posts I can only ask that the world just back off of her and let her get her act together. Will she or won’t she? Well, it’s none of our business. We need to let her be. 

I don’t know if I would have been able to get my act together had I been scrutinized by the whole world. My own family’s comments and my ex’s comments (knowing what a LOSER this guy was and yet he was coming off as better than me) and his family’s comments were enough for me. They hurt and they were private, not public. I hurt so much and then I was held up to scorn and ridicule on a very small scale and it hurt more than I can put into words. Still I hung back, did my work, cared for my children and listened to people wonder what was wrong with me for several years until it was clear that I was on a new and different and healthy path.

I put a new life together.

I got over the hurdles.

I moved past all the garbage and the hurt and the rage and learned to be a mother to my kids. A good mother. A healthy mother. I learned to put a life together that is good and wonderful. It IS possible and I wish it for Britney and any other young mother who is hurt and confused and lost and alone.  If you are out there and you identify with Britney, if you feel as if you are dancing out of control, there is help and there is hope. Please please please get to a GOOD therapist, go to a support group, don’t give up. Don’t act out. It’s okay…we hear you…we care…please please please get some help.

I didn’t want to write about Britney but I feel for her. She’s a child and she needs some room to grow into the person she was meant to be. She’s hurting. She needs some time and some space. I hope that one day she will be better. For now, please let her be.


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