She’s had the worst week of her life. Now, as she goes on the run with a photographer who once stalked her, an insider who knows her well reveals she’s been fighting manic depression for a year…
The young woman was adamant: “They’re not sending me to the nut house,” she shouted into her mobile phone.
“No one can make me go if I don’t want to go, and I ain’t goin’.”
It was last Tuesday evening and Britney Spears was talking to a close friend as she cruised down Sunset Boulevard in her black sports car, followed by the swarm of paparazzi that pursues her everywhere she goes.
As the friend tried to reason with the star, her words - and her driving - became increasingly erratic.
“See that? I just went through another stop sign,” Britney shrieked. “See what you made me do? I’m gonna hurt someone out here!”
Then the 26-year-old made a chilling promise: “I’ll kill myself before I let them lock me up again. So tell Mama and Daddy I said so!”
Just before she hung up, she uttered a final few words.
And as someone who has known and liked Britney for almost a decade, I find what she had to say utterly chilling.
“Oh my God,” she moaned. “It’s over for me.”
In one short week, it seems, Britney’s life has become a living nightmare, turning a troubled young star into a woman on the brink of insanity.
The crisis began last weekend, when a four-hour police stand-off at her Los Angeles home over custody of her two young children ended with Britney being strapped to an ambulance trolley and dragged off to the mental ward of a hospital.
As a result, she’s been stripped of all custody of her children.
Meanwhile, her frantic parents are racking their brains, trying to figure out how to have their tormented young daughter formally committed to an institution.
And to add to the mess, a British paparazzo whom Britney has just taken into her confidence - and her bed - has already betrayed that trust in the most sordid way.
For several years, Adnan Ghalib has been one of the many photographers who earns a wage simply by following Britney Spears’s every move.
Originally from Afghanistan, he moved with his family to London in 1977 as a five-year-old refugee, later settling in California, where he managed a strip bar before branching out as a paparazzo.
Though married, he’s been separated from his wife, Azlynn Berry, for about a year.
So how did this 35-year-old low-life end up sleeping with the star he was stalking?
“Britney has been slipping off to hotels and spending the night with this guy for a couple of weeks now,” says one disgusted friend of the singer.
“It started on December 23 when they spent the night together at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills. He’s a creepy guy.
“He always said he would one day get Britney Spears in the sack, and I guess he finally has. She’s giddy when she’s around him. But I think he’s out to use her.”
Quite so. For on Wednesday, Britney learned that Ghalib had been attempting to sell pictures of Britney wearing only her knickers.
The asking price? A million dollars, cash.
He has now reportedly settled for a little more than £25,000 from an Australian magazine.
Given such a betrayal, one would think Britney would be outraged. But far from it. At the time of writing, Ghalib was still by her side.
On Wednesday, the pair boarded a private jet, heading for Mexico, arriving back in LA on Thursday night when Britney was pictured sitting in a car at a petrol station, wearing glasses and her favoured disguise of a bizarre neon pink bobbed wig - all the while puffing on an unidenitified inhaler, in clear view of watching photographers.
Such odd behaviour has left her friends as mystified as they are concerned. But it says a great deal about Britney’s emotional state.
“She’s used to people exploiting her,” says one of her close confidantes. “She once told me: ‘If I cut everyone out of my life who has tried to make a buck off me, I’d have no one.’
“She feels she’s been exploited by lovers, assistants, managers, her ex-husband, her parents. Why should Ghalib be any different?
“So, as far as I know, she’s still sleeping with the enemy, at least for now. But she can’t make rational decisions, anyway. She’s too messed up. This girl needs help, badly.” A fearful relative agrees: “Actually, it’s been this way for months.
“People assume that she’s been on illegal drugs and, of course, she has been in the past.
“But most of that stopped months ago when the court ordered frequent drug tests in the child custody case between her and Kevin (Federline, her ex-husband).
“The only drugs she’s on right now are certain prescription medications she’s taking for extreme anxiety and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and that includes Adderall, which is a powerful amphetamine.
“Actually, I think the Adderall is ruining her,” continued the family member.
“It makes her manic. But that’s the least of her problems.
“What no one in the family wants to admit is that she’s probably bi-polar” - a form of manic depression that leads to wild mood swings.
Indeed, I can confirm that Britney was diagnosed as being “suspected bipolar” when she was in Promises rehab in Santa Monica, California, last year.
Doctors there also thought she was suffering from a borderline personality disorder.
However, a final diagnosis couldn’t be made without additional tests, which Britney refused to undertake.
The Spears family has been desperately trying to get a conclusive diagnosis. But the problem is, without Britney’s cooperation, there’s no way to do it.
“And now that she’s let it go on too long, she’s totally bonkers,” said her relative.
“I have actually been with her when she’s bashed her head against a wall, trying to hurt herself.
“She needs to be in a hospital, but she won’t go. She’ll have to be committed. That’s the only way.”
Now, in desperation, the singer’s parents - Jamie and Lynne Spears - along with Kevin Federline, have begun to undertake drastic action to help Britney.
They are considering “a number of different scenarios”.
But the most extreme option is for them to go to court and get an order that would force Britney into in-patient treatment.
If that happens, Britney would be forcibly detained by police on a ‘5150′ - a formal charge meaning that she’s a danger to herself or others. Then, while she’s in a hospital, doctors would appeal to the County Public Guardian, who would go to court and ask for power of attorney.
Britney could then be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for her own good. Whether or not all of this can be co-ordinated remains to be seen.
But if what took place when police raided Britney’s home on January 3 is any indication, she’s in desperate need of professional help.