- Blogger mom Heather Armstrong has died at the age of 47.
- Known as “Dooce” to her fans, Armstrong wrote openly about her struggles with parenthood, depression and alcoholism.
- She shared two children with her ex Jon Armstrong and was found dead by her current boyfriend, Pete Ashdown.
NEW YORK (AP) — Pioneering mom blogger Heather Armstrong, who exposed her struggles as a mother and her battles with depression and alcoholism on her site Dooce.com and on social media, has died at the age of 47.
Armstrong’s boyfriend, Pete Ashdown, told The Associated Press that he found her Tuesday night at her Salt Lake City home.
She had two children with her ex-husband and business partner, Jon Armstrong, started Dooce in 2001 and built it into a lucrative career. She was one of the first and most popular mom bloggers, writing candidly about her kids, relationships, and other challenges at a time when personal blogging was booming.
She parlayed her successes with the blog, on Instagram, and elsewhere into book deals, publishing a memoir in 2009, “I Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much-Needed Margarita.”
That year, Armstrong appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and was on Forbes’ list of the most influential women in media.
In 2012, the Armstrongs announced that they were separating. They divorced later that year. She began dating Ashdown, a former US Senate candidate, nearly six years ago. They lived together with Armstrong’s children, 19-year-old Leta and 13-year-old Marlo. She has three children from a previous marriage who also spent time at her home.
Ashdown said Armstrong committed suicide. She told the AP that she had been sober for more than 18 months and that she recently relapsed. She did not provide further details.
Armstrong didn’t hold back on Instagram and Dooce, the latter a name that arose from his inability to quickly spell “dude” during online chats. Her crude and unapologetic posts about everything from pregnancy and breastfeeding to homework and carpooling were often laced with curse words. As her popularity grew, so did her critics, accusing her of bad breeding and worse.
One of his Dooce posts spoke of a previous victory over drinking.
“On October 8, 2021 I celebrated six months of sobriety alone on the floor by my bed feeling like a wounded animal that wanted to be left alone to die,” Armstrong wrote. “There was no one in my life who could understand how symbolic a victory it was for me, though… one filled with tears and sobs so violent that at one point I thought my body would split in two. Pain engulfed me in tidal waves of pain. For a few hours I found it difficult to breathe.
She continued: “Sobriety wasn’t a mystery I had to solve. It was just looking at all my wounds and learning to live with them.”
In his memoir, he described how his blog started as a way to share his thoughts on pop culture with far-flung friends. Within a year, her audience grew from a few friends to thousands of strangers around the world, she wrote.
Armstrong said that he increasingly found himself writing about his personal life and, eventually, a desk job for a start-up tech company, and “how badly I wanted to throttle my boss, often using words and phrases that would embarrass a sailor.” .”
Her employer found the site and fired her, she wrote. She deleted it, but she started anew six months later, writing about her new husband, Armstrong, and how unemployment had forced them to move from Los Angeles to her mother’s basement in Utah.
Soon she became pregnant. The pregnancy offered “an endless treasure trove” of content, she wrote, “but she really believed she would give it all up once she had the baby.”
She didn’t, going on to recount her ups and downs as a new mother.
“I don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t offered up my story and reached out to get over the loneliness,” she wrote.
At its peak, Dooce had over 8 million monthly readers, a healthy following that allowed it to monetize its online presence.
Armstrong was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but left the faith after graduating from Brigham Young University and moving to Los Angeles. She suffered from chronic depression for much of her life, but she wasn’t diagnosed or treated until college, according to her book.
In 2017, after the breakdown of her marriage, the internet star dubbed “the queen of blogging moms” by The New York Times Magazine fell in popularity as social media gained traction.
Her depression worsened, leading her to enroll in a clinical trial at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute. She was put into a chemically induced coma for 15 minutes at a time for 10 sessions.
“I felt like life was not meant to be lived,” Armstrong told Vox. “When you’re that desperate, you try anything. I thought my kids deserved to have a happy, healthy mom, and I needed to know that I’d tried every option to be that for them.”
In 2019, he wrote his third book, “The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live”, about his experiences with treatment.
“I want people with depression to feel seen,” he told Vox.
Armstrong attributed some of his past emotional spirals, in part, to sharing his life online for so long.
“Hate was very, very scary and very, very hard to live with,” he said in the interview. “It gets into your head and eats away at your brain. It became untenable.”