Heather Armstrong, mom blogger known as ‘Dooce’, dies aged 47

Heather Armstrong, mom blogger known as ‘Dooce’, dies aged 47

Pioneering mommy blogger Heather Armstrong, who laid bare her struggles as a mother and her battles with depression and alcoholism on her website Dooce.com and on social media, has died aged 47.

Armstrong’s boyfriend, Pete Ashdown, said he found her Tuesday night at her Salt Lake City home. He said the cause was suicide.

She had two children with her ex-husband and business partner, Jon Armstrong, started Dooce in 2001 and has built a lucrative career. She was one of the first and most popular mom bloggers, writing candidly about her children, relationships, and other challenges at a time when personal blogs were booming.

She parlayed her successes with the blog, Instagram and elsewhere into the book business, releasing a memoir in 2009, 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 the Forbes list of the most influential women in media.

In 2012, the Armstrongs announced that they were disbanding. They were divorced later that year. She began dating Ashdown, a former US Senate candidate, nearly six years ago. They lived together with Armstrong’s children Leta, 19, and Marlo, 13. He has three children from a previous marriage who have also spent time at his home.

He told the Associated Press that Armstrong had been sober for over 18 months and had recently relapsed. He did not provide further details.

Armstrong didn’t hold back on Instagram and Dooce, the latter a name that grew out of his inability to quickly spell “dude” during online chats. Her raw, unapologetic posts about everything from pregnancy and breastfeeding to homework and carpooling were often infused with profanity. As her popularity grew, so did the barbs from critics, who accused her of bad manners and worse.

One of his Dooce posts spoke of an earlier victory over booze.

“On October 8, 2021, I celebrated six months of sobriety alone on the floor next to 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 was for me, though… one full of tears and sobbing so violent that at one point I thought my body would break in two. Pain washed over me in waves of pain. For a few hours, I had trouble breathing.”

A selfie of Heather Armstrong in April.

Heather Armstrong has been dubbed “the queen of mom bloggers” by the New York Times Magazine.

(Associated press)

She continued, “Sobriety was not a mystery I had to solve. It was simply looking at all my wounds and learning to live with them.”

In her memoir, she described how her blog started as a way to share her thoughts on pop culture with friends far away. In one year, her audience grew from a few friends to thousands of strangers around the world, she wrote.

Increasingly, Armstrong said, she found herself writing about her personal life and eventually an office job for a tech startup in California, and “how much I wanted to strangle my boss, often using words and phrases that would embarrass a sailor.”

Her employer found the site and fired her, she wrote. She took it out, but started again six months later, writing about her new husband, Armstrong, and how unemployment forced them to move from Los Angeles to her mother’s basement in Utah.

She soon became pregnant. Pregnancy offered “an endless treasure trove” of content, she wrote, “but I truly believed I would give it all up once I 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 my story and reached out to overcome loneliness,” she wrote.

At its peak, Dooce had over 8 million monthly readers, a sizable 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 it wasn’t diagnosed and treated until college, according to her book.

In 2017, after her marriage ended, the internet star dubbed “the queen of blogger moms” by the New York Times Magazine took a dip in popularity as social media took center stage.

Her depression worsened, leading her to enroll in a clinical trial at the University of Utah Institute of Neuropsychiatry. She was placed in a chemically induced coma for 15 minutes for 10 sessions.

“I was feeling like life wasn’t meant to be lived,” Armstrong told Vox. “When you’re that desperate, you’ll try anything. I thought my children deserved to have a happy, healthy mother and I needed to know that I had tried every option to be that for them.

In 2019, she wrote her third book, “The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live”, about her experiences with treatment.

“I want people with depression to feel seen,” she told Vox.

Armstrong attributed, in part, some of his past emotional spirals to sharing his life online for so long.

“The hate was really, really scary and really, really hard to get over,” she said in the interview. “It gets into your head and eats away at your brain. It became unsustainable.”

If you or a loved one is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

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