The rise and tragic fall of blog goddess: How Heather Armstrong's life faded
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: Popular mommy blogger Heather Armstrong tragically ended her life at the age of 47. She was known for her candid pieces on her struggles as a mother and battles with depression and alcoholism on her website Dooce.com and on social media. Armstong was found dead by her boyfriend Pete Ashdown on Tuesday night, May 9, at their Salt Lake City residence.
Armstrong began Dooce in 2001 and built it from the ground up into a lucrative career. The mother of two was notably one of the first and most popular mommy bloggers, who wrote about her children, relationships and mental health challenges. She eventually signed a number of book deals and published a memoir in 2009, titled 'It Sucked and then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown and a Much Needed Margarita.' The author was also invited to Oprah and featured on the Forbes list of most influential women in media.
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Armstrong had two kids -- Leta, 19, and Marlo, 13 -- with her former husband, web designer Jon Armstrong. They divorced in 2012, and the author began dating Ashdown, a former US senate candidate, about six years ago. They reportedly lived together with Armstrong's children.
Armstrong built a reputation online for her unapologetic posts on "everything from pregnancy and breastfeeding to homework and carpooling were often infused with curses," according to The Guardian, which noted how her growing popularity was met with accusations of bad parenting and worse. In one of her posts on Dooce, Armstrong opened up about how she beat alcoholism. “On October 8th, 2021 I celebrated six months of sobriety by myself on the floor next to my bed feeling as if I were a wounded animal who wanted to be left alone to die,” she wrote. “There was no one in my life who could possibly comprehend how symbolic a victory it was for me, albeit … one fraught with tears and sobbing so violent that at one point I thought my body would split in two. The grief submerged me in tidal waves of pain. For a few hours I found it hard to breathe.” She added, “Sobriety was not some mystery I had to solve. It was simply looking at all my wounds and learning how to live with them."
Armstrong wrote in her memoir how her blog originally began as a means to express her thoughts on pop culture with remote friends. Her audience, however, grew exponentially within a year, drawing thousands of like-minded strangers to her website. Armstrong found herself writing more and more about her personal life, her office job, and “how much I wanted to strangle my boss, often using words and phrases that would embarrass a sailor." She wrote of how she took down her website after her employer found it and fired her. However, she started it back up again six months later, writing about her then husband and how unemployment had forced them to move from Los Angeles to her mother's basement in Utah.
Armstrong noted how her subsequent pregnancy offered “an endless trove” of content, “but I truly believed that I would give it all up once I had the baby." She decided not to stop writing, and went on to chronicle her ups and downs as a new mother. “I don’t think I would have survived it had I not offered up my story and reached out to bridge the loneliness,” she wrote. The author was reportedly raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but gave up the religion years ago. According to her book, she suffered chronic depression for much of her life. After the unraveling of her marriage, the internet sensation faced a dip in popularity.
In an interview with Vox in 2019, Armstrong revealed how her depression grew worse, prompting her enroll in a clinical trial at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, where she was placed in a chemically induced coma for 15 minutes at a time for 10 sessions. “I was feeling like life was not meant to be lived,” she said at the time, “When you are that desperate, you will try anything. I thought my kids deserved to have a happy, healthy mother, and I needed to know that I had tried all options to be that for them.”
“I want people with depression to feel like they are seen,” Armstrong told Vox, adding that some of her emotional spirals could be attributed to sharing her life online for so long. “The hate was very, very scary and very, very hard to live through,” she added. “It gets inside your head and eats away at your brain. It became untenable.”