The pioneering mommy blogger Heather Armstrong, who laid bare her struggles as a mother and her battles with depression and alcoholism on her site Dooce.com and on social media, has died at 47.
Armstrong died by suicide, her boyfriend Pete Ashdown told The Associated Press, saying he found her Tuesday night at their Salt Lake City home.
Ashdown said Armstrong had been sober for over 18 months but had recently had a relapse. He did not provide further details.
Armstrong, who had two children with her former husband and business partner, Jon Armstrong, began Dooce in 2001 and built it into a lucrative career. She was one of the first and most popular mommy bloggers, writing frankly about her children, relationships and other challenges.
She parlayed her successes with the blog, on Instagram and elsewhere into book deals, putting out a memoir in 2009, It Sucked and then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown and a Much Needed Margarita.
Armstrong appeared on Oprah and was on the Forbes list of most influential women in media.
In 2012, the Armstrongs announced they were separating. They divorced later that year. She began dating Ashdown, a former U.S. senate candidate, nearly six years ago. They lived together with Armstrong’s children, 19-year-old Leta and 13-year-old Marlo. He has three children from a previous marriage who spent time in their home as well.
Armstrong didn’t hold back on Instagram and Dooce, the latter a name that arose from her inability to quickly spell “dude” during online chats. Her raw, unapologetic posts on everything from pregnancy and breastfeeding to homework and carpooling were often infused with curses. As her popularity grew, so too did the barbs of critics, who accused her of bad parenting and worse.
One of her posts on Dooce spoke of a previous victory over drinking.
“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,” Armstrong 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 went on: “Sobriety was not some mystery I had to solve. It was simply looking at all my wounds and learning how to live with them.”
In her memoir, she described how her blog began as a way to share her thoughts on pop culture with faraway friends. Within a year, her audience grew from a few friends to thousands of strangers around the world, she wrote.
More and more, Armstrong said, she found herself writing about her personal life and, eventually, an office job, and “how much I wanted to strangle my boss, often using words and phrases that would embarrass a sailor.”
It’s shocking to hear Heather Armstrong died yesterday. It’s hard to put into words just how influential she was to the blogosphere. I hope she is at peace, and that her children and loved ones are finding solace where they can.
Her employer found the site and fired her, she wrote. She took it down but started back up again 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.
She was soon pregnant. The pregnancy offered “an endless trove” of content, she wrote, “but I truly believed that I would give it all up once I had the baby.”
She didn’t, but chronicled her highs and lows 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 queen of the mommy bloggers’
Armstrong was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but left the religion years ago. She suffered chronic depression for much of her life, according to her book. In 2017, after the unraveling of her marriage, the internet star dubbed “the queen of the mommy bloggers” by The New York Times Magazine took a tumble in popularity.
Her depression grew worse, leading her to enroll in a clinical trial at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, according to an interview she gave Vox. She was put 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,” Armstrong told Vox. “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.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, here’s where to get help: