the caged bird sings.

written, designed, and edited by Bee Butler

Heather B. Armstrong

Bee ButlerComment

Today, Heather B. Armstrong turns 44 years old.

All photographs are property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com

All photographs are property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com

I don’t even know where to begin.

After my fiance left me in 2009, I began reading Dooce.com. I fell in love with family; a little girl named Leta, a husband named Jon, Heather, the mother who did all of the writing, and anxiously began awaiting the arrival of another baby girl named Marlo.

I have devoured her website for ten years now, and during that time, I began to feel connected to her in a way that surpassed normal internet blog-esque friendships. Honestly, I believe that all of us who consume blogs feel a kinship to their authors that develops over time, one that they often don’t (and can’t) reciprocate, because they don’t actually know their readers. We get such an inside peek at their daily lives that we slowly insert ourselves into the narrative in an unrealistic way.

But that’s the nature of sharing your life online. You get people like me who absolutely fall in love with people like Heather, and you have people like Heather who rarely (if ever) interact with the ‘me’s’ of this world.



Except that’s not what happened.

In 2012, I was heading off to eating disorder treatment. On a whim, I tweeted at Heather what was going on, and she responded:

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And that was it.

That tweet nearly made me fall over, because YOU GUYS, DOOCE IS ACTUALLY TALKING TO ME HOLY SHIT. After I managed to get my jaw off the floor, I started crying, because it meant the world to me that this woman, who I would later find out was in the middle of an incredibly painful personal matter, would take the time to respond to me on Twitter.

Then, I emailed her.
And she emailed me back.

Then, after I moved to California in 2014, I kind of let go of my intense grip of her content, even going so far as to forget to read her website again until 2017 (I am so sorry Heather, please forgive me), but when I did, I saw something was different. Then, I got booted back home in an incredibly painful time of my life that I would pay to forget. And Heather announced her new book was coming out… and it dealt with the suicidal struggle I was currently going through. During that time, I wrote a post called On The Other Side. In it, I explained that, as a last-ditch attempt to stop me from killing myself, I had gotten back on a medication I used to take… and I did so because I reread Heather’s first book, where that med and a dosage were listed as treatment for her postpartum depression.

DISCLAIMER: Do not do this. I did it because I had already been on the drug and had a large number of them still in their bottles at my disposal, but even then, I probably shouldn’t have done it. Don’t do that. Use your brain and talk to your doctor about any and all medications you are or want to be on. Don’t sue me. Thanks.

After I posted that, I DM’d Heather on Twitter, and to my absolute shock, she responded.

She was in the middle of a media frenzy due to the release of her new book, and she promised that she would respond in a longer, more in-depth way as soon as she had the chance. For now, she was in book-release mode.

So, the day it came out, that book was in my hands.

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I read that entire thing in (maybe?) four hours, and immediately let her know via Twitter.

After reading her book, I applied for a clinical trial, one somewhat similar to hers, because I wanted what she’d found. I wanted my depressive episodes to cease, and I finally knew what I could do about it.

THEN I found out that on her book signing tour, Heather was coming to Austin. I had a friend living there, and she agreed to let my mother and me crash on her couch, so off we went. During this time, I started to DM Heather somewhat frequently, and she responded in kind.

That was absolutely life changing for me.

This woman, who by all accounts was actually quite famous, was speaking to me as an equal, giving me hope for the future, and was excited that she would get to see me in person at her book signing. She even freaked out with me when I DMd her that I was in town.

So, the day came, and off to Book People we went, my copy in hand to be signed.

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My mom and I snagged seats as close as we could get to the front, and we waited, and then…

Heather B Armstrong walked out (and so did her sexy cowboy boyfriend, and her equally attractive cousin, GEORGE!, and I may or may not have yelled out his name when I saw him and had to apologize for it later.

But there she was.

And she spoke for a little while.

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And then she took audience questions, and I raised my hand and said, “Um, hi. I’m the one you’ve been speaking to on Twitter.”

Her face lit up, and she exclaimed how happy she was that I was there! That moment of recognition would have been enough to last me a lifetime.

But obviously, you haven’t met Heather.

I got in the line to get my book signed, and I had it out and ready to go, but when she saw that I was next in line, Heather B. Armstrong LEAPT UP from her seat, ran around the desk, and enveloped me in a hug.

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THat is ABSOLUTE JOY on my face right there, and that moment will forever be ingrained in my brain
But, again, YOU HAVEN’T MET HEATHER B. ARMSTRONG.

Because then she enveloped me in a hug and whispered in my ear, “I love you. You know that, right? I love you. You are loved”. And I absolutely fell apart into her arms.

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That is Heather motherfucking B. Armstrong CUPPING MY HEAD in the most genuine, sincere hug I have ever received, all while telling me how loved I was, and that SHE LOVED ME, and I can’t really tell you how long that hug actually lasted, but it was longer than I ever expected, and she wasn’t even done.

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We chatted while she signed my book, and I had no idea what she was writing, but it was time to move along, because I had already taken up about ten times the amount of time expected per person.

And she asked me to come back arounds so she could hug me one more time. And this time, she whispered, “I’m rooting for you. I hope you know that.”.

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You can see the sincerity in her face there. She genuinely meant every word she spoke to me, and she didn’t just side-hug me or say, “Oh, nice to meet you after our DMs, have a nice day!”.

She halted the entire book signing process for me, because she wanted me to know that someone on this planet cared about me, and that I deserved to exist

Because for nearly eighteen years of my life, I have walked around passively wishing that I did NOT exist, and on two occasions, I have nearly succeeded in making it happen.

And Heather… Heather has been there, too.
And she survived.
And she wants me to keep fighting, to stay on this earth, to live a full life, and she is so serious about the wanting me to stay alive that she publically hugged me to death and told me just how much I mattered, if to no one else, to her.

And here’s what she wrote in my book:

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I am fighting back tears as I upload that image into this post.

This woman.

All images are property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com

All images are property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com

Who wrote these BEST-SELLING books (available here).

All images are the property of Heather B .Armstrong and Dooce.com.

All images are the property of Heather B .Armstrong and Dooce.com.

Did all of that for me.
Some random girl from Texas who read her website.

It is still absolutely insane to me that those moments happened, but that is just who she is. Heather B. Armstrong will give you the shirt off her back and all the love in her heart when you need it the most, even when she’s in the middle of an insane book tour.

It wouldn’t be an actual birthday post for Heather if I didn’t mention that she probably got this southern hospitality from the Avon Sales World Leader, her mother.

I also can’t do this post without acknowledging that we just passed the four year anniversary of losing Chuck, Heather’s first baby, the chief of Balancing All the Things On His Own Head, the most precious, loving, sweet boy, who (honestly), I love as much as my own dog. So here’s this. We love and miss you, Chuck. (And Heather, we’re all grieving with you Church made the whole world a better place by truly coming alive in your writing and photos, and he will never, EVER be forgotten).

All photos are the property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com.

All photos are the property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com.

So, on your 44th birthday, Heather, I want you to know that you saved my life. You made me feel wanted. You gave me a reason to keep going, even when I wanted to die with every fiber of my being

Your books, your first and your last, have been a catalyst in my life that has brought about actual change. Your words, on your blog or on the printed page, have weight, a gravity, such a meaning that you may never fully be able to understand, because you’re the author or those books and your blog, but you’ve never been the twenty-something Texan girl who chose not to kill herself because of what you’ve written.

I read your entire website, from the first post all the way to the most current, every single year, sometimes multiple times in a year. Because the way you write is the way my brain thinks, the way I see things, and your words are so beautifully eloquent and delightfully expletive-laden that I never tire of them. They are like a warm blanket on a cold night, the favorite sweatshirt you kept from college that, despite its age, is the thing you feel safest in.

You have changed the internet, and your blog changed the entire landscape of the way we consume media on the web. That might sound corny, but it’s absolutely true.

All photographs are the property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com

All photographs are the property of Heather B. Armstrong and Dooce.com

Happy birthday, Heather.

For forty-four years you have been making the world a better place, from your devout mormonism to your most crass posts in LA.

You, simply by existing, give people, people like me, hope.

And as a decade-long follower, I want you to know that YOU are loved not just by Cowboy (although I am terribly excited about him and his place in your life), but by all of us who have ever read ANYTHING you’ve written. Your words and your photographs, your books and your blog posts, your Twitter and Instagram and all of the other places you let people peek into your life, they all make the internet a happier place.

Blogging may have changed over the years, and “influencer” may have replaced “mommyblogger”, but you and your words have remained a constant bright spot in the lives of the millions of us who check your site every day.

I’m not sure if this will mean much, or anything at all, but for your birthday, I want everyone to know just how precious, loving, devoted, and kind you are, even to someone you don’t even know.

I hope you’re enjoying Paris with the love of your life, because damnit, you deserve it.
Thank you, for everything.

Happy birthday, Heather. I can’t wait to see what 44 brings.

Love,

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You get to choose.

Bee ButlerComment

As many of you may already know, I submitted myself for a clinical trial several months ago when I was in the very worst of my breakdown. I did so, because I had just read a book by my favorite author and blogger, Heather B. Armstrong (and yes, the B. there is absolutely necessary). She did a clinical trial with Propofol, and while that was not available in my area, a Ketamine vs. ECT (electro-convulsive therapy… where they shock your brain and cause a seizure and the brain damage helps make your depression better), and so I submitted for it.


And I got it.

And right away, I put all my hope, faith, and trust in that trial. I truly believed that these nine ECT treatments (I got randomized to ECT, which is not what I wanted, but there was nothing I could do about it) would save my life, cure my depression, and make me well again.

And it looked like they were.


I walked out of the VA hospital from my final treatment and gave a hug to a nurse, which my mother snapped a picture of, and told everyone how happy I was and how this was truly the cure.


But during the trial, for pain, I was treated with Dilaudid. And that is an insanely heavy pain med that lots of people become addicted to and even OD on. When you add in that ECT causes memory loss, you get three weeks time completely lost to me. No memory of them at all, apart from the treatment bay before I went under. And during that time, my mother asked me if I felt safe with her going on vacation, and I said yes.

I do not remember saying that.

That doesn’t change the fact that I said it.


All of this ended with me completely falling apart, landing in the office of the doctor who would do my follow-up “maintenance” ECT treatments, and after five minutes of talking to me, she diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD. When I let my team from the trial know that, they laughed it off and said it was irresponsible of her to diagnose me with that, or with anything at all, in the short amount of time she had with me, and when I told my psychiatrist yesterday at my appointment, he didn’t seem to be fully on board with that diagnosis, but he agreed to put me on Lithium anyway (per Dr. Livingston, the ECT doctor who diagnosed me with BPD’s request), and off we went.

I took that diagnosis hard. I essentially gave up. If I have a personality disorder, ECT will do nothing. Medication, largely, will do nothing. It’s all talk therapy. And I have spent eighteen years of my life in every form of talk therapy that there is, from inpatient to Intensive Outpatient Programs (or IOPs), and if all of that hadn’t done enough to make a difference, then what hope did I have?

So I found myself in a position I had truly never fully experienced. I was ACTIVELY suicidal, to the point that I made a plan and began texting some friends that I loved and trusted and let them know what was going on. I also texted my mom, explaining to her exactly how I felt, and I set the following parameters:

If the Lithium and my ECT session Friday do not DRASTICALLY change how I feel, I will be ending my life.


My friends tried desperately to talk me out of it, and my mom got angry, then inconsolably sad.

I started the Lithium yesterday, and I honestly don’t feel any different. My treatment tomorrow is scheduled, and I know how these things go, since this is my tenth time, but I have been less-than-optimisitic about it, because it’s one treatment, and even though it has increased chances of success due to all the other treatments I’ve endured, there is no guarantee.

But I had a trip planned with a friend that I completely forgot about in the midst of my ECT-memoried mind, and when she reminded me about it, I realized that giving up and letting go Friday wasn’t an option. So, I told myself, I would get through the weekend, give the meds a little more time to work, and make it to the next ECT next Friday. I also agreed to join the IOP program offered by the hospital.

Then, this morning, a dear friend of mine sent me a series of videos of herself, speaking directly to me, and it hit me in the strongest, most serious way possible.

She postured the following:
- Why was I letting some doctor I didn’t know determine who I was?
- That doctor and all the others were looking at the pieces of me that were broken; they couldn’t see all the beautiful, GOOD things about me that make me who I am.
- Why was I letting ANYONE tell me who I was when I know exactly who I am, because God has specifically told me?
- Instead of focusing on my pain and broken brain, why wasn’t I defining myself by what I COULD do? By who I could help, and where I could serve?
- Why wasn’t I choosing to find my identity in who I could be in the gaps - the places in this world that I am innately drawn to, where i can help?
- I had the ability to create whatever life I chose. Why not choose a good one?

And man, if that didn’t hit home like nobody’s business.


So, who does God say I am?

• I am a child of God.

But to all who have received him--those who believe in his name--he has given the right to become God's children … (John 1:12).

• I am a branch of the true vine, and a conduit of Christ’s life.

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me--and I in him--bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing (John 15:1, 5).

• I am a friend of Jesus.

I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

• I have been justified and redeemed.

But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

• My old self was crucified with Christ, and I am no longer a slave to sin.

We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6).

• I will not be condemned by God.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

• I have been set free from the law of sin and death.

For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

• As a child of God, I am a fellow heir with Christ.

And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)--if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17).

• I have been accepted by Christ.

Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God's glory (Romans 15:7).

• I have been called to be a saint.

… To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). (See also Ephesians 1:1Philippians 1:1, and Colossians 1:2.)

• In Christ Jesus, I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption … (1 Corinthians 1:30).

• My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?

• I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.

But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17).

• God leads me in the triumph and knowledge of Christ.

But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14).

• The hardening of my mind has been removed in Christ.

But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read./netbible2/index.php?header=&book=2co&chapter=3 It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away (2 Corinthians 3:14).

• I am a new creature in Christ.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away--look, what is new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

• I have become the righteousness of God in Christ.

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

• I have been made one with all who are in Christ Jesus.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female--for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

• I am no longer a slave, but a child and an heir.

So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God (Galatians 4:7).

• I have been set free in Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

• I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

• I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God.

For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love (Ephesians 1:4).

• I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).

• I have been predestined by God to obtain an inheritance.

In Christ we too have been claimed as God's own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

• I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)--when you believed in Christ--you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).

• Because of God’s mercy and love, I have been made alive with Christ.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you are saved (Ephesians 2:4-5)!

• I am seated in the heavenly places with Christ.

… And he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus … (Ephesians 2:6).

• I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works.

For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them (Ephesians 2:10).

• I have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ.

But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

• I am a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of His promise.

… The Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6). (See also Ephesians 5:30.)

• I have boldness and confident access to God through faith in Christ.

… In whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ's faithfulness (Ephesians 3:12).

• My new self is righteous and holy.

… Put on the new man who has been created in God's image--in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth (Ephesians 4:24).

• I was formerly darkness, but now I am light in the Lord.

… For you were at one time darkness, but now you are/netbible2/index.php?header=&book=eph&chapter=5 light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (Ephesians 5:8).

• I am a citizen of heaven.

But our citizenship is in heaven--and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ … (Philippians 3:20).

• The peace of God guards my heart and mind.

And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

• God supplies all my needs.

And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

• I have been made complete in Christ.

… You have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority (Colossians 2:10).

• I have been raised up with Christ.

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).

• My life is hidden with Christ in God.

… For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

• Christ is my life, and I will be revealed with Him in glory.

When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him (Colossians 3:4).

• I have been chosen of God, and I am holy and beloved.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience … (Colossians 3:12).

• God loves me and has chosen me.

We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you … (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

The more we embrace these truths from Scripture about who we have become in Christ, the more stable, grateful, and fully assured we will be in this world.


Now THAT Is something I want to live by. Someone I WANT to be. Someone with hope, who isn’t in such dire straits, who has no reason to kill themselves.

The biggest thing my friend reminded me of was that I was worth dying for.
Because Jesus died for me, and He would do it again.


I hope someone reading this sees something in it that helps them. A little flicker of hope in the darkness, a word or phrase that sticks with them.

But, most of all, I want to thank my precious friend.
Because if all those things above are true of me, then killing myself is off the table. Completely. Forever.


Please know that it can be for you, too.


I have a lot of work ahead of me, a lot of struggling and dealing with past pain and wading through the waters of my past in an attempt to get well and to reach a place where I can work and exist and BE someone, not just a girl curled up on her parent’s couch with no hope and plans.


Keep me in your prayers, in your thoughts, do whatever it is you do when you want the spiritual world to move and change in order for someone to have a better life. Know that it is greatly appreciated.

I promise to update you soon.

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