Today, Heather B. Armstrong turns 44 years old.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”.
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:
I am fighting back tears as I upload that image into this post.
Who wrote these BEST-SELLING books (available here).
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).
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.
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.