HUBweek stories: Glennon Doyle shares how she became a ‘Warrior’
Glennon Doyle is interviewed by her wife, Olympic champion Abby Wambach, at HUBweek in Boston.

As exclusive health care sponsor of the annual HUBweek festival of ideas in Boston, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts this year convened visionary leaders to explore innovative approaches to health, with an emphasis on empathy, diversity and inclusion. BCBSMA News Service is reporting the insights of three compelling speakers -- Paralympic champion Tatyana McFadden, childhood cancer survivor and virtual reality entrepreneur Taylor Carol and online community builder Glennon Doyle -- who shared their own stories and their visions for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Glennon Doyle is brutally honest. She’s also thoughtful, smart and sweetly funny. So when this best-selling author talks about addiction, mental illness, racism or raising children in a world gone amok, it’s no surprise that people take notice.

A crowd packed Faneuil Hall in Boston during this fall’s HUBweek to hear the author of the memoirs “Carry On Warrior” and “Love Warrior” speak with passion about everything from her own bulimia and alcoholism, to the marriage, family and divorce she chronicled on a viral blog, to the robust nonprofit she started to aid vulnerable women and children.

“The fire that caused me to lead a hard life, leads me to be a hard activist,” she told the crowd.

That fire was evident on stage, where Doyle was interviewed by Abby Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and Doyle’s wife. The event  was one of the highlights of the festival of ideas.

Revered for her candor in sharing her life story with millions of followers on her online community Momastery, Doyle spoke openly about the pain and triumphs that have marked her own life.

Discussing her own mental illness, Doyle recalled how she became bulimic at age 10. By the time she was a senior in high school, she was admitted to a mental hospital.

Yet she kept up a formidable façade. Shortly after being released from that facility, she was named to the court of her high school’s prom queen.

 “I loved the mental hospital,” she told her audience, “because you didn’t have to pretend you were OK anymore.”

 Trying to cope with social pressures after her release from the hospital,  Doyle turned to alcohol.             

“I was a canary in a coal mine. I was paying attention to what the culture says about girls,” Doyle said of her substance use. “In a profoundly sick society filled with racism, misogyny and all of these ills, we breath in all of these toxins (and) we get sicker.”

Today, she said, it is the job of parents to teach their children how to filter out society’s dangerous messages, particularly the constant barrage of advertising on television and online.

“There are so many things out there that are trying to get into the consciousness of our children,” she said. “We have to make our boys and girls aware of the toxic things they are selling. We can’t rid the world of all these messages but we need to teach our children about them.”             

Doyle said she still feels “under assault constantly” by outside influences but has found some salvation in recovery groups “where people tell the truth.” It’s through those groups that she began writing, she said.

Her experiences led her to found Together Rising, the nonprofit that has raised $14 million since 2012.

The charity’s Love Flash Mobs have made a mark by quickly raising money through small donations – generating millions for causes including advocates and legal representation for children separated from their families at the U.S. border, and ambulances and a pediatric hospital for refugees in Syria

Spreading kindness and empathy, Doyle told her fans, is how others can change the world too.

“My job is to … help people turn their heartache into action and into change,” she said of her life today. “I do this as an act of gratitude to the world. … It’s the best medicine in the world.”