Tallulah Willis, the daughter of Bruce Willis, has discussed her struggles accepting her father’s diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and the effects it has had on her family’s daily life.
“I keep flipping between the present and the past when I talk about Bruce: he is, he was, he is, he was. That’s because I have hopes for my father that I’m so reluctant to let go of,” The 29-year-old daughter of the “Die Hard” actor and his ex-wife Demi Moore penned a lengthy first-person essay for Vogue, published on Wednesday.
“That’s because I have hopes for my father that I’m so reluctant to let go of,” she wrote. She remembered how the family initially identified her father’s disease as aphasia, a condition that can impair conversation, as the earliest indicator of her father’s illness.
Since then, the actor’s family has revealed that he has FTD, a condition that affects parts of the brain linked to personality, conduct, and language, according to the Mayo Clinic.
I am heartbroken for Bruce Willis and his family. It shows courage to share this diagnosis. It offers support to others who are also facing this challenging future. I am a huge fan, Bruce.
— Carol Drinkwater (@Carol4OliveFarm) February 16, 2023
She wrote, “I’ve known that something was wrong for a long time. “It started out with a kind of vague unresponsiveness, which the family chalked up to Hollywood hearing loss: ‘Speak up! “Die Hard” messed with Dad’s ears.’”
“Later that unresponsiveness broadened, and I sometimes took it personally. He had had two babies with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought he’d lost interest in me. Though this couldn’t have been further from the truth, my adolescent brain tortured itself with some faulty math: I’m not beautiful enough for my mother or interesting enough for my father.”
Tallulah Willis was open and honest about her own health, including her diagnoses of ADHD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and anorexia nervosa. She recalled that by spring 2022, she weighed about 84 pounds and could not walk around her neighborhood without stopping to rest.
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“I admit that I have met Bruce’s decline in recent years with a share of avoidance and denial that I’m not proud of. The truth is that I was too sick myself to handle it,” she stated.
“I had managed to give my central dad-feeling canal an epidural; the good feelings weren’t really there, the bad feelings weren’t really there. But I remember a moment when it hit me painfully: I was at a wedding in the summer of 2021 on Martha’s Vineyard, and the bride’s father made a moving speech.”
“Suddenly I realized that I would never get that moment, my dad speaking about me in adulthood at my wedding. It was devastating. I left the dinner table, stepped outside, and wept in the bushes.”
Tallulah Willis claims that she felt “a lot better” during her stay at a Texas rehab facility and that she now has “the tools to be present in all facets of my life, and especially in my relationship with my dad.”
She now records their time together with images whenever she sees her father, and she claims to have all of his voicemails saved on a hard drive.
“I’m like an archaeologist, searching for treasure in stuff that I never used to pay much attention to,” she said. “I find that I’m trying to document, to build a record for the day when he isn’t there to remind me of him and of us.”
“In the past, I was so afraid of being destroyed by sadness, but finally I feel that I can show up and be relied upon. I can savor that time, hold my dad’s hand, and feel that it’s wonderful. I know that trials are looming, that this is the beginning of grief, but that whole thing about loving yourself before you can love somebody else – it’s real,” she stated.
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