Bruce Willis’ daughter, Tallulah, has detailed his devastating battle with frontotemporal dementia in an open letter, revealing that she knew something was wrong for ‘a long time’.
The Die Hard actor’s famous family, including his wife, Emma Heming Willis, and former partner, Demi Moore, announced his health issues and struggles with aphasia last year, confirming that he would be stepping back from his Hollywood career.
Sharing an update in February, they said that the 68-year-old had been diagnosed with dementia and that there was currently no cure for the condition.
In a hugely candid message published in Vogue, Tallulah opened up about the impact his illness has had on her family, and how she has dealt with the heartbreaking news.
‘I’ve known that something was wrong for a long time,’ the 29-year-old wrote. ‘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, I’m not interesting enough for my father.’
The actress spoke about her own health, explaining that she was ‘too sick’ to handle what was happening to her dad, after suffering from anorexia nervosa.
Tallulah revealed that, last spring, she weighed around 84lbs and was struggling herself, unable to walk around her neighborhood without needing to sit and catch her breath.
She received treatment at a recovery center in Texas, and spent time being introduced to ‘a variety of therapies before she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder – and learned the ‘tools’ to be present in her life, and with her dad.
Reflecting on their relationship, she said that the reality of Bruce’s issues hit her while she attended a wedding, as she realized that she would ‘never get that moment’ of hearing him speak at her own nuptials.
‘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 continued. ‘While I was wrapped up in my body dysmorphia, flaunting it on Instagram, my dad was quietly struggling.
‘All kinds of cognitive testing was being conducted, but we didn’t have an acronym yet. 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.’
Tallulah described her father as ‘cool, charming, slick, stylish and a little wacky,’ which are traits that she has embraced and inherited.
She explained that one of the differences between FTD and Alzheimer’s dementia is that Bruce’s condition is characterized ‘by language and motor deficits’, meaning that he may always know who his loved ones are.
‘He still knows who I am and lights up when I enter the room,’ she wrote. ‘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. I’ve always recognized elements of his personality in me, and I just know that we’d be such good friends if only there were more time.’
‘Now that I’m feeling better I ask myself, How I can make him more comfortable?,’ Tallulah added. ‘In April, my older sister Rumer had a baby girl, Louetta, and Bruce and Demi became grandparents. There’s this little creature changing by the hour, and there’s this thing happening with my dad that can shift so quickly and unpredictably. It feels like a unique and special time in my family, and I’m just so glad to be here for it.’
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