Nearly four months after Bruce Willis’ family announced that he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a form of dementia that affects a person’s ability to use or understand written or spoken language, the actor’s daughter Tallulah Willis is sharing her view on it. Father’s deterioration – including symptoms which, in hindsight, were early signs of his condition.
‘I’ve known something was wrong for a long time,’ the 29-year-old wrote in an emotional post. Vogue magazine. It started with a kind of vague unresponsiveness, which the family compensated for with Hollywood hearing loss: ‘Speak! Die hard Messing with my father’s ears.”
The February statement revealing Bruce’s diagnosis noted that he had “communication challenges,” and, according to the National Institutes of Health, it’s common for family members to initially misinterpret FTD as ambiguity or misbehavior. (In fact, symptoms can include difficulty prioritizing tasks, having a sudden lack of interest in family activities, or acting impulsively or inappropriately without thinking of others.)
Over time, Bruce’s unresponsiveness grew. “Sometimes I took it personally,” Tallulah recalls. He had two children with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought he had lost interest in me. Although that couldn’t be further from the truth, my teenage brain tortured itself with some wrong math: I’m not pretty enough for my mom, I I’m not interested enough for my dad.”
At the time, it would have been easy for Tallulah to come to such an assumption as she was dealing with her own physical and mental struggles. For the past four years, she struggled with anorexia nervosa, depression, and other mental health conditions that eventually landed her in a recovery center, where she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which “impairs the ability to regulate emotions and find stability in relationships,” she wrote.
Tallulah admitted that the timing and intensity of her grief caused her to avoid and deny her father. “While I was busy bragging about my body flaw on Instagram, my dad was quietly struggling,” she wrote.
In 2021, Tallulah’s avoidance comes to a head when, as a wedding guest, she listens to the father of the bride give a poignant speech. “Suddenly realizing I’ll never have that moment, my dad talking about me into adulthood at my wedding,” she wrote. It was devastating. I left the dinner table, walked out, and cried in the bushes.”
Slowly, through therapy and self-acceptance, Tallulah begins to face her fears and join her family in caring for Bruce – who still “lights up” when she enters his home to find him wandering around the kitchen and office, as his dementia “hasn’t” affected his mobility, she writes.
Tallulah concluded, “Recovery is likely to last a lifetime, but now I have the tools to be present in all aspects of my life, and especially in my relationship with my father.” “I could bring him a bright, sunny energy, no matter where I was. In the past I was so afraid that grief would destroy me, but I finally felt like I could show up and count on me. I could savor that time, hold my dad’s hand, and it feels great.”