Tallulah Willis emotionally explained how she was coping with dad Bruce Willis’ dementia, revealing in vogue she was initially “too sick myself to deal with it.” In a raw first-person essay, the 29-year-old opened up about how her own body image issues impacted her ability to be there for her family in the early stages of Bruce’s diagnosis.
“I confess that I have encountered Bruce’s decline in recent years with an element of avoidance and denial of which I am not proud,” wrote Tallulah, youngest daughter of Bruce and Demi Moore.
Earlier this year, the Willis family announced that the action star’s diagnosis of aphasia had progressed to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a neurological disorder affecting his cognition and speech. However, Tallulah said, “I’ve known for a long time that something was wrong.”
“It started with a sort of vague insensitivity, which the family attributed to Hollywood hearing loss: ‘Speak louder!’ die hard bothered dad’s ears,” Tallulah recalled. “Later, this unresponsiveness widened, and I sometimes took it personally. He had two babies with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought he had lost interest in me. While that couldn’t be further from the truth, my teenage brain racked itself with miscalculations: I’m not good-looking enough for my mom, I’m not interesting enough for my dad.”
When Tallulah was 11, she attended a red carpet event with Moore and her mother’s ex-husband, Ashton Kutcher. The next day, Tallulah went online and read horrible comments about her physical appearance. This led her to “believe that I had stumbled upon a truth about myself that no one had told me because they were trying to protect me. And for years afterwards, protecting people right away, I I didn’t tell anyone. I just lived in silence certainty of my own ugliness.”
Tallulah began psychiatric treatment at age 20. When she went to another facility at age 25, she was diagnosed with ADHD. Although the diagnosis was beneficial in some ways, the prescribed medications helped fuel an eating disorder.
“For four years, I have suffered from anorexia nervosa, which I hesitate to talk about because, after becoming sober at 20, food restriction seemed to me to be the last vice I had to cling to,” he said. she stated. shared, admitting she was enjoying the side effect of the drug having her appetite suppressed. “I saw a way to banish the clumsy teenager in favor of a fickle little pixie.”
Friends and family worried about Tallulah as she continued to lose weight.
“While I was wrapped up in my body dysmorphia, flaunting it on Instagram, my dad was quietly struggling,” she wrote. “All sorts of cognitive tests were going on, but we didn’t have an acronym yet. I had managed to give my central channel of dad feelings an epidural; the good feelings weren’t really there, the bad feelings weren’t really there.”
In the summer of 2021, at a friend’s wedding, Tallulah “painfully” realized what Bruce’s health issues meant as “the bride’s father gave an emotional speech.”
“Suddenly I realized I would never get that moment, my dad talking about me as an adult at my wedding. It was devastating,” she said. “I left the dinner table, went out and cried in the bushes. And yet, I stayed focused on my body. In the spring of 2022, I weighed around 84 pounds. I was still cold. I I was calling mobile IV teams to come to my house, and I couldn’t walk around my Los Angeles neighborhood because I was afraid I wouldn’t have a place to sit and catch my breath.”
Tallulah wondered what her father would have done if he had seen her at 84 pounds and had the cognitive ability to understand that she was unwell.
“I’d like to think he wouldn’t have let it happen,” she explained, calling Bruce a “stereotypical father of a certain generation” whose style was to “stop the leak even if he doesn’t know. why the leak is happening”. .” (Tallulah said her mother and sisters were more interested in “root causes, under close examination.”)
“Certainly there are advantages to the examination, but there is a beauty in his way, and I don’t think I noticed it until he was no longer able to,” Tallulah wrote. .
Instead of Bruce coming to save the day, last June Tallulah checked herself into another recovery center after being dumped by her fiancé. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, “an illness that impairs the ability to regulate emotions and find stability in relationships.”
“I realized that what I wanted more than harmony with my body was harmony with my family — to not worry about them anymore, to bring lightness to my sisters and my parents,” Tallulah said. “An emaciated body wouldn’t do that. I had felt the weight of people worrying about me for years, and it brought me to my knees.”
“Healing is probably lifelong, but I now have the tools to be present in all facets of my life, and especially in my relationship with my father,” she continued. “I can bring a bright, sunny energy to her no matter where I’ve been. In the past, I was so afraid of being destroyed by sadness, but finally I feel like I can show myself and be trust I can savor this time hold my daddy’s hand and feel it’s wonderful I know hardships are looming it’s the start of heartbreak but all this stuff about loving each other before you can love someone else – it’s real.
Tallulah said she documents every hangout with her father, whose mobility has not been affected by FTD.
“Recently, I found a piece of paper over there that he had written, simply, ‘Michael Jordan.’ Wish I knew what he was thinking. (Anyway, I took it!),” she shared.
“He always knows who I am and lights up when I walk into the room. (He can always know who I am, more or less on the occasional bad day. One difference between FTD and Alzheimer’s dementia is, at least early in the disease, the former is characterized by language and motor deficits, while the latter has more memory loss.) I keep switching between the present and the past when I talk about Bruce: he is, he was, he is, he was. It’s because I hoped for my dad that I’m so reluctant to let go,” Tallulah added.
Tallulah said she saw Bruce’s personality in herself, “and I just know we’d be such good friends if only there was more time.”
“He always liked a comfy couch with his feet up. Can you be 10% more comfortable? I think he asked himself that question everyday,” she wrote. “And now that I feel better, I wonder, how can I make him more comfortable? It wasn’t easy growing up in such a famous family, struggling as I did to find a spot of light through the long shadows my parents But more and more often I feel like I’m in that light.”
Tallulah is now an aunt as her sister, Rumer Willis, welcomed a baby girl in April.
“There’s this little creature that changes from hour to hour, and there’s this thing that happens with my dad that can change so quickly and unpredictably. It’s like a unique and special moment in my family, and I’m so glad I’m here for it,” she concluded.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please visit the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website at for more information.