Tallulah Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, has opened up about how she’s coping with her father’s diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia. In a first-person essay for Vogue magazine, Tallulah explained that she knew “something was wrong for a long time,” but early on, the family attributed it to hearing loss from his work in Hollywood. As Willis’s lack of response became more profound and evident, the family announced last year that the actor was “walking away” from his film career after being diagnosed with aphasia.
But in February of this year, they released even sadder news: that Willis’s state of health had worsened and that he was suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD). For Tallulah, this was a particularly painful moment. She had felt, at times, that her father’s lack of response was personal. Her teenage brain was tortured by faulty math, thinking that she wasn’t beautiful or interesting enough for her father.
Tallulah admits to handling her father’s decline with part avoidance and part denial, listing anorexia nervosa, ADHD, depression, and substance abuse in her past. She remembers being wrapped up in her body dysmorphia and bragging about it on Instagram while her dad was silently struggling. But one day, at a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard, Tallulah had a painful realization: she would never hear her dad talk about her coming-of-age at her wedding.
As she tries to navigate her own emotions and understand what’s happening to her father, Tallulah is reluctant to give up hope. Recovery, she says, is probably lifelong, but she now has the tools to be present in all facets of her life, especially her relationship with her dad. She trusts herself and can bring him a bright and sunny energy, no matter how difficult things may get.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), according to Alejandro Andersson, director of the Buenos Aires Institute of Neurology, mainly compromises the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain bilaterally. These brain regions have a lot to do with personality, behavior, inhibiting and controlling impulses, and language. Patients with FTD can experience significant social problems and dramatic changes in personality. It’s a difficult diagnosis for any family to manage, but Tallulah’s honesty and openness about her struggles can help others cope with similar situations.