Tallulah Willis opened up emotionally about how she coped with father Bruce Willis’ dementia, revealing in Fashion she was initially “too sick to handle it herself.” In a raucous first-person essay, the 29-year-old shared how her own body image affected her ability to be there for her family in the early stages of Bruce’s diagnosis.
“I admit that I’ve met Bruce’s decline in recent years with a share of avoidance and denial that I’m not proud of,” Tallulah, the youngest daughter of Bruce and Demi Moore, wrote.
Earlier this year, the Willis family announced that the action star’s aphasia diagnosis had progressed to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a neurological condition that affects his cognition and speech. However, Tallulah said, “I’ve known for a long time that something was wrong.”
“It started with a kind of vague apathy, which the family attributed to hearing loss in Hollywood: ‘Speak up! That hard messed with daddy’s ears,” Tallulah recalled. He had had two babies with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought he had lost interest in me. While this couldn’t be further from the truth, my teenage brain tormented itself with some erroneous math: I’m not pretty 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. That led her to “believing I had stumbled upon a truth about myself that no one had told me because they were trying to protect me. And years after that, while protecting people back, I didn’t tell anyone. certainty of my own ugliness.”
Tallulah first entered psychiatric treatment at the age of 20. When she transferred to another institution at the age of 25, she was diagnosed with ADHD. While the diagnosis was favorable in some ways, the medication prescribed helped fuel an eating disorder.
“For the past four years I’ve suffered from anorexia nervosa, which I don’t like to talk about because after getting sober at age 20, restricting food felt like the last vice I had to hang on to,” she shared, admitting that she enjoyed the drug’s side effect of suppressing her appetite. “I saw a way to banish the clumsy adolescent in favor of a fickle elf.”
Tallulah’s friends and family became concerned as she continued to lose weight.
“While I was cloaked in my body dysmorphia and flaunting it on Instagram, my dad was quietly struggling,” she wrote. “All sorts of cognitive tests were done, but we didn’t have an abbreviation yet. I could have given my central paternal feeling channel 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 problems meant when “the bride’s father gave a touching speech.”
“Suddenly I realized I was never going to get that moment, my dad talking about me at my wedding when I was an adult. It was devastating,” she said. “I left the dinner table, stepped outside, and cried in the bushes. And yet I remained focused on my body. In the spring of 2022, I weighed about 84 pounds. I was always freezing cold. I called mobile IV teams to get to my house, and I couldn’t walk around my neighborhood in Los Angeles because I was afraid of not having a place to sit down and catch my breath.”
Tallulah wondered what her father would have done if he had seen her weigh 84 pounds and had the cognitive ability to understand that she was not well.
“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 plug the leak, even if he’s not sure why the leak happens.” (Tallulah said her mother and sisters are more interested in “root causes, upon closer examination.”)
“There are certainly benefits to research, but there is something beautiful about his demeanor, and I think I didn’t notice it until he was no longer able to do it,” Tallulah wrote.
Instead of Bruce coming to save the day, Tallulah went to another recovery center last June after being dumped by her fiancé. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, “a disease 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 stop worrying them, to make my sisters and my parents frivolous,” Tallulah said. “An emaciated body wouldn’t do that. For years I had felt the weight of people worrying about me, and it brought me to my knees.”
“Recovery is probably lifelong, but I now have the tools to be present in all areas of my life, and especially in my relationship with my father,” she continued. “I can give him an energy that is bright and sunny wherever I’ve been. In the past I was so afraid of being destroyed by grief, but finally I feel like I can show up and have it on me can be trusted I can enjoy hold my father’s hand that time and feel it’s wonderful I know trials are looming, this is the beginning of sorrow, but this whole thing about loving yourself before you can love someone else keep – it’s real.”
Tallulah said she documents every meeting with her father, whose mobility has not been affected by FTD.
“Recently I found a piece of paper in there on which he simply wrote ‘Michael Jordan’. I wish I knew what he was thinking. (Well, I took it anyway!),” she shared.
“He still knows who I am and lights up when I enter the room. (He may always know who I am whether it’s a bad day or not. One difference between FTD and Alzheimer’s Dementia is that, at least early in the disease, the former characterized by language and motor impairments, while the latter has more amnesia.) I keep switching back and forth between the present and the past when I talk about Bruce: he is, he was, he is, he was hope for my father that I am so reluctant to let go,” Tallulah added.
Tallulah said she sees Bruce’s personality in herself, “and I just know we’d be such good friends if only there was more time.”
“He used to like a cozy couch with his feet up. Can you be 10 percent m
ore comfortable? I think he wondered that every day,” she wrote. “And now that I feel better, I ask myself: 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 piece of light through the long shadows of my parents.” cast. But more and more often I feel like I’m standing in that light.”
Tallulah is now an aunt because her sister, Rumer Willis, welcomed a baby girl in April.
“There’s a little creature that changes every hour, and something happens to my dad that can change so quickly and unpredictably. It feels like a unique and special time in my family, and I’m just so happy to be here.” she concluded.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, visit the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website at For more information.