Bruce Willis is battling aphasia “trapped” inside his luxury mansion

Bruce Willis confirmed his retirement from acting this year due to aphasia, a degenerative brain disease that affects speech and communication. The beloved actor is now cared for by his family, predominantly his wife, Emma Heming Willis.

The last few months have been hard on the Willis family after the 67-year-old’s diagnosis was confirmed, but it also pushed them closer together, with Bruce and Emma selling their home in Westchester, New York, in order to move to California.

According to reports, it seems as though Willis isn’t leaving the house much – instead, he’s “trapped” in his own mind.

Now, the news that Bruce Willis had been diagnosed with aphasia shocked the world. The long-time, beloved actor – known for his roles in Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, and Sixth Sense, among others – is only 67, but he’s appeared in his final ever film.

But before we get to that, let’s take a look at Bruce’s famous career.

He was born on March 19, 1955, in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany, where his father was stationed in the U.S. military. The oldest of four children, Willis, at age two, moved back to the United States with his family, settling in Carney’s Point, New Jersey.

By all accounts, Willis’ childhood was hugely affected by his stuttering. As quoted in the 1997 book Bruce Willis: The Unauthorized Biography, the actor revealed that his stuttering was so bad that he could hardly talk.

Luckily, he managed to find help in the most unexpected place.

“It took me three minutes to complete a sentence. It was crushing for anyone who wanted to express themselves, who wanted to be heard and couldn’t, it was frightening. Yet, when I became another character, in a play, I lost the stutter. It was phenomenal,” he said.

Moreover, a school speech therapist helped him to build up confidence and conquer his stuttering through several exercises. In high school, Bruce tried his best to fit in by becoming the class clown. This also led to him getting involved in the school’s drama group.

He eventually returned to school, enrolling at Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he quickly rediscovered drama. Bruce was eager to attain the skills necessary to become an actor. Fortunately, he had gotten great help from his drama professor, Jerry Rockwood who quickly saw the promising actor’s potential.

He ended up cutting classes and instead traveling to auditions in Manhattan. In January 1977, he got his first part in the play Heaven and Earth.

In his sophomore year, Bruce decided to drop out of education in order to pursue his acting career. To give himself the best chance, he moved to New York.

”I thought’ How much time do I need?’” Willis told Rolling Stone in 1986. ”I always had the idea of 10 years in the back of my mind. But if it had taken 20, I’d have still done it. I knew this was what I wanted.”

At that point, Willis’ work in plays wasn’t enough to pay the rent. He subsidized it by working as a bartender, as well as a model for brands such as Levis and Ray-Ban.

In the early 1980s, Bruce got his first couple of uncredited roles on screen. He was a young, stubborn, and promising actor who went his own way at castings. That was a tactic that would eventually would pay off big-time.

He starred as New York cop John McClane in Die Hard, and the catchphrase “Yippee-ki-yay” has since become a somewhat legendary film quote.

“Die Hard is probably the closest I’ve come to showing what is in my heart on screen. David Addison is a character I play on Moonlighting. In Die Hard, even though I’m acting, a lot of what is in me came through,” Bruce told Closer Magazine in 1988.

“I really wanted to play a vulnerable guy, I didn’t want to be a superhero who’s a larger-than-life guy that nobody really knows. I don’t know any superheroes, I know guys who are afraid and have anxiety, and I think you know people like that, too. That’s what I wanted to play.

“To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities. As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him,” the family wrote in a statement on Instagram.

“This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support,” the statement continued. “We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him. As Bruce always says, ‘Live it up’ and together we plan to do just that. Love, Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel, & Evelyn.”

Just one week later, Bruce officially announced his retirement from acting.

So what really happenes when a person gets aphasia? Speaking with Fox Baltimore, Dr. Duane Campbell, Chief of Neurology and Director of the Stroke Center at MedStar Health, explains it as a feeling of being “trapped.”

“It’s extremely frustrating because people feel trapped. I mean so much of quality of life is the ability to express yourself and communicate,” he said.

“If you can imagine all your families around and you can feel what’s bothering you – you know, what’s going on – and they’re speaking to you and you can’t understand what they’re saying to you. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s very isolating that effectively, it’s like you speak your own language and no one else understands you. So that’s very debilitating.”

Emma and their children are now doing all they can to take care of Bruce. At the same time, things aren’t exactly easy for her. Speaking with The Bump in May, the mother-of-two explained that caring for everyone in the household has taken its toll on her own health as well.

“Someone told me not long ago that when you over-care for someone, you end up under-caring for yourself. That stopped me in my tracks and really resonated with me,” Emma explained.

“I don’t mother myself perfectly but I know that I have some basic baseline needs that are a must… I think it’s important to find that one thing that makes you feel good and build from there.”

She added: “I put my family’s needs above my own, which I found does not make me any kind of hero. “That amount of care for everyone else within my household had taken a toll on my mental health and overall health. And it served no one in my family.”

Even though it was a shock to all of Willis’s fans – as well as to many in the acting business – people working with him on set had noticed that he’d changed over the last number of years.

In a piece by the LA Times, several co-workers of Bruce’s testified that concerns about his cognitive state have – as the news outlet describes it – “swirled” in recent years.