Much ado has been made about Richard Simmons’s unexplained disappearance from the public eye. Rumors about the 68-year-old fitness icon’s health and safety have run rampant, in large part the result of the wildly popular podcast Missing Richard Simmons.
In the six-part series, filmmaker Dan Taberski — a former friend of Simmons — even speculated that the star’s housekeeper might be holding him hostage, prompting the police to pay a wellness visit to his Los Angeles home in March. “The fact of the matter is we went out and talked to him, he is fine, nobody is holding him hostage,” LAPD Detective Kevin Becker told People at the time. “He is doing exactly what he wants to do. If he wants to go out in public or see anybody, he will do that.”
On Wednesday, Simmons finally broke his silence, speaking directly to his fans on Facebook. “Hello to everyone who has shown concern for me and sent their good wishes,” the gregarious guru wrote, while addressing the recent fixation on his whereabouts. “You will never know how much it means to me.”
He added: “Aren’t you sick of hearing and reading about me?! LOL. Well by now you know that I’m not ‘missing,’ just a little under the weather. I’m sure I will be feeling good and back home in a couple of days.”
On Tuesday, it was reported that Simmons had been hospitalized for severe indigestion. His representative, Michael Catalano, told ABC News that Simmons is “already feeling better and is expected to make a full recovery.” Catalano also told Fox News that Simmons has not announced his retirement, but the Missing Richard Simmons podcast “has been hurtful to the now reclusive star.”
In November 2016, after two years of self-imposed exile, Simmons made a rare public statement to announce that he was shuttering his Los Angeles workout studio, Slimmons. “I’ve dedicated my life to helping others feel better about themselves and they helped me to do the same,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “Thank you for always supporting and loving me.” The previous June, Simmons had been briefly hospitalized for dehydration.
But one part of Simmons’s message was particularly noteworthy. The fitness expert — who changed countless lives, became known for calling clients at home to help motivate them, and is a noted philanthropist — admitted that when he needs support, he isn’t always great about asking for it.
“This has reminded me that when you need help you can’t be afraid to reach out and ask for it,” Simmons wrote. “We all think we should always be able to solve our problems all by ourselves and sometimes it’s just bigger than we are.”
He continued: “I reached out and I hope you will too. I’m sure there are people in your life who love and care for you and would do anything to help you with the challenges you face.” The post has received more 12,000 reactions and almost 2,000 supportive comments.
Simmons is spot-on, scientifically speaking. Several clinical studies and anecdotal reports “all confirm that strong social and emotional support is a powerful stress buster that improves health and prolongs life,” according to the American Institute of Stress.
One report published in the journal Psychiatry noted that “numerous studies indicate social support is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health” and makes you more resilient to stress.
“This is such a wonderful message to convey to people,” Lynn Bufka, associate executive director of practice research and policy at the American Psychological Association, tells Yahoo Beauty, referring to Simmons’s Facebook post. “Many of us try really hard to appear strong and capable of doing whatever we need to do, and we have this idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. So being reminded it’s OK to reach out for help and knowing there are people in our lives that love and support us is important.”
If you’re feeling distressed, Bufka advises reaching out to the people you confide in the most. “We don’t always believe that our relationships can handle more depth, but I encourage [people] to reach for that,” she says. Just because a personal relationship has not endured a crisis in the past doesn’t mean it can’t handle one, notes Bufka.
Of course, not everyone knows what to say or do when a loved one reaches out for support. Bufka encourages people to act with compassion and “acknowledge that it can be hard to be a helper.” For the person seeking support, Bufka also recommends a proactive approach: Reach out to others by telling them specifically what you need, as in, “I don’t expect you to fix this, but I could really use someone to talk to or have lunch with.”
She says it’s also important to try to identify people you think would be able to deal with your specific issue, such as talking to a friend or relative who has gone through something similar. But if you’re not getting the support you need, it may be time to turn to a professional for help.
Simmons would likely agree. In an interview with Vogue, Missing Richard Simmons host Taberski reminded people, “Richard Simmons spent the past four decades reaching out to people who were isolated and alone, showing them kindness.” Indeed, Simmons would often be the first person to call clients at home to check in on them and offer inspiration. But as he’s proved, even helpers need help sometimes.
As Simmons concluded in his post: “Just knowing you care has already made me feel better. Hope to see you again soon!” We hope so too.
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