Joey Essex finally gets rid of TOWIE persona while reliving mum’s death trauma

At the age of just 10, Joey Essex’s whole life was “torn to pieces” by the death of his mum.

The former The Only Way Is Essex star has spent ten years in the reality TV spotlight but has found fame and money has been unable to heal the grief he has buried deep inside for 20 years.

The public know Joey, 30, as a funny character who is always laughing and joking, but while bravely opening up in therapy he realises he’s created the persona so he doesn’t have to stop being a “little boy” and give his mother up.

Joey has clear memories of the fateful day he was told “mum’s gone” by his dad, Don – and bursts into tears while reliving the devastating moment in BBC documentary, Joey Essex: Grief and Me.

“My anxiety was through the roof, depression, going hospital all the time because I thought I had something wrong with me. I don’t know why. Anger I suppose. You ask yourself ‘why, why, why?’.”

Joey’s mother Tina took her own life in 2001 after battling depression, which she hid from her children, leaving Joey with lots of questions that will never be answered.

Joey's world was ripped apart when his mum Tina died
Joey’s world was ripped apart when his mum Tina died

Unable to comprehend the loss, Joey decided he would never talk about his mum from a young age and even avoided having pictures of her up around his home.

While sister and fellow former TOWIE star Frankie dealt with the trauma very differently and spoke openly to keep her memory alive.

At the start of the documentary, Joey wipes away tears while looking through family photo albums with his “beautiful” mum.

It’s also painful for cousin Chloe Sims to discuss, as her own mum left when she was three-years-old and she looked to Tina as a “dream mum”.

“She was somebody you’d want to be your mum if you could choose a mum,” says Chloe. “She was strong and really kind, really good with kids. She loved those kids as well, they were her life.”

Joey became famous overnight when he appeared on TOWIE at the age of 20, going from a fish market worker to a reality TV king, but the grief from losing his mum never changed.

Joey revisits the house where he grew up for the first time
Joey revisits the house where he grew up for the first time

“That’s why I think I’ve got these habits of spending money and getting rid of it. I’m trying to fill a gap,” he says.

“I’ve tired everything and done everything. Nothing seems to make me happy.”

He lives in a luxurious house in Chigwell, Essex, but admits he didn’t expect to still be living there alone without a partner after five years.

“People just see me as this little Essex boy who’s living the dream, made all the money in the world. Had an easy life. Silver spoon in my mouth,” explains Joey.

“But no one really knows what’s going on inside my head. I’m on my own, I’m lonely, especially in this house.

Joey is ready to confront his trauma so he can move forward with his life and takes the courageous step to seek the help of clinical psychologist, Dr Stephen Blumenthal.

Joey struggled to look at photos with his mum, dad and sister
Joey struggled to look at photos with his mum, dad and sister

It’s tough at first as Joey struggles to trust Dr Blumenthal enough to be discuss the demons he has been battling behind closed doors.

After his mum’s death he suffered from panic attacks, leaving him hot, scared and erratic, and had to be put in a bath of cold water by his dad to cool down.

Slowly the barriers come down and Joey reveals he has struggled with his sense of identity.

“All those shows I’ve done is just showing one side to me. One tiny bit of who I am. People don’t really know who I am. Sometimes it confuses me as I don’t know who I really am either,” he explains.

He says he created ‘Joey Essex’ as an identity in the cheapest way possible by putting watches around his ankle and creating unique haircuts.

“I’ve spent a decade turning into the Joey Essex everyone knows. All these little things have created who I am – fashion, catchphrases, the stupid side of me. It all mixes into one,” he says.

“I don’t get how all this is going to help me get over losing my mum. What is the point.”

Joey breaks down in tears while bravely opening up in therapy
Joey breaks down in tears while bravely opening up in therapy

Dr Blumenthal says everyone has latched onto ‘funny Joey’ and needs to separate himself from his mother.

He explains: “I think the whole persona he’s used up until now means he doesn’t have to give her up. He’s her little boy.”

While opening up about his relationships, Joey says he pushes the people closest to him away because of how he doesn’t want to experience another loss.

“My mum loved me, but she left me. I just think to myself: If she loved me that much, why would she leave me?” he sobs.

“I think I’ll always ask myself why. people always say with this subject but you don’t know how she felt.. but its like she got rid of her pain but now look at me. Everything I’ve achieved in life, who have I got to prove it to? No one.

“I would throw everything away to spend one hour with her.”

Joey sits down to chat with his cousin Chloe
Joey sits down to chat with his cousin Chloe

Joey adds that the loss of his mum has prevented him from settling down and starting his own family.

“I’ve had loads of relationships but I always end up pushing them away,” he candidly tells the cameras.

“Imagine if I was with someone and I had kids with them and I really did love that person and then she left me. I wouldn’t know what to do. I’m already thinking we’re gonna break up before we’re together. I’m pushing it away.”

After an unsure start and trust issues threaten to derail the process, Joey realises that to be able to move on with his life he has to look back at his past.

He is finally able to watch home videos of his mum for the very first time with Frankie, Chloe and nan Linda.

“I really enjoyed it. It’s the first time I’ve seen a video or picture and relived memories and felt happy,” he says.

“I know I will never get over the trauma and that’s the way it is. But I’m starting to open up about it, I can talk about it, look at pictures. I can finally do that which is huge.

“I’m proud that I faced it and I know I can live with it now and just keep moving. I can only take positives out of everything I have gone through. I’ve finally accomplished the biggest thing in my life.”

* If you’re struggling and need to talk, the Samaritans operate a free helpline open 24/7 on 116 123. Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or visit their site to find your local branch

* Joey Essex: Grief and Me airs tonight on BBC One at 9pm

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