STANDING in the hallway of Joey Essex’s glitzy mansion is a picture of his mother, who took her own life when he was just ten years old.
It’s the only reminder of the agonising loss which the Towie star can bear after two decades of trying to avoid dealing with the heartbreak.
Now Joey, 30, is starring in a BBC Three documentary where he turns to therapy after realising the grief is killing his dream of starting a family and finding true love.
Breaking down in tears, he says: “My mum loved me, but she left me. I just think to myself: If she loved me that much, why would she leave me?
“I’ve had loads of relationships but I always end up pushing them away.
“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.
“I’ve gone from being a big party boy going out. Now I genuinely do want a family. I want to find true love.
“I think that my life has been too painful for that person to be with. Because I don’t put them through what I’ve been through.
“I know I need to change things now so I’ve decided to look for help.”
I’ve had loads of relationships but I always end up pushing them away.
Since shooting to fame on ITVBe’s The Only Way Is Essex ten years ago, Joey has been romantically linked to pop star Rita Ora as well as fellow Towie star Sam Faiers, model Lorena Medina and fellow reality favourite Stephanie Pratt.
When he hit his milestone birthday last year he realised he wanted to settle down. But there was one woman standing in the way — Tina, the “dream mother” who lost her battle with depression in 2001, leaving Joey bereft.
Although he still had a loving family in the form of his dad Don, elder sister Frankie and his nan — who all feature in the documentary — she left a huge gap in his life.
That has seen him endure panic attacks as well as anxiety — and, despite finding fame and fortune, he still suffers now.
He said: “I remember the time when I used to wake up screaming ‘Tell mum I love her.’ I used to . . . now it’s come back to me. I used to just repeat it — I’d panic and go crazy. That’s why I’ve got these habits of spending money and getting rid of it.
“I’m trying to fill a gap. I’ve tried everything, I’ve done everything. Nothing seems to make me happy.
“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. I want to be one of those people that says, ‘This therapy changed my life.’ ”
In the documentary, which airs on BBC1 and iPlayer on June 3, Joey is seen visiting clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr Stephen Blumenthal.
The show follows their sessions over several weeks as Joey tries to unpick why his mother’s death holds him back so much.
But the star struggles to express his true thoughts and feelings during their early meetings and openly admits he does not trust Dr Blumenthal.
He says: “There’s just something about this fella — I just can’t open up to him. I don’t know why.
“I don’t want to tell him something really personal about my life.”
Dr Blumenthal recognises Joey has serious issues with trust, which stem back to losing his mother at such a young age.
He also realises that Joey has created a persona as a result of being in the public eye, which he has to get past.
Joey, whose popularity soared when he appeared on I’m A Celebrity in 2013, admits: “I’ve spent a decade turning into the Joey Essex everyone knows.
“All these little things have just created who I am — the fashion, the catchphrases, the stupid side of me. It all mixes into one. All those shows I’ve done — they’re just showing one tiny bit of who I am.
“No one’s really seen me. People don’t really know who I am. Sometimes it confuses me, because I don’t really know who I am either.”
In a bid to build a better future, Joey tries to reconnect with his past — something he has always struggled to do because it was too painful.
So he revisits the family home in Bermondsey, South East London, where he lived during his early years and is surprised when it brings back so many positive memories.
Joey also goes back to Billingsgate Market where the picture in his hallway was taken, and chats with his dad.
‘MASSIVE WEIGHT LIFTED’
He talks at length with his sister and his cousin, Chloe Sims, 39, who as a little girl was looked after by Joey’s mum.
Finally, Joey sits down with his nan and his sibling to watch the home movies featuring Tina he always thought would be too painful to see. But instead he finds it a joyful experience.
He said: “I see now that if you don’t face up to things, it can turn out very different. I just know now that everything I’m gonna do is going to be better.
“I’m going to feel more Zen. I’ve never been like that. I’ve always been erratic.
“It’s been hard doing this but I feel a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. I can live with it now.
“I’ve accomplished the biggest thing in my life.”
- Joey Essex: Grief and Me will be available on BBC iPlayer from 6am on June 3 and on BBC1 on June 3 at 9pm.
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
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