Tina Koumarianos: 'Only you can change your situation '
Mum-of-one Tina Koumarianos (59) from Wicklow is the problem page editor of Image magazine.
'I started working as a PA at Image magazine 16 years ago. Every lunchtime, we'd gather around the kitchen table and, being one of the older members of staff, all the young ones would tell me their problems. Then one day, the editor overheard and said: 'You'd be a great agony aunt.'
"Being an agony aunt is probably the only job in the world where past transgressions are actually considered a plus.
"Reading about these things in a book is no use. Drink, drugs, rock 'n' roll -- I like to experience everything just once. Between births, deaths, marriage, affairs and divorce, I've had a lot of experience. But it's impossible to empathise with people unless you know exactly what they're going through.
"The same problems keep pinging into my inbox. Loneliness seems to be the main thing. Despite the fact that we've never had more ways to communicate, a lot of people are still going home to empty flats.
"At social events, people often come up to me and say, 'Do you have a minute?' Half an hour later we're still sitting there chatting!
"A large part of my job is reassuring people that they will get over it. No matter how bad it seems, in six months' time you'll look back and say: 'What was I obsessing about?'
"Women in particular panic that if they don't marry their boyfriend, they'll never meet anyone else. I always tell them: 'If you had turned left instead of right that day, you would never have met him in the first place.' There cannot be only one person for you in the whole world.
"Reading other people's problems makes me realise how lucky I am not to have many of my own.
"The best piece of advice I ever got was from my mother, who said: 'Before you open your mouth, ask yourself, if someone said that to me, how would I feel?'
"I base all my advice on what I would do myself. Nothing is insurmountable. At the end of the day, though, only you have the power to change your situation."