My late mother had a phrase for it. "Death by a thousand cuts," she used to say, when I would moan about feeling overwhelmed.
At the time I was in my mid-thirties, working full time as a journalist in a busy newsroom, with two small boys: Edward, aged two, and toddler George. I was married to Sebastian, who had an equally demanding job in financial services. I loved my job, but I was the kind of anxious striver who could easily find myself still in the office at seven, or on red alert for a breaking news story later in the evening when the first editions of the papers were published.
In the end, my luck ran out. I suffered two serious depressive episodes, floored by the multiple demands I faced at work and at home. The first saw me admitted to hospital, the second lasted the best part of two years.
So there was a shudder of recognition when I read new research that women who worked 55 hours or more a week had 7.3 per cent more depressive symptoms than those on a standard 35- to 40-hour week. Nor was I surprised to read that long hours at work do not seem to impact men in the same way.
The research went on to say that weekend working was also linked to a higher risk of depression among both sexes. Again, women appeared to suffer more, with 4.6 per cent more depressive symptoms compared with the 3.4 per cent rise for men.
The research confirms what we have known for a while: women are more vulnerable to depression than men. I think this is true, even when we discount the fact that women are more likely to admit to a mental health condition than men.
What, then, lies behind this discrepancy? It's important to recognise that depression is a complicated, terrifying and debilitating illness not easily attributed to any one cause or glib explanation.
But I do think my mother was right. While women have rightly made huge strides in the workplace, the same is still not true in many homes. Domestic responsibilities – by which I don't just mean childcare and housekeeping, but the million tiny acts of kindness, arduousness and remembering that make up life at home – are still largely undertaken by women, albeit that the domestic landscape is changing fast.
Take my friend Tara. A card dropped through her letterbox this morning addressed to her husband. "Thank you very much for my birthday present. I love Angelina Ballerina books. Love, god-daughter Daisy."
As Tara said, the likelihood that her husband would have a) known it was his god-daughter's birthday, b) sent her a present, and c) known that she liked Angelina Ballerina would have been as likely as her going six rounds at the pub.
Women are on from the minute they walk through the door, whether sorting multicoloured unmatching socks, remembering we need more washing-up liquid or sorting presents for godchildren.
I have been forced by mental ill health to impose limits on the way I live: good mental health maintenance means I have trimmed back my life, working as a freelance writer. I watch what I eat, get enough sleep and treat myself rather like a nervous pet. Above all, I have learnt to say "no": I find "I would love to, but I am already committed" works best, and never give the reason why.
What, though, is the solution for those facing long hours at work – short of changing jobs, which may be something we all need to consider from time to time? Separate research from the Australian scientist Michael Marmot in the Seventies found that the less control a person has over their work, the more likely they are to be stressed.
You can take steps to feel more powerful, even in a long-hours environment. This is hard. But you have to believe you have power over your working life, because you do. You may be able to make some quick small changes to your routine, or workload, whether it is what you decide to eat for lunch or how you travel to work to reduce your stress.
I have reassessed my relations with others: we know women are especially vulnerable to depression, given the pressure they put on themselves to maintain friendships and other relationships. My new attitude to all-important relationships, including that with my husband and friends, but especially with my children, is to aim to replace "good" with "good enough".
Another answer is to become more aware that we all embrace multiple selves, be it our work self, our family self or our sporting self (less developed in my own case). I know I enjoy life when I find time in my life for all of my different roles. Overdevelop one side of our personality and we can become unbalanced. It's rather like a bird with an unduly strong right wing, which leaves it in danger of flying round and round in circles.
Some of my friends manage to have it all, and all credit to them. But I am a cautionary tale to those who, like me, have an underlying tendency to depression and anxiety, and whose life falls into the quicksand of modernity with its multiple demands both at work and at home. While I don't regret what happened to me, and I've lived to tell the tale, I wish I had heeded my mother's advice sooner.
Rachel Kelly is the author of four books on women's mental health; Happy Kitchen , Walking on Sunshine: 52 small steps to happiness and Black Rainbow. Her fifth, Singing in the Rain, a happiness workbook is out today.