Will’s World: ADHD diagnosis explains a lot about us farmers

I didn’t know much about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) until recently.

After having been diagnosed as a severe case, I suddenly find myself learning a lot about it, and realising for the first time why I behave the way that I do.

I have mixed feelings about it, to be honest. On the one hand, I’m disconcerted and a little sad that it took me 44 years of wondering “what the hell is wrong with me?” to find out.

See also: Alex Dunn: Dyslexic farmers can succeed in a world of words

About the author

Will Evans
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Will Evans farms beef cattle and arable crops across 200ha near Wrexham in North Wales in partnership with his wife and parents.
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On the other, it’s a huge relief to realise that, actually, there isn’t anything “wrong” with me after all. I’m just, well, different.

There’s a long list of symptoms, and I have all of them. One of the main ones is that I badly struggle to take in information via conventional methods because I just can’t focus for long enough.

I’m naturally quite careless and have a lack of attention to detail, poor organisational skills, don’t deal with stress well, have a high degree of social anxiety, never sleep very well, and I’m permanently restless and fidgeting with things.

If you didn’t realise before that the present Mrs Evans qualifies for sainthood, then you know now.

Learning curve

Of course, I’ve worked out coping mechanisms for all of this over time, and I mostly get by just fine. But I do wonder how different things would have been if I’d known about it early in life.

For a start, I could’ve told all those teachers who repeatedly called me stupid, which resulted in me spending my school days feeling misplaced and resentful and taking the very first opportunity to leave.

I think it would also have been far easier for my family and friends, who must have got terribly frustrated with me over the years.

Strangely, one of the worst aspects is that ADHD gives me extreme levels of empathy for others, and a strong caring instinct.

That obviously sounds like a good thing, and it can be, but it means that I desperately want the people around me to be happy at all times and take it hugely to heart if they aren’t.

I also tend to get very badly affected by sad stories in the news, and they can play on my mind for weeks.

Chronically low levels of self-esteem are another classic symptom. Alongside dwelling almost pathologically on personal failures rather than successes, it has undoubtedly been a major contributor to my bouts of depression.

Thankfully, there are positive traits too, especially for a farmer. I’m a good problem solver, have strong instincts, and think outside the box. I’m loyal, have high levels of creativity and energy, and a propensity for a good sense of humour (handy for this page!).

Family values

A friend of mine has a theory about the farming community having far higher percentages of people with conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism than the rest of society.

He reckons that, over hundreds of years, the children with these conditions – which were obviously not known by those names at the time – stayed at home on the farm, while their seemingly brighter siblings went off to do “better jobs” in towns and cities.

I suppose that’s a PhD study waiting for someone far cleverer than me. But my cursory Google searches do suggest that others have had similar thoughts.

I even found one stat claiming that farmers are four times more likely to have these disorders than the general population. It kind of makes sense, when you think about it.