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Silent after 6pm

 Lee, better known as 'Johnny' or 'After Six', does not speak for 12 hours a day — between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.

This rare disorder which psychiatrists call 'conversion reaction' has not only baffled the people of his home village, Down's Valley in Watchwell, southwest St Elizabeth, but has attracted the attention of those on the outside.


He has lived with the condition for over 30 years.


“A have no control over it. Is a good while this thing going on. Every six o'clock me jaw bone just straighten up and me just caan say nutten till six o'clock the next morning,” Lee told the Sunday Observer in an interview at his home, a day before his 53rd birthday on January 6.


Lee's cousin, Elaine Campbell, who provides him with food and other essentials, confirmed that Johnny had been undergoing the stressful experience for decades.


“I never used to believe it when I hear people talk about it long time ago, but I prove it one day. As six o'clock come, you see him jawbone just come up so,” she said, painting a picture of a contraction of the face.

“He could only clap after that when him want something done. Police hold him already and all him could do was mek some signs to them and them never believe that him couldn't talk. Is other people had to tell them what was happening and them let him go.


“Anytime it coming on, you see a different look on him face,” Campbell said.


Lee, who is originally from Barbican in St Andrew, has never seen a doctor for his condition. His family felt that it did not make sense. Some in the community even believed that his condition was caused by evil spirits unleashed on him by those who did not like him.


But whatever the reason, Lee is no longer allowing it to get the better of him.


“I have nothing to complain about...I don't let it bother me anymore,” he said, breaking the interview to go in search of a cigarette.


His complex lifestyle includes a diet devoid of salt, seasoning, meat and alcohol, but full of vegetables.


He visits wakes or 'set ups', where the Sunday Observer first saw him clapping his hands and making signs late into the night at nearby Newell in the parish; and he likes to feast his eyes on exotic or 'Go-Go' dancers, while regularly visiting the popular, 'G Spot' night club in the community for live action.


“G Spot a like a fi him yard. Him no lef deh so,” said Leslie 'Cooler' Campbell, Elaine's husband.


The popular soft drink flavour cream soda and the long-time country brew 'Bissy' are among the favourite drinks of the man who confessed to smoking just about “anything”.


All those who know Lee attested to being aware of his condition and remained foggy as to what had caused it and wondered if something could be done about it.


“I don't know how something can go so,” said Colin Gordon, a resident of the nearby community of Big Woods. “I have been seeing this thing for myself for a long time. I even hear people say this man is a mad man, but this man not mad at all. This is a very sensible man.”


At times, Lee would undergo stress in trying to communicate during his muted 12-hour period.


“Sometimes when he really wants to talk, like when him feel sick, him just can't get the words out,” Campbell said.


“Him do a lot of clapping and make signs when him feeling pain,” she said.


He does handyman jobs at times to earn money to support some of his habits and preferences.


Lee, who cut a budding cricket career short when “ball lick out mi teeth”, remains an avid sports fan and often goes to football and netball matches in the community.


People still commute to Watchwell to look for Lee, of whom they have heard so much.


Community folk, in the meantime, maintain their special affection for Johnny.


“We love Johnny down here, man. Him no trouble nobody and if you ask him fi do anything, him no hesitate fi do it,” one said.


Medical doctors who spoke with the Sunday Observer ruled out a medical condition, suggesting instead that the matter was strictly psychological.


“I have heard of cases like that, but not as severe as that,” Dr Ray Fraser told the Sunday Observer. “That seems to be purely psychological.”


Consultant psychiatrist Dr Aggrey Irons said he was well aware of the condition “conversion reaction,” and offered some hope to Lee, if he wanted to get better.


“This is something that can be treated and cured,” Dr Irons said. “The condition is a result of an unconscious instruction and reaction. He is either reacting to something traumatic, or giving himself an instruction.”


On the popular belief by community folk that evil spirits may be at work in such cases, Dr Irons brushed the view aside.


“Some people will say that a duppy cause it, but I am in the duppy-running business,” he said.


The medical Internet website gives a similar description of the condition: “A conversion reaction or conversion disorder is characterised by the loss of a bodily function that is involuntary, but for which there is no biological explanation. This disorder can occur at any age in either gender and in any personality.


“A patient with this disorder might suddenly become blind, paralysed or develop an inability to speak, for example.”


The website detailed other elements of the disorder and suggested an approach to treating it.


“When some kind of serious conflict or other stressor occurs before the onset of this condition, it is logical to think that some psychological factors might be involved.


“Patients who develop this condition are not consciously faking the symptoms. They don't present with the symptoms for material gain or cultural acceptance. In fact, when a patient presents with such a condition it is serious enough to warrant medical evaluation. It can cause distress that is clinically important or impair social, occupational or personal functioning.


“When a conversion disorder is developed, physical symptoms are caused by psychological conflict. The illness was once referred to as hysteria.


“When this condition exists, it is critical that a patient trust the medical care provider. The doctor must be able to reassure the patient and help the patient discover the underlying cause of the symptoms. Psychotherapy can be particularly effective for patients with a conversion reaction.


“No treatment methods for this disorder have been effective for every patient, but the patient must feel secure in his or her surroundings in order to begin to work on the deep underlying psychological issues that caused the conversion reaction to begin and in order to prevent future recurrences,” the website said.
Source:Jamaica Observer