Lived Through This

I’ve Had an Imaginary Glob of Peanut Butter in My Throat for 9 Months

Dispatches from the weird world of conversion disorders

Jennie Young
Published in
4 min readJul 8, 2020

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A woman holds a mirror over her face that reflects the bright light of the vivid red sunset.
Photo: Maria Maglionico/EyeEm/Getty Images

I have something stuck in my craw. I’m not speaking figuratively. I’ve had something caught in my throat for nine months now.

It’s not really there. It’s only in my mind. This isn’t just one of those things where doctors dismiss women’s symptoms. My doctors have actually looked.

I’ve had four EKGs, a set of chest X-rays, a cardiac CT, an endoscopy, an ultrasound of my throat that revealed a nodule on my thyroid (mystery solved!), followed by an MRI of my throat that determined the nodule was too small to warrant attention and not anywhere near the lump I feel in my throat anyway (mystery unsolved again—sigh).

Imagine swallowing a giant glob of natural peanut butter — the gritty kind — and it getting stuck in that little hollow where your clavicle bones come together in the front center of your throat (medical name: suprasternal notch). You might reach for a glass of water or swallow hard to try to force it down, but that doesn’t work. Nothing works. The lump just stays there forever, choking you.

The knot first appeared last August. At first, it felt like a tiny bubble in my throat. For a few days, I joked about it. My friend Sarah named my throat lump “Cheryl.” “How’s Cheryl today?” she’d say. Or, “Is Cheryl with you?” Yes. Cheryl is always with me now.

Within a couple weeks, Cheryl bloomed into something that radiated down into my chest and began to strangle me from the inside of my throat. I went to an urgent care center, where the doctor sent me to the ER, which is what set off the chain of testing.

Six months later, after all the tests came back fairly normal, I was officially diagnosed with “globus sensation,” previously and less politically correctly called “globus hystericus.” I laughed out loud at my doctor when he said this and asked him if he thought I might also have a wandering uterus. I mean, even the name is funny. “Glob-us”? Is it named after the literal (but also totally imaginary) glob?

Globus sensation falls under the diagnostic umbrella of conversion disorders, a…

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Jennie Young
Human Parts

Professor and humor writer in Green Bay. McSweeney’s, The Independent, HuffPost, Ms. Mag, Education Week, Inside Higher Ed, Slackjaw, Weekly Humorist, others.