I’m autistic – and I couldn’t be happier than when I’m lost in a huge crowd

Like many autistic people, I often feel uncomfortable around others. Put me in a one-to-one and I freeze. In a group of people around a table I say nothing – and leave as soon as possible. But give me a huge, surging crowd and I couldn’t be happier.

It confuses people, who assume I’d hate crowds and be agoraphobic; more people equals more pain. But it couldn’t be less true. I’ve been going to Manchester City matches for more than 20 years. And there is nowhere I’m happier than in the away end, right at the front, locked in with a mass of people, chanting, singing the songs, screaming my head off.

Last year, I went to Glastonbury for the first time. My family were a bit scared for me. Would I be able to cope among the 200,000 strong crowd? Cope? I was in heaven. On the final day I couldn’t bear to move away from the Pyramid stage, as I sang my way through the Bristol Reggae Orchestra Windrush Choir, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Chicks, Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Blondie, Lil Nas X and Elton John. I wouldn’t move for food, drink or the toilet. Nor would I let my dad. He wasn’t best pleased – he ended up peeing himself, but that’s another story.

So why do I love crowds? Simple. I lose myself in them. My kind of autism is called pathological demand avoidance syndrome, and one of the biggest symptoms is self-consciousness. But in a crowd, all of that disappears. I’m part of the huge collective and oblivious.

There’s no way I’d sing in a small group, but in a huge mass of people no one cares if I’m singing out of tune or get the words wrong. Nobody cares what I say, nobody can see me. So much of the rest of the time I feel different – isolated, unwanted and painfully self aware. But in a crowd I lose all my inhibitions and feel that I fit in easily to the human race. I feel that I belong. And it’s bloody brilliant.

The Guardian