07/09/2013 12:30 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

Don't Call Me Crazy Just Because I am Homeless

So what if the stress of living on the streets is so intense that I'm sometimes incoherent?

So what if the terrible memories of the battlefield make me lash out at the people around me?

So what if I am so confused and disoriented that sometimes I stroll down the sidewalk like a zombie?

Am I crazy? Aren't we all a bit crazy?

I see you driving by me when I'm standing at the freeway off-ramp. You scream at other drivers like they just murdered your mother. You look more stressed out than me, like you've been working 80-hour days for a month. Talk about looking like a zombie.

If you want to see crazy, just sit in a city council meeting--in any city, for that matter--while they discuss whether or not they should place a homeless shelter in a local neighborhood. The people scream at their elected officials, veins bulging out of their necks ready to explode.

"Don't let those sex fiends rape our children!" they say. The accusations are irrational, even crazy. I'm more worried that some suburban teenager is going to beat me with a baseball bat.

Aren't you a little crazy for being a part of a society that allows its citizens to roam the streets like animals? You belong to a nation that is one of the wealthiest in the world, yet part of your population lives like its in the poorest.

Isn't that crazy?

You allowed your political leaders to expel people like me from mental health hospitals decades ago. The reasoning back then was that these insane asylums weren't fit for human habitation. But is living on the streets better? Even a "crazy" person like me knows it's not.

I think labeling hurting people like me with words with fancy words like schizophrenic, paranoia, or borderline personality disorder makes you feel sane. Important. Superior. Even so, when you go home to your stucco-wrapped house on Wisteria Lane, you drink yourself to sleep or struggle with your third marriage. But you don't think you're crazy.

Sure, I sometimes talk to imaginary people. They feel real to me.

I know I'm sometimes like a shy cat, afraid of my own shadow. You walk by, and I crouch like a tiger ready to pounce. I know that's not "normal."

At night, when I hear noises, sometimes I think it's Viet Cong or Al-Qaeda insurgents coming to kill me. I would rather hide in the hills or on the beach, with the sounds of wind or waves to soothe my rattled nerves. I know my struggles with the past are not healthy.

Those imaginary people, fears, and noises can sometimes suffocate my sense of reality. I'd rather drink than endure the haunting ghosts swirling in my imagination.

I need help.

I need medical attention and housing. I need a human support system. I need help, even though I might spurn offers of assistance.

Maybe I'm a little crazy. But so are you.