Sderot wounded 298.
(photo credit: AP)
For Patricia Lugassy being the first Sderot resident to have a Kassam rocket hit her house is certainly no claim to fame.
Rather, it has turned the 48-year-old mother of six into a shadow of her former self, as - even after nearly eight years - she is still struggling with the emotional fallout.
"For the past year I've been living and sleeping in my bomb shelter," begins Lugassy, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post by phone Tuesday. "I have a large house and a beautiful garden with a Jacuzzi, but I am too petrified to go outside, even to take my youngest child to kindergarten.
"Granted, I was no superwoman before, but I certainly was not afraid all the time like I am now, it's just not normal behavior, is it?
"My confidence has been completely shattered," continues the dual Israeli-French national, who only recently had the strength to seek out psychiatric and medical treatment at the besieged town's Resilience Center, which is run by professionals from the Israel Trauma Coalition.
"It was a day in early April, nearly eight years ago," recalls Lugassy, as she recounts how the rocket ended up landing only a few centimeters from her back door.
"When it first happened we did not think too much about it. I remember how all the media came to my house and were asking us questions, but we did not realize then what the consequences would be. I guess I somehow buried all the fear deep inside me because I was fine in the years that followed."
However, as the rocket attacks intensified, so did Lugassy's emotional pain and the renewed intensity of the falling Kassams over the past few days has left her more anxious than ever.
"On Sunday, I was all ready to take my daughter to kindergarten and as we were leaving the house there was another 'code red'," says Lugassy, who had been urged by her psychiatrist to overcome her fears and walk to the kindergarten at least three times a week.
"We ran back into the house and went down to the bomb shelter. My daughter was crying because she wanted to go to kindergarten but I could not bring myself to go out again. I had to call my son to come and take her."
She emphasizes: "The Kassam fell directly on the path that we take to kindergarten."
Lugassy believes the fact that she did not immediately seek counseling after the rocket landed in her backyard has only served to magnify the anxiety she feels today and weaken her physical state in general.
"I was recently diagnosed with diabetes," she says. "I am sure it was to do with my mental state, I keep getting sick and nothing seems to help. I think if my mental state was better then my body would be better equipped to fight these illnesses."
Despite reaching such a low point in her life, Lugassy remains hopeful that with treatment she will eventually be able to live with the stress.
"Even with all the uncertainty about our future here in Sderot, I have to believe that my mental state will improve and on some level I will be able to deal with life here," she says.
"No one wants to be in this kind of situation, do they? I spend a small fortune on medication for this condition but I have no choice because I don't want my children to feel my fear and I need the pills to stay calm."
Asked whether she would ever consider leaving Sderot or even emigrating, Lugassy insists that neither is an option.
"Even though I have French citizenship I would never leave Israel," she states, adding, "Sderot is my home. I have lived here nearly all my life, raised my family here and put everything into my house.
"Even if we wanted to, we could not leave because no one would buy this house from us and we don't have anywhere else to go anyway."