She’s been free since 2011, but Amanda Knox – who spent four years in Italian prison for murder – still faces moments of crippling anxiety, she tells PEOPLE Magazine exclusively.
During an emotional, candid and wide-ranging interview, which took place in her mother’s Seattle home over several days, Knox, 25, details her odyssey from carefree American college student in Perugia, Italy, to convicted murderer confined to a cell for four years for allegedly killing her roommate, British student Meredith Kercher.
“When Meredith was murdered and I was arrested, it was so shocking. It was paralyzing. Everything toppled,” says Knox, who also shares the overwhelming joy of being set free after an appeals court overturned the charges in 2011.
Although these days she is back at college, dating her hometown boyfriend and relishing every minute she spends with her large and loving family, she is still haunted by the ordeal.
“Things creep up on me and all of a sudden I’m overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness and that desperation and fear to even hope,” she says. “Just that can make my heart race and makes me paralyzed until I can breathe it away.”
For the exclusive interview and photos with Knox and her family, pick up the issue of PEOPLE Magazine on newsstands April 26.