One year after her amazing rescue from a house of horrors, Cleveland kidnapping victim Michelle Knight, 33, opens up about her 11 torturous years in captivity -- with two other victims -- at the hand of Ariel Castro, and how she’s moving on. Knight is marking the first anniversary of her freedom with the publication of a memoir, Finding Me, excerpted exclusively in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. In it she describes the rape, torture, near starvation, and isolation that were her existence in captivity – and how she found the strength to come out the other side. Because of her tough childhood, she says, “I learned to cope with certain things. It helped me survive this incident.” Below is an excerpt from PEOPLE’s interview with Knight.

Why did you decide to write a book? “It was therapeutic – a way for me to tell my story and heal at the same time.”

Are your tattoos therapeutic as well? “Yes, I got them after I got out. This one [on my right arm] is my protection dragon. When they did it, I told them not to be afraid to add pressure because I’m, like, numb to pain…”

You changed your name to Lily. Why? “That is my favorite flower. I chose to have a brand-new start by changing my name.”

You write in the book that Castro treated you more harshly than the other two women. “…I was the only one he physically hit; that I saw. I was the one being told I was ugly. He’d say, ‘You’re a person with no meaning.’ And I’d say, ‘You’re a person with no meaning.’”

Michelle Knight’s interview and story of survival is featured in the 5.19.14 issue of PEOPLE; on newsstands (and tablets) now.

*Also in this week's People*:
Mother’S Day Special: Stars & Their Moms
Arianna Huffington: The Wakeup Call That Saved Her Life
Jennifer Lopez: “I’ve Made A Ton Of Mistakes, But You Need The Messy Stuff”