Natalie Queiroz is the survivor of one of the most appalling attempted murders imaginable. After being stabbed two dozen times by her partner, when she was eight months pregnant, she has rebuilt her life and inspired people the length and breadth of the country with her courage and refusal to be bowed by her trauma. Alongside a successful full-time career, she has since become a motivational speaker, a best-selling author with her international book – Still Standing, and, through various feats of endurance and daring, raised thousands of pounds for the Midlands Air Ambulance charity that she owes her life to.
How do you move on after such a trauma? Not only were you attacked but it was by your partner and father of your unborn child. How do you learn to love and trust again?
Trauma is something I believe that we never ‘get over’ but we learn to live with. I read a piece once that describes how trauma permanently changes us. But that doesn’t have to, in my opinion, be negative. So, the first part of moving on is actually accepting this fact and not trap ourselves in a cycle of trying to go back to be a person we just aren’t any more.
My children, family, friends and psychologist all played their part in helping me move on step by step – even though sometimes it felt like I was slipping backwards. However, by setting myself small goals I was able to progress day by day.
In terms of loving and trusting again – that was huge. But with the help of my psychologist, I learnt to grow my self-worth and like myself again. Plus I learnt to trust in my choices. It has been, and sometimes it still is, so hard. But I was determined that he wouldn’t win. He hadn’t ended my life that day and he wasn’t going to stop me from moving on. After three years of seeing my psychologist, I met my partner Simon through a fundraising event. He has since proposed and we are due to marry next year – a few months after our 3-year anniversary! He has had to be so patient with me and I still can have ‘moments’ but we are a true team with love, honesty and transparency absolutely at the heart of us.
Did you ever almost give up? How did you feel and what inspired you to not give up?
Oh crikey there were many times I felt like giving up. I had some really dark moments where I wished I hadn’t survived as it was so utterly painful and overwhelming. There were days I would have to battle myself to not do something stupid as I couldn’t stand the continual physical and mental fight. But I knew deep down I wouldn’t ever end my life as I knew I could never give up. When I give talks, I always refer to the ‘sink or swim’ moment – and we all have them. I had three children (one of whom was a very small and poorly baby who had somehow amazingly survived it all!) who needed me now more than ever and sinking wasn’t an option. No matter how painful it was – I would get up, shower, dress (always an essential part – can’t scare the neighbours by streaking everywhere!), put my make up on and do my hair. It gave my children security seeing mom look as ‘normal’ as possible and they were and are my absolute world and focus – my pure inspiration to never give in.
To balance – I would allow myself times to cry away from my children – where I would let it out in torrents (this was a daily ritual for the first few months especially) and my psychologist helped me every week; but at the core of it all was my children.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
The thought that I am taking that next step into really making those changes I want to still do. You never know who you will speak to, connect with or have a conversation with in a day, which could bring an opportunity that could change so much. Every day could be that win.
You have three daughters – which one thing would you like to change in the world for them?
A kinder world. That sounds really cheesy but basic kindness and thought for others would make this world so much better. There are so many people who have become so hardened or concerned with themselves at the detriment to others, it makes me quite sad how awful people can be to others.
How would you describe yourself in no more than three words.
Honest, loving, stubborn/tenacious* (* you decide!)
What’s your superpower?
It has been said I can be the human equivalent of the ‘Energiser Bunny’! I have an ability to dig in and find an endurance to just keep going at times in a fairly unhuman-like way! I also will keep going to find a positive option even in a fairly rubbish situation.
What is your favourite quote?
Ok so I’m cheating a bit here as it isn’t a quote, but a positive affirmation. There are many quotes I love, but a simple positive affirmation which has got me through so much is: “You’ve Got This!”
Whenever you have those little moments of panic or self-doubt – just keep repeating it to yourself and trust me you will believe yourself. When I was in my really tough times, one of my best friends, Harrie, kept texting and telling me the same thing when I was getting overwhelmed. She would always say, “Nat – You’ve Got This.” I took this through to the prison with me the day I faced him. Just before I was taken up some very cold, hard concrete steps to the room he was in, waiting for me to face him for the first time properly since the day he tried to murder me. I popped to the toilet (as you would – it is a rather nervous, wee-inducing moment!) As I stood washing my hands, there was a tiny mirror above the sink and I remember looking at myself and just saying firmly “You’ve Got This” to my reflection as I stared hard at myself. One deep breath later, I left the toilets and was taken step by step up and into the room to see him sitting looking at me as I entered… I smashed that meeting!
Who are the people who have been the most influential to you? And why?
My clinical psychologist taught me so much – about self-belief, self-love, going with my instinct and not settling for less – always holding out for what I actually want. She didn’t teach me new values as such but helped me discover the real me, who I hadn’t appreciated for pretty much my whole life. She showed such passion, fire, kindness and compassion it truly inspired me.
In terms of other influential people, I have met some incredible people in my journey these last five years, so it’s hard to pick out just a couple. But in terms of my work and desire to support young people and look at their issues from a totally different angle, an amazing man called Craig Pinkney is absolutely up there in terms of influencing me. Craig is a Criminologist, Urban Youth Specialist, an academic (soon to be Dr) and on-road youth worker. His knowledge, experience and strong voice to drive change is just awe-inspiring. So many could learn so much about our young people and the issues today surrounding them if they just listened to some of his work (check him out on You Tube!).
Another amazing influential person in my life is the beautiful and amazing Madeleine Black. Madeleine is an author (her book ‘Unbroken’ is her own memoir which is both horrifying in describing her experiences of rape as a teen but also a truly inspiring one.) She is a two times TEDx speaker, a motivational speaker and a powerhouse voice for change around the issue of sexual violence. Madeleine personifies kindness and support, as well as being a person of strong values and passion and drive for positive change.
You can only choose to save one thing. What would it be?
1. Your wardrobe
2. Your makeup bag
3. Your music collection
4. Your shoes
Aw no.. I’m genuinely torn. Music is so important to me. I’m one of those people who listens to lyrics and I adore P!nk. However, I’m going to be cheeky, on the basis that I can stream my favourite music online and don’t need my actual collection, I’m going to go for my make up bag. Firstly, I’m 45 and it is a fact my face needs help! Secondly, make up has always been an important part for me to feel complete and ready to face the world. Yes it was my mask but it makes me feel good. Who can argue with a good eyeliner and mascara (oh and a good eyebrow pencil after the ‘90s literally destroyed my eyebrows through over-plucking!).
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I apologise to all vegetarians/vegans reading this as it would have to be meat based. I just love meat. I know it’s bad and I’m sorry! For versatility I would say chicken as I can season it and have it lots of different ways. Chicken with salad I know sounds very sad and lame but it is my go-to food (mixed in with a bit of chorizo and mushrooms and you’ve got me sold for life!).
What’s your top tip for positive ageing?
Embrace yourself! Be happy from the inside and it will radiate out. Oh and keep a good hair cut/style and colour if you want to. I am not giving into the greys yet but I know a day will come when I will go for the full on silver hair look (probably dyed silver too!) A good cut and style makes the world of difference. I think we have all seen in lockdown what a difference it makes, I honestly felt I looked older when my hair started going all outgrown from its style. It literally took years off my when I had it chopped.
If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great 12 months it has been for you, what did you achieve?
If I can be part of bringing out conversations to normalise the discussion around domestic abuse and domestic violence and be part of taking that stigma away and changing the narrative around it so more people can get support that would be an amazing 12 months!
Thanks so much Natalie for sharing part of your story with us and for being so honest and open, you really are an inspiration to many. Much love for the future xx