Janette Wheeler visited Revelstoke almost five years ago to meet her birth dad. She fell in love with our quaint mountain town and one week later, he helped her move.
“There’s something so magical about this town,” she said.
Prior to Revelstoke life was not going well for Wheeler. She drifted in and out of hospital psychiatric wards for depression and anxiety. She attempted suicide multiple times and struggled with alcohol addiction.
“I was lost in the abyss of the mental health system,” said Wheeler.
Doctors misdiagnosed and over-medicated her, she said. Wheeler felt she was pushed into hospitals without hope and abandoned for years.
“I have a childhood of trauma.”
Wheeler married young and got pregnant with twins at the age of 21. Since she was struggling with mental health, Wheeler said she first needed to look after herself before others, especially children. Her older sister had always wanted kids, but was struggling to get pregnant. She took custody of Wheeler’s twins with open arms.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario,” Wheeler said.
Her marriage fell apart and she left her husband. However, while two months pregnant, Wheeler was sexually assaulted. Her abuser was arrested and a long-drawn-out trial followed.
“It was a nightmare. I now know why women don’t report sexual assault,” said Wheeler.
The court case took five years, eventually ending with her abuser only getting sentenced to five months in prison.
“I was choked.”
In Revelstoke, Wheeler said her dad supported her through Alcohol Anonymous meetings, being four years sober himself. Slowly her mental health improved. For the first time, Wheeler had a support network.
“I began to learn who I am and be honest with myself.”
Wheeler accepted she was a lesbian and began coming out to friends and family.
“I’m doing the best I’ve ever done.”
When she moved to Revelstoke, Wheeler said her dad’s cat was a beacon of light, helping to lead her out of isolation.
She noticed many people were leaving Revelstoke for pet care. Realizing there was a gap in the market, Wheeler took a dog grooming course and opened Pawsitively Stoked Pet Spa in 2019.
For Wheeler, animals are important because they show unconditional love.
“They don’t care about your guilt or shame. They just want to be there for you,” she said.
“Dogs and cats haven’t let me down.”
Wheeler said it’s important to talk about mental health and by sharing stories, people might realize they are not alone. For Wheeler, life got better. Today, she is a thriving entrepreneur with dreams of expanding her pet care business.
“For a time, I didn’t want to live past the age of 27.”
Wheeler is now 28-years old.
“I’d fight for my life. I have goals. I am supported.”
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