Assuming it's not leaking coolant and it wasn't just low on coolant, this is optimistically just a failed thermostat or a failed water-pump.
If it is leaking, it's probably a failed water pump or a busted hose somewhere in the cooling system (don't overlook hoses to and from the heater core). The worst case scenario could be a weeping gasket (i.e. intake) that's on its way out and causing you to be periodically low on coolant, which can result in intermittent overheating. FWIW you can nurse it along in this condition for a long time if you're vigilant about checking/topping off the coolant.
An odd case could be if your heater core itself is leaking...if you're seeing fluid in the cab, this is a clue. Like a slow-failing gasket, this may cause intermittent overheating. But it also compromises comfort in the cab. You can get around the issue if you bypass it, but you'll have no cab heater in the winter.
If it's not leaking then hopefully it's just the thermostat (best case), however, it could still be the water pump if your impeller fins are worn away to nubs and no longer circulating coolant (middle case). The worst case would be a deep gasket failure (i.e. head) where coolant is mixing with oil, but you're not seeing any leaks..
Another possibility, which I've never encountered, could be a blockage in the cooling system....I'm not sure what might cause a blockage, but back-flushing the radiator could be a solution. Certainly research this before trying it as there may potentially be consequences for back-flushing an old cooling system that I'm not familiar with.
Unfortunately, I think continuing to drive it hot hoping it would fix itself was a bad idea, maybe even dealing it a mortal blow. Anecdotal evidence: Once upon a time I overheated an engine in the dead of winter after a cracked lower radiator hose lead to all my coolant leaking out--I wasn't aware it was compromised and didn't realize it was leaking out as I was driving. (I had probably topped it off with water earlier that summer.) It got me to work just as the check engine light started flickering. Afterwards it developed a curious "ticking" sound like you described, and it made it about 3 or 4 months before the head gasket blew while on the highway. When the head gasket blew, it shot a white puff of smoke out the back with an immediate loss of power and poor running, and when I pulled over I found the chocolate-milk-like oil consistency.