A password will be e-mailed to you.

There have been several times in my life when I’ve just said ”F*ck it!” and thrown a bunch of camping gear in the back of my truck, pointed my headlights east or west, and navigated empty highways in the middle of the night with no real destination, letting the road take me where it takes me.

That sounds reckless. Were you manic?

No, I wasn’t manic. And it sounds like a great way to deal with mental monsters.

To just run away?

I have a vivid memory of driving an empty, serpentine mountain pass around 2 a.m. A full moon burned a white hole in the night sky, illuminating clusters of clouds hovering above the highway. Stars were peeking out between the clouds just above the barely-lit treetops, a carpet of dark-green that rose in steep grades with the towering terrain as I snaked my way to the summit.

So, you are saying to run away and meander aimlessly in the middle of the night.

I’m saying it was a cool experience, that’s all. An experience that wouldn’t have happened had I been less spontaneous and planned the trip. I muddled my way through empty passes and backroads, not caring if I ran into dead ends or quiet towns all closed up for the night.

You too can be depression-free if you just muddle through life! Be aimless!

I had no real set destination, outside of just getting the hell out of the city for a few days. So, not completely aimless.

You need a plan and coping methods to beat depression.

Indeed, but sometimes plans and coping methods get you nowhere. Muddling through difficult weeks has been a huge help when I’m unsure what to do next. I stop trying to understand my depression and just focus on where I am, despite the bottomless pit in my chest.

This just sounds like you’re distracting yourself for a few days.

Perhaps, but I used to work with people struggling with mental illness, and many of them were bogged down and exhausted and worn out trying to work through their depression or anxiety or whatever demon was gnawing on their brain.

Did you tell them to drive up dangerous mountain passes at night?

I told them to take the next exit.

What?

Self-care, as defined in the mental health arena, is just taking time out of the day to do something for yourself. Do something you enjoy, like making yourself of nice cup of hot tea. (Preferably cinnamon, hibiscus tea with a touch of honey.)

So drinking tea is taking an exit?

And not really a distraction. On any road trip, you’ve got to pull off the highway at some point and get some grub, get some gas, maybe crash in a hotel. You’re not getting any closer to where you’re going, but—

Especially since apparently we don’t have a destination.

But if I never get off the highway and stretch my legs, I get so fatigued I can’t even drive anymore.

So, if you don’t take mental exits, like drinking your silly tea—

Silly cinnamon, hibiscus tea.

You get burned out.

And I spend the next couple of days or weeks trying to pull myself up from the floor. Now when I’m feeling awful, I take an exit and walk to a nearby coffee shop and read The Neverending Story.

Reading The Neverending Story isn’t going to fix squat.

Of course it won’t, and that’s the point. Nothing is being solved by taking an exit. I’m just hanging out with Falkor, Atreyu, and Bastion.

Falkor the flying luckdragon?

Sometimes on these trips I would pull off the road for no reason and hike around the area. Maybe take some photos. Maybe just sit and close my eyes and listen to the wind blowing through the trees.

And how does this help?

I think it helps because I’m not trying to help myself. I’m not trying to find ways to feel better.

You’re just sitting in that exit.

Figuratively and sometimes literally.

With no destination in mind.

Doesn’t always have to be. Black Canyon near Gunnison is a pretty amazing destination—like exploring a deep scar carved into the face of Earth by an angry god. A scar you can hike inside.

If only you could fly through the canyon on the back of Falkor.

Now THAT would be an awesome way to deal with mental monsters!