Jonathan Trott has admitted he feared he would never play cricket again after he left the Ashes tour of Australia.

Trott left the tour after the first Test in Brisbane suffering from what was described by the ECB as a "stress related illness." Now, in an exclusive interview with ESPNcricinfo - his first since the incident - he has spoken of the exhaustion, rather than depression, that led to his decision to return home and the guilt he continues to feel for leaving his team-mates on what turned out to be one of the toughest tours in England's history.

"At the time I left the dressing room, I thought that was the end," Trott said. "I thought I'd never play for England again. I thought I'd never play for Warwickshire again. I thought I was walking away from everything I had ever worked towards.

"Andy Flower was clearly very upset. His voice broke as he told the team the news. Then I think it was Stuart Broad came and gave me a hug. I think all the guys did. They couldn't have been more supportive. Most of them had no idea what was going on."

Trott was to have played his 50th Test in Adelaide but, over the course of the previous six months, he had become more and more exhausted by a combination of on and off-field problems that left him unable to concentrate or remain calm.

"It began to seem impossible," Trott said. "I had set myself this unrealistic scale of success and I was beating myself up trying to live up to it.

"The more people said 'Oh, you'll be great against Australia' the worse it was. I averaged 90 against them so, in my head, I needed to score 180 runs a game to sustain that. And that meant, if I made 100, I was still left thinking, 'Oh no, I need to score another 80 in the second innings just to break even.' I had set myself unsustainable standards.

"We had put so much into the Champions Trophy and to lose the final from the position that we were in was a huge setback. And then the knowledge that we had 10 Ashes Tests in succession… it just seemed it would never end.

"I felt guilty [leaving the Ashes tour]," he said. "I still feel guilty.

"I was there for the good times. I should have been there for the hard times. I hated seeing what they went through in Australia. At my best, I know I could have made a difference. But even below my best, I felt I should be there to share the experience. We've shared a lot together."

Trott denied that his struggles against Mitchell Johnson's pace were relevant to his decision to return home.

"He's a very good bowler," Trott said. "You've seen lots of batsmen struggle against him. In normal circumstances I would have been fine. I'm not saying I would have scored lots of runs, but I'd have gone out there with confidence.

"But I couldn't think. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't stand still or watch the ball. Everything I had practised went out of the window. In those circumstances, any problem you have with your technique - and when I'm out of form I tend to fall over to the off side - is magnified and you saw me walking towards him, stepping across my stumps and trying to hit everything into the leg side. It wasn't that I was scared or anything, it was just the result of a cluttered mind. It would have been the same against any bowler."

Now, however, having enjoyed a prolonged break from the game, Trott is looking forward to returning to cricket at the start of the domestic season and hopes that he can force his way back into the England set-up for the start of the international summer.

"This is the longest I've ever gone without picking up a bat," Trott says. "I mean the longest since I was about three years old. I've been four months without cricket and it's been fine.

"Of course I want to play for England again. But it would be silly to look too far ahead. If I do make it back, I will just take it one series at a time and one tour at a time. I'll get the balance right between rest and preparation and I'll try and enjoy it. That's been the best thing to come out of this, really. Cricket meant so much to me. Too much. But now I know there is life outside cricket."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo