Lil, just wanted to say hang in there, I know it's tough... I had to wait 8 months last year (applied in April, received December) and I know how much it sucks. But it's already a distant memory, once you get that residence card (and you will, don't worry about that) you'll be so happy.
My only advice is, don't be afraid to write and ask what's going on. (I found writing letters to be the only reliable method of communication, phoning and faxing were useless.) While they have six months to decide, it can't hurt to write a letter saying that your opportunities for employment are being affected by not having your passport, and inquire whether they have an estimated processing date. Whenever I wrote a letter, I usually got a letter back within a week. They may not say anything very specific, but at least it could jog things if somehow your application got lost in the queue somewhere.
I didn't have problems getting work while I was waiting, but I think I was lucky. I was pretty assertive about it though -- basically, you have the right to work as soon as you get married, so I sort of looked at my marriage certificate as proof of my right to work. The COA showed I was in the process of formalising it, but the residence card is not a visa really, it does not grant you the right to work in itself. I just put on my cover letter/CV that I had unrestricted right to work in the UK, and when asked I said I was married to an EU national and could provide proof of my right to work (didn't get into specifics about COA vs resident card or whatever). Again, I was probably lucky, but it seemed to work.
Anyway hope you don't have to wait too long! Good luck!!