OK - So, backed up and did a factory reset - At the point where it asks you to slide open the keyboard to log into GMAIL. Froze just like before - but this time it came back after a couple of moments and after a couple tries like this, it finally let me sign in and the phone came back up... so we shall see.
Thanks everyone for helping me through my meltdown :)
When I have difficulties that are not widely reported for the rom I'm using, the first thing I do is to reinstall my rom with no wipes. 99% of the time the issues go away.
Try Clearing Cache
If you are using ROM Manager next time you install a ROM try clicking the clear cache button in the window that pops up when you try... I had a problem with a looping boot screen because I didn't clear the cache. I had to load a backup and reinstall the ROM. Hope this helps!!! :)