You might consider Neurontin (gabapentin) or Gabatril (tiagabine). Both of these medications are marketed as anticonvulsives, and hence indicated for epilepsy (often used as an adjunct to another drug, since they’re not hugely effective on their own).
Gabapentin seems to increase the release of the neurotransmitter gama-aminobuteric acid (GABA) from neuroglia, while tiagabine is a GABA re-uptake inhibitor. Both boost the levels of GABA available to GABA receptors, and that is their putative mechanism of action. Benzodiazapines, like Valium (diazapam), boost the action of GABA by “allostearic enhancement” of the firing of GABA receptors; they basically make GABA work better than it can on its own. GABA is one of the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain, and deficiencies in GABA signaling have been implicated in anxiety disorders (though there’s little evidence these disorders are always caused by a “chemical imbalance”).
At any rate, these drugs might be worth a try before hitting the benzos because of their lack of abuse potential. Gabapentin is especially nice, as it’s rapidly cleared by the kidneys and has virtually no pharmacological interactions worh worrying about (with the exception of adding to the sedation caused by any other sedating drugs you might be taking).
I’ve never tried either, but I’m told they both are mildly anxiolytic drugs that usually lack troubling side-effects besides sedation and some cognitive impairment (both of which will be experienced with benzos to an equal or greater degree).
Another thing you might try is Buspar (buspirone), which has no direct effect on GABA signaling, but rather is a serotonin 5-HT(1A) receptor agonist and a dopamine D(2) receptor antagonist. These effects are again behind the putative mechanism of action of the drug as an anxiolytic/antidepressant. The side-effects are usually mild if you have any, but the ones I typically hear about with this drug are dizziness, headache, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, and nausea.
According to what I’ve read, your best bet for overall efficacy, safety, and quality of life would probably be an antidepressant, especially of the SSRI or SNRI class (Prozac and Effexor being typical examples). You hopefully understand that any drug which can actually make you less anxious is going to have some effect on your brain and the chemicals therein. If an effective drug is what your after (and not the latest snake oil from the supplement pushers), there’s no avoiding that. Probably the best pure anxiolytics on the market are benzodiazepines, since they calm you down without knocking you completely on your ass, but they also induce rapid tolerance and can be pretty addictive. Neurontin and Gabatril hit the same overall system (supposedly) as benzos, but are more sedating and stupifying than anything. None of these are usually much good for depression, and benzos can actually worsen depression. SSRIs or Effexor, when they don’t cause agitation (and work at all) are good for both anxiety and depression. Effexor has the downside of being difficult to stop taking rapidly, as that can cause some pretty severe physical sickness. All these drugs can have the problem of causing anorgasmia and other sexual side-effects. Buspar, in principle, might actually increase libido, but I’ve never heard of such a thing in practice; rather I’ve heard of some rare, but really bad reactions to Buspar; but when it works, it apparently works pretty well.
Good luck to you, Eve! I say, just because you know why your life sucks, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for some help with getting through the sucky stuff; that includes antidepressant medications and therapy. Stay away from narcotics and booze if you can. And as for supplements: caveat emptor. Often they lack noticible side-effects because they don’t actually do much of anything to your central nervous system. Also, they can have some unforseen liabilities, as we saw with St. John’s Wort (got a lot of AIDS patients sick or dead because it boosts the levels of drug metabolizing enzymes in the liver, thus interfering with the effective dosing of antiretrovirals…nobody regulates this stuff at all, so we usually find out bad news the hard way).